A very popular attraction in Augustów is the small cruise ships, which offer a chance to admire the beauty of the region. Those who prefer smaller craft can take gondola trips or hire sailing boats, which can reach places where the ships don’t sail. Lovers of motorized water sports can feel the wind in their hair on the lakes of Białe and Necko. Those who are not frightened of physical effort can take a canoeing trip to the most picturesque corners of the Augustów region. For many years the largest numbers of tourists have been attracted to the kayak trails of the Augustów Canal and the Czarna Hańcza and Rospuda rivers. Another popular attraction in Augustów is the water-skiing cable. Those who enjoy quiet peaceful relaxation and sunbathing will certainly find a favourite spot on the Radio 3 Pier, opened in 2007.
The picturesque tourist trails of the Augustów Forest provide an opportunity to admire the beauty of unspoilt nature. Their strength is the fact that they can be travelled either on foot or by bicycle, as well as on horseback along designated routes. .
Those who enjoy active leisure-time pursuits will not leave Augustów disappointed. The wide range of paths and trails are ideal for hiking, bicycle trips, horse riding and canoeing.
The popular canoe trails of the Rospuda and Czarna Hańcza rivers can be extended, thanks to the Augustów Canal, as far as the Neman or the Biebrza. The most deserted corners of the region can be reached by a dense network of cycling trails, both local and international (R11). Trips can start in the very centre of Augustów, taking advantage of the network of pedestrian and cycle paths in the town itself. Those who like to spend their spare time on horseback can admire the beauty of the Augustów region along a specially marked riding trail.
The charm of the Augustów Region does not end with the passing of summer. The surrounding lakes, plentiful in fish all year round, enjoy huge interest from anglers. In autumn the local forests are a paradise for mushroom-pickers, and in winter the thick layer of ice on Augustów’s lakes provides excellent conditions for skating and ice-boating. The forest roads are ideal for sleigh rides and cross-country skiing. In 2009–2012, under a project called “Development of tourist and recreational infrastructure in the area of the Augustów Canal” artificially snow-covered routes will be created along existing cycle and hiking paths to enable cross-country skiing.
There is a wide variety of accommodation available, offering high standards of service for tourists.
Following an active day in Augustów, one’s reserves of energy need to be replenished with the aid of the regional specialities. Augustów’s catering establishments offer a wide choice of freshwater fish, including Baltic and European whitefish, zander and eels, as well as other regional dishes. Most of the specialities of the region are prepared from potatoes in one form or another. The most popular are kartacze, often called kolduny from their Lithuanian name. These are large oval dumplings prepared from potatoes (raw mixed with cooked) stuffed with minced pork. Their shape resembles that of the old short-range shot canisters from which they take their name. The dish is served with a roux of onion and bacon. Other dishes not to miss when in Augustów include soczewiaki (potato pancakes with lentils and bacon), kiszka (potato-based blood pudding), babka ziemniaczana (potato cake) and kindziuk (stuffed pig’s stomach).
Every gourmet paying a visit to Augustów should try sękacz (tree cake) and pampuchy (fried sweet dumplings), which are very popular in the region.
The Augustów Canal
was born as a consequence of a customs war between Russia and the Polish Kingdom on one side and Prussia on the other. The difficulty in accessing the Baltic Sea focused the attention of the Polish and Russian authorities on the possibility of making wider use of inland water transport.
At the initiative of Finance Minister Prince Franciszek Ksawery Drucki-Lubecki, in June 1823 Ignacy Prądzyński began designing the Augustów Canal, which was to connect the Narew basin with the River Neman. The Neman in turn was to be connected to the Baltic via the Venta Canal, but unfortunately this was never built.
Locks, sluices and weirs were planned in order to maintain the correct water level. Work began in July 1824 with regulation of the channels of the Biebrza and Netta rivers, the making of embankments and building of towpaths. The stone and brick locks were begun in mid-1825, each taking not more than two years to build. It was made sure that they would be both practical and aesthetically pleasing. They were faced with strengthened red brick, joined to white sandstone, which made an allusion to the Polish national colours. As building of the canal progressed, its sections were placed under the direction of individual engineering officers. At any one time there were between 5000 and 7000 people working on the project. Most of the work was carried out by hand.
Building was completed in 1838, and in 1839 the canal was opened to shipping. A reduction in customs tariffs by the Prussian government (shortly after work on the canal had started) meant that in the end it was not used in the way that had originally been anticipated.
The canal had a total length of 101.2 km. Along this length were 18 locks, of which 14 are now on the Polish side of the border, one within the border zone, and three on the Belarusian side. Differences in water levels between reservoirs range from 0.8 to 8.0 metres. The greater the difference, the more complex locks had to be built. Thus were built the two-chamber Paniewo lock (difference in levels 6.29 m) and the three-chamber Niemnowo lock (difference 7.46 m). The other sixteen are single-chamber locks.
Today 13 locks retain roughly their original appearance (nine of them on the Polish side). As 150 years ago, in order for the chamber to fill with water, the lockkeepers open gaps in the gate by raising the strikes with hand-operated jacks. Next they open the massive gate by pushing long drawbars, which act as counterweights to the wings of the gate.
The Augustów Canal is a monument of aquatic engineering, and is a candidate for entry on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. In 2007 the President of Poland designated it a historical monument.
Neglected in the post-war period, but rebuilt in 2004–2005, the section of the canal on the Belarusian side is approximately 25 km in length. It includes four locks, including the four-chamber Niemnowo (the fourth chamber was added during reconstruction, as the difference between the water levels in the canal section and the Neman river had increased). The canal was reconstructed using 19th-century drawings and plans. The original appearance of the locks was maintained, and methods dating from Prądzyński’s time were used to reinforce the channel. During renovation the canal was lengthened: it now measures approximately 103 kilometres.
