Recovering the ‘Carly’, Hitler’s Führerhauptquartiere, and the canal that was never completed

Sunrise at Mikolajki © Ricky Yates

Sunrise at Mikolajki © Ricky Yates

Several people have asked how we got reunited with the ‘Carly’ after leaving it with a mechanic in Zambrów, and taking an expensive taxi journey, in order to reach Mikolajki and begin our boating holiday on the Masurian Lakes. So here is the promised explanation.

Having cruised back to Mikolajki on Tuesday 13th October, we had planned to cruise on the following day, to the historic small town of Ryn. However, when the next morning dawned cloudy and quite windy, we decided to rethink our plans, especially as the day afterwards, Thursday 15th , was promised to be fine and sunny with far less wind, a forecast that proved to be correct.

So instead that Wednesday morning, we went and spoke to Magda in the Marina Miko office, to ask if she would phone the mechanic in Zambrów, (we had his business card), and enquire about the well-being of the ‘Carly’. She duly did so and reported that the news was good – the ‘Carly’ was once more mobile.

We then asked about travelling from Mikolajki to Zambrów by train. Magda kindly informed us that, although there is a railway line through Mikolajki, there are no longer any trains 🙁 What about a bus? A quick bit of internet research revealed that the journey would take five and a half hours, with three changes of bus 🙁 So we were once more required to bite the bullet.

Magda rang the local taxi owner in Mikolajki. How much would it cost to drive me to Zambrów? The taxi owner quoted, ‘Five hundred zloty’. We immediately said that we only paid four hundred zloty for the journey in the other direction. The price immediately came down by one hundred zloty 🙂 Afterwards, Magda revealed that this taxi owner has a very good business in the summer months, of bringing boat hirers, especially Germans 🙂 , from Warsaw Airport to Marina Miko in Mikolajki. Not wanting to damage his profitable summer business, he reduced his price accordingly!

As promised, an hour later, the taxi driver arrived, and a further hour and a half afterwards, he delivered me to the mechanic’s workshop in Zambrów. Once more by gestures and sign language, it was explained to me that they had successfully bypassed the immobilizer, to ensure that it couldn’t malfunction again. The bill was 700 zloty/4500 Czech crowns. After a visit to an ATM to obtain the cash to settle my debts, I was able to drive the ‘Carly’ back to Mikolajki.

Although we had lost a day’s cruising, it did mean that on the morning of Saturday 17th October, we were very easily able to transfer all our belongings from the good ship ‘Mamry’, straight back into the ‘Carly’, and set off to visit two places in this far corner of Poland, that I was keen to see.

Wolf's Lair © Ricky Yates

Wolf’s Lair © Ricky Yates

The 'Carly' at Wolf's Lair © Sybille Yates

The ‘Carly’ at Wolf’s Lair © Sybille Yates

Sign for the Wolfsschanze © Sybille Yates

Sign for the Wolfsschanze © Sybille Yates

The first of these was one of Adolf Hitler’s Führerhauptquartiere, commonly known as Wolfsschanze / Wolf’s Lair. Built in 1941, in advance of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, it lies between Ketrzyn and Wegorzewo, (to where we had cruised and spent the night a few days previously), and is a massive series of fortified concrete buildings, hidden in the Masurian forests. Never discovered by the Allies, it was the scene of an unsuccessful attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg and others, to assassinate Hitler on 20th July 1944.

With the advance of the Soviet Red Army in the Autumn of 1944, Hitler departed from the Wolf’s Lair for the final time on 20 November, when the Soviet advance reached Wegorzewo. Attempts were made to blow up the complex by the retreating Nazis, but much of it has survived. One unintended benefit is that parts of the complex have now become the ideal home of numerous bat colonies 🙂

The second thing I wanted to see was the Masurian Canal – an unsuccessful attempt to connect the Masurian Lakes with the Baltic Sea at Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg. It runs from the western side of Lake Mamry, to the Lava river, which in turn is navigable and connects with the Pregolya river, on which Kaliningrad is situated.

There is contradictory information on the internet regarding the first attempts at the construction of this canal. But it would appear that work came to a halt early in the twentieth century, because of the outbreak of the First World War. Then when work recommenced in the 1920s and 1930s, it also was eventually abandoned with the outbreak of the Second World War.

Remains of a lock on the Masurian Canal © Ricky Yates

Remains of a lock on the Masurian Canal © Ricky Yates

With the Potsdam agreement of 1945, dividing East Prussia between Poland and the Soviet Union, nowadays one half of the canal lies in Poland, whilst the other half lies in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Therefore, given the current political climate, the likelihood of work to complete and restore the canal, is exceedingly remote. However, as you can see below, the incomplete engineering works on the Polish side, are quite impressive.

Impressive disused lock on the Masurian Canal © Sybille Yates

Impressive disused lock on the Masurian Canal © Sybille Yates

6 comments to Recovering the ‘Carly’, Hitler’s Führerhauptquartiere, and the canal that was never completed

  • […] Update – You can find out how we were eventually reunited with the ‘Carly’ here. […]

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    It seems some taxi drivers are the same the world over, doesn’t it? The Wolf’s Lair must be interesting to visit, to walk in the footsteps (so to speak) of men who were utterly convinced they were invincible and to see the traces that remain and mother nature taking over. ‘Look on my works ye mighty and despair’ indeed! What fools we humans are when we delude ourselves that we can control nature, can alter climate, change river courses and think we will not be affected in any way for this? We still have not learned our lesson. That canal is fascinating, I’d love to visit it sometime – I have a love of canals and waterways and the people who built and ran them. Thank you Ricky.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,

      I wouldn’t be too harsh on the taxi driver. It was a journey he wouldn’t normally do & he did drop his price without any argument. I think he appreciated getting some ‘out of season’ business!

      The sheer scale of Wolf’s Lair is amazing. The forest provided camouflage originally but nature is now taking over, though the central part is maintained as a tourist attraction, hence the sign in the photo. I too share a love of canals and their engineering & the Masurian Canal was well worth going to see, even having to pay 5 zloty to park the car!

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  • I’m glad the Carly was successfully restored to health, Ricky, and that you were able to visit these two interesting and historic sites. I have of course heard of the Wolf’s Lair, but had no idea how very far east it is situated. Yet again your blog has widened my general knowledge. 🙂

    • Ricky

      Despite the inconvenience, at least the car immobilizer problem is permanently solved. We had twice previously had problems with it, in Prague. Yes – Wolf’s Lair was built at what was then the eastern extremity of the German Reich. As always, I’m pleased to have been both educative & informative 🙂