But that’s enough of the history lesson. Today, the site, which, according to reports, was recently seized by bailiffs after the owners failed to pay their rent, has succumbed to Mother Nature, overgrown by a thick wall of moss and shrubbery.
After two hours, though, hunger soon gets the better of us and we head over to the canteen for a hearty bowl of ‘Wolf Soup’, all the while getting cursory glances from our driver stood by his car and puffing furiously on his third pack of cigarettes.
It’s an early start the next day, not helped by the late night antics of a rowdy group of businessmen on a team building weekend the day before. After another a slightly less frenetic car journey (only one near miss) via Olsztyn, the capital of neighbouring Warmia, we’re at the shores of Lake Wulpinskie with just enough time for another kayak ride, this time out to the island in the middle, before a well-earned lunch of Russian dumplings and sour cream.
Then it’s time to take the plunge into the lake’s cold depths. Launching ourselves off the jetty, we swallow half the lake, coming out coughing and spluttering.
Back inside the hotel, sat on our Nordic style ergonomically designed chairs and huddled under a blanket by the fire, hot drink in hand, we shudder again at the sight of ice swimmers braving the lake in pictures on the walls. The cheery owner gives us a knowing nod as he walks by: “Nice swim guys?” he offers.
Heading out onto the lake the next day, this time we opt for a rowing boat and take turns to zig-zag our way across the prevailing headwind, staying close enough to the shore that we can peer into houses and back gardens. We moor up at a smart hotel’s marina on the other side but with a corporate function in full swing and strict dress code, our hopes of getting a drink are dashed.