Our next stop after leaving Malbork was Wilczy Szaniec, or Wolf’s Lair, Adolf Hitler’s headquarters on the Eastern Front, hidden in the forests of eastern Poland.
The drive to Wolf’s Lair, along tree lined avenues through miles and miles of flat farmland and lakes, was a bit of a bumpy one as several stretches of the road were in a terrible state for several kilometres at a time. To paraphrase a fellow blogger who has also driven along these roads, if we’d had a carton of milk in the fridge, it would have turned to cheese. Whilst the scenery seemed fairly monotonous at times, it’s great to see that spring has finally arrived, with lots of colourful blossom and birds building nests.
So… what’s Wolf’s Lair all about? Well, in June 1941 the Axis powers invaded the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) and Hitler established a new headquarters hidden deep in the forest close to the Eastern Front. By 1944 the complex was the size of a small town, with some 200 buildings, shelters and barracks, two airfields and a railway station. Hitler apparently spent some 800 days here during the war. It’s not clear whether the Allies knew nothing about Wolf’s Lair, or that they knew about it but did nothing because it was outside bombing range.
On 20th July 1944, Claus von Stauffenberg made a failed assassination attempt on Hitler – the bomb in his briefcase went off killing four other people, and von Stauffenberg was executed that evening. With the Red Army gaining the upper hand the Nazis were in retreat, destroying Wolf’s Lair as they did so to prevent the Red Army establishing a stronghold, blowing everything up with dynamite, so all that’s left today is a series of ruined bunkers.
Wolf’s Lair is now a popular tourist attraction drawing visitors by the coach load. There’s also a campsite there, so we arrived late afternoon on Saturday, and walked around the site on Sunday. The family who had pitched up a tent next to us decided that 6 AM on a Sunday morning was a perfectly reasonable time for everyone to get up, so we had walked round the site by 9:30. On the plus side, we did have the place to ourselves. There weren’t many information boards, but we’d bought a map telling us what the remaining buildings were.
We’d have liked to have been able to cross the border to Lithuania that afternoon, but the office for returning the viaTOLL (On Board Unit) is closed on Sundays, so we spent the night close to the border in Suwałki and crossed the next morning, stopping at Tesco and Lidl on the way to use up our remaining złoty. I had a right result in Lidl as it’s Spanish week, so stocked up on tortilla and jamón.
Returning the OBU and getting a refund was quite simple once we’d located the office. A month driving in Poland has cost us €78 in tolls – ouch! That’s around six months road tax in the UK. A quick note to fellow motorhomers with a van over 3.5 tonnes – it’s not clear on the official website, but you’ll need to buy a vignette in Lithuania from one of the cabins just across the border. I wasn’t sure which category to get, and the lady didn’t speak English, so I bought a vignette for category M2 – buses under 5 tonnes – which seemed to be the closest one.
We arrived in Vilnius yesterday afternoon, and we’re staying on a camperstop at a hostel which is just a ten minute walk from the old town. We went into town this morning and I think we’re going to really like it here. The tourist information office has to be one of the best we’ve visited on our travels as they have loads of really useful leaflets and brochures.
There’s so much to see and do here that we’ll probably be spending a week here.