Darlowo is a popular beachside town that usually gets very crowded in the summer months. Which is why I went there in spring. In the off-season, you pretty much have the place for yourself and that’s a prerequisite to discovering the quiet, authentic side, away from the carnival-like summer atmosphere.
- Darlowo, Western Pomerania, Northern Poland at the Baltic Sea
- Traveled there: Early April 2017
- Stayed at: Villa Makro, Baltycka Street
Speaking generally, Poland is a country that can appear curious to the international traveler. You don’t easily get smiles from strangers on the street, but the Poles will be eager to help you and will often go out of their way to accommodate your needs. Driving through the country, you will get to see more than a few villages where times apparently haven’t changed much since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, but at the center of these dilapidated towns, you will always find a church that’s been carefully and thoroughly restored to become the community center piece. You can go for a lot of miles without spotting a grocery store, but there seems to be a beautician in every other house. Some things, you can’t help but marvel about.
Darlowo fits that image nicely. Devoid of any major attractions, it features a wide, long and clean beach that functions as the main draw for thousands of tourists in the main season from June to August. Those are being catered to by an abundance of eateries, hotels and souvenir shops.
When you come in April, almost all of these are still closed. There is an eerie emptiness to a tourist town in off-season. Walking through the beachside community Darlowko (a part of Darlowo and yes, that name thing is confusing), you encounter locals only and you begin to get a grasp of the place. You can have the beach entirely to yourself, allowing for long walks along the shoreline with only sea gulls and a pair of swans on hand to accompany you. Just a few steps from the beach, beyond the draw bridge that occassionally opens for fishing boats after emitting a warning sound to pedestrians, you’ll find the spot where local fishermen drop their catch directly to stalls.
Buying some ultra-fresh fish here is almost mandatory, they will fillet it for you right in front of your eyes. Or grab a portion of smoked fish to go here, find a seat on the edge of the water and watch the fisher boats come and go or follow the sea gulls’ fights for the best pieces, thrown to them by the man doing the filleting. If it’s too cold to sit outside, head over to the lovely, nicely appointed Ani Ani Café for a hot cup of java with a view of the Wieprza river outside or find a restaurant where they prepare the fish that you have just seen coming in. Darlowo is a place where 25 Euros will buy dinner for an entire family in a restaurant.
When you’re done here, take a walk all the way to the tip of the mole where you can almost feel like you’re standing in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Also
worth seeing is the downtown area of Darlowo (not Darlowko), which is about two kilometers away from the port. They have a nice, small pedestrian zone with an awesome bakery near the bottom of the street, featuring an incredibly varied choice of cakes. And when the weather is right, make sure to stop at the wide market place in front of town hall. The square looks like it’s been taken out of an Italian picture book, spotless and gleaming in the sunshine.
Standing there, you will notice that while the town hall has been restored beautifully, the other houses seaming the square mostly haven’t and that’s a good reminder that Poland is in many parts still a land in transition, a country found somewhere between modernization, big tasks and a recall of old virtues and heritage. Essentially, this is one of the reasons why Poland is such a fascinating discovery waiting to be made – the uncertainty of what face it will show you next.