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GoPoland!: Where To Go: Pomerania Region

Poland's answer to Club Med, Pomerania's 500 km long sandy coastline still offers a quiet spot here and there in addition to the numerous coastal resorts like Sopot, Hel, Miedzydroje, Kolobrzeg and Koszalin. Besides viewing the architectural sites in these once-Hanseatic towns, you can enjoy music in the Opera in the Woods in Sopot or at the music fest in Kamien Pomorski.

If you'd like a taste of the coast as well as the unique sand dunes to the south, take the red trail from Leba into the Slovincian National Park (only one of several national preserves in the region). In addition to hiking or biking your way through nature, you can also kayak down the hundreds of lakes linked by rivers. Similar to the better-known (and hence more crowded) Mazurian Lakes to the east, these glacier leftovers also offer excellent sailing and fishing.

Pomerania remains an historically unique region, whose diverse population has included the original Celts displaced by Germans, then Slavs, and then Poles when Mieszko I took the historical capital of Szczecin in 979. Poland did not rule this region for long once it invited the Teutonic Knights in (1226) to quell the historically pagan population. The Knights took over, built a few incredibly fortified castles (an excellent example still stands in Malbork) and ruled the region until 1466. They supplanted most of the native population with Germans (the exception being the Kaszuby, who still practice their language and culture today) and built the port cities into strong mercantile centers.

Even when Poland regained the region in 1466, it soon lost it again to the Holy Roman Empire, then the Swedes, and then the Prussians as it focused its energies on the East. During those centuries, the region was divided, and Gdansk became the capital of the eastern component. 400 some odd years later, portions of Pomerania again became 'Polish' after WWI, but to no one's benefit. The lines drawn at the end of the war created the unfortunate Polish Corridor which cut off eastern Pomerania from Germany. That portion reclaimed in WWII is now again in Polish hands, along with the rest of Pomerania (ceded to Poland to compensate for land losses to the east) after more than half a millennium under 'foreign rule'.

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