On both sides of the border the canal is becoming ever more popular as a picturesque water route. Kayaks, canoes, ships, gondolas, sailing boats, barges, catamarans, and unusual floating structures (seen on the water in Augustów during the popular “What Floats Won’t Sink” Polish Championships) can all be encountered on the route of this 19th-century historical monument.
Zygmunt August Market
served as the site of markets and fairs up to the time of the Second World War. The square is surrounded by rows of low tenement houses built in an eclectic style, of which the oldest (number 28, built in 1801) was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte on 8 December 1812. The centre of the main square is occupied by a park dating from 1847, originally called the Saxon Garden, and in the interwar period the Jagiellonian Garden. Festivals and brass band concerts took place in the park on Sunday afternoons. It is now the venue for popular antiques fairs. Over the years various buildings have stood here, including a Starost’s manor, a town hall, and an Orthodox church, whose existence is evidenced by a small building which served as a guard post protecting the temple. The park now contains a fountain and Zygmunt August’s Column, erected in honour of the town’s founder on the 450th anniversary of the granting of the town’s privileges in Vilnius.
The MINOR BASILICA of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
a church with three naves, was built in brick in neo-Roman style in 1906–1911 to a design of Adam Piotrowski. Standing on the site of a former cemetery, it is the sixth church to be built in this place. Inside are five oak altars, made in the 1920s. Also noteworthy are the stained-glass windows, which allude to the millennium of the acceptance of Christianity in Poland. Destroyed during the Second World War, the church was rebuilt by members of the parish under the direction of the then parish priest, Wojciech Chojnowski. The towers, demolished by the Germans in August 1944, were only rebuilt in 1986. In 2001 a papal decree granted the church the status of Minor Basilica.
STUDZIENICZNA is now administratively part of the town of Augustów. The greatest celebrations at its shrine take place at Whitsun.
The village was founded in the second half of the 18th century. According to the beliefs of locals and visitors, the water from the well situated next to the chapel has healing powers which can cure eye disease and other ailments.
In the 18th century a hermit and former soldier, Wincenty Murawski, settled here, building a small wooden chapel on an island in 1770. Through a pilgrimage to Rome he obtained from Pope Pius VI as many as four fairs for the church, and brought back the pictures – still existing today – of St. Anne, St. John Nepomucen and St. Thecla. An object of worship is the picture of the Studzieniczna Madonna – Mother of the Church – which is famous for its power of mercy. The picture, which was decorated with papal crowns on 17 September 1995, was painted in oils by an unknown artist. It dates from the 18th century and is a faithful copy of the Madonna of Częstochowa.
In 1872 the wooden chapel was replaced with a brick building, designed by canal engineer Ludwik Jeziorkowski. On 64 piles driven into the marshy island, a neo-Roman chapel in the shape of a rotunda was built. At the end of the 19th century a causeway was made to the island. The causeway now forms a beautiful avenue of birches.
From the chapel and the well of healing water, a path leads to the wooden church whose foundation stone was laid in 1847. This church has three altars, the central one dedicated to St. Anne, and those at the side to St. John Nepomucen and St. Thecla. The decoration of the interior of the church was made by folk artists.
Pope John Paul II visited the Studzieniczna shrine on 9 June 1999. The visit is commemorated by a monument bearing the famous words spoken by this exalted guest: “I have been here many times, but as Pope this is the first and probably the last time.”
TOURIST HOUSE (the PTTK hostel)
was built on the hill known as Biała Góra, inspired by the League for the Support of Tourism. It was to provide accommodation for participants in the European Sailing Championships of 1939. The design for the Nad Jeziorami hotel was prepared by a team of architects led by Maciej Nowicki. Work was finally completed in February 1939. The hotel had 70 rooms with a total of 100 beds, a dance hall, buffet, billiards room, bridge room, its own beach, garages and an extensive car-park. The installation of central heating meant that it could be used all year round. Destroyed during the war, it was rebuilt in 1948 by the Polish Sightseeing Association. The building currently serves an inn, where on the wall opposite reception is a colourful mosaic depicting Augustów and its surroundings.
THE OFFICERS’ YACHT CLUB
is a building designed by Juliusz Nagórski and built in 1934–1935. It was opened in early July 1935. It had large banqueting halls, 40 bedrooms, a library, bathrooms and terraces. Next to the luxury wing were built a sports wing with accommodation, a harbour and boathouses, and a building with club rooms, a buffet and living quarters.
was opened under Prussian rule in 1800. The main avenue of the cemetery was part of the old Napoleonic route, along which the troops of Prince Jerome Bonaparte marched on their way to Moscow. Originally the burial grounds were divided by religion: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, Protestant and Jewish. The oldest and most interesting monuments are concentrated around the cemetery chapel, founded by the Truszkowski family in 1832. The oldest graves survive in the vicinity of the chapel, including several cast iron tombstones from the Sztabińska Ironworks. The grandest in shape, resembling a Gothic chapel, marks the resting place of Adolf Gerschów, the first administrator of the Sztabińska Foundation. Now outside the cemetery is the former Jewish area, commemorated by a black marble monument dedicated to the Jewish residents of Augustów.
THE OLD POST OFFICE is a neo-Classical building built by H. Marconi in 1829 on the Warsaw–St. Petersburg road. The building served as a station for 16 horses and a small hotel for special guests, who included the Russian royal family. Items were sent from Augustów’s post office to Grodno, Kaunas and Warsaw. Parcels and letters sent by courier to the capital reached their destination within 20 hours. In 1964 a hotel and tourist office were opened in the post office building. It now houses a music school. The nearby park contains several natural monuments, including a Norway maple, an ash, a white birch, and a large boulder placed there to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the building of the Augustów Canal.