Lying directly on the Great Masurian Lakes, the petite town of Mikolajki is a popular holiday and water sports resort, rightly dubbed “the Pearl of the Masuria”. Well-known as host to numerous summertime regattas, it attracts thousands of sailing enthusiasts every year. Another magnet for tourists and visitors is the annual Festival of Sailors’ Songs, featuring the finest performances of shanties.
The gateway to the enormous Lake Sniardwy, called “the Masurian sea”, Mikolajki is a smart and cosy town with some delightful red-roofed houses and three bridges. Though tourism has taken over the town with hotels, shops and eateries, the effects of this have not been too detrimental and Mikolajki still manages to preserve its charm. So, whatever your idea of holidays on the lakes, Mikolajki is sure to deliver what you enjoy.
The town is situated on Lake Mikolajskie and its marina, the busiest in Masuria, turns into a real hive of activity in summer when the waterfront is dotted with hundreds of yachts and tourists taking cruises on pleasure boats. Mikolajki is famous for its lively Sailor’s Village, boasting two hugely popular tavernas – “Lady Mary” and “Pod Zlamanym Pagajem”. In both places you can enjoy a cold beer in the company of boaters from all over Masuria, and listen to shanties every night.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, this is not one of those towns that die with the end of the summer heat and sun – ice-sailing is a highly popular sport among winter visitors.
Mikolajki is a small town of about 4,200 inhabitants, located in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship in the north eastern part of Poland. The town lies right in the heart of the Great Masurian Lakes, between two narrow ribbon lakes – Lake Mikolajskie (499 hectares) and Lake Talty (1160 hectares), and Lake Sniardwy, the biggest lake in Poland and covering 11,383 hectares.
Mikolajki is situated at an altitude of 30-40 m above sea level. It sits at the edge of Pisz Forest, which is the largest in Masuria and one of the largest in the country. Like the whole of Masuria, Mikolajki has a lakeland climate. The area gets frequent strong winds and much rainfall during June and July.
The name of this former village, a town since 1726, derives from Saint Nicholas, protector of sailors and patron of a chapel standing on the windmill hill. The name appears for the first time in documents from 1444. These documents confirm the granting of land near Mikolajki, then a village belonging to the church, by the Teutonic Grand Master to a nobleman called Wawrzyniec Prus.
The village was originally a small area around the evangelical church and the main square. Villages across the lake could only be reached by boat, and the first wooden bridge was constructed in 1516. Today, in the place of the old bridge there is a footbridge for pedestrians.
From the oldest times the inhabitants of the area have fished the nearby lakes and cut wood from the forests surrounding the settlement. They also kept horses and cows, which led to the development of weaving with the hair of these animals being used as a material to make skirts.
The dawn of the 18th century saw various catastrophes befalling the town: severe frost damaged fruit trees as well as trees in the forest, 900 people died during a plague, diseases of fish and corn were spreading and Mikolajki was time after time damaged by fires. Another serious threat came in the form of the Napoleonic and Russian troops that marched through the town on four occasions.
In the second half of the19th century a sailing route was established on the Great Masurian Lakes, with a system of canals and sluices making it possible for boats to sail from lake to lake. Around the same time Mikolajki got a road connection to two important towns of Masuria, Mragowo and Gizycko, plus a railway connection with Olsztyn, the capital of the district.
During the First World War, Russian troops blew up the bridges and subjected the town to artillery bombardment, but actually causing relatively little damage. In spite of an intensified policy of germanisation, citizens of the town managed to preserve their Polish traditions and language. After World War II, Warmia and Masuria were returned to Poland.