Pisz is a lovely, miniature town located in the Masurian district at one end of the Great Masurian Lakes waterway; the town naturally serving as a gateway into Mazury. Pisz may not be abundant in historical tourist sites, but its overall charm more than makes up for this, and, furthermore, there are ample facilities for one to enjoy a carefree lakeside holiday.
During a sightseeing walk around Pisz, remember to keep your eyes open for the oldest historic monument preserved in the town – the tower of the St. John’s church, which was reconstructed following a fire in 1649. Dating from the final years of the 18th century, the church itself underwent conversion in 1843 and now boasts a number treasures (so be sure to step inside). Also, you can discover, the remaining fragments of the Teutonic Knights’ castle, numerous one-floor houses originating from the 18th and 19th century, the Protestant presbytery and the graveyard chapel.
An interesting building in its own right is the Neo-Gothic Town Hall, home to the Pisz Land Museum. This museum features exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Piska forest, Polish literature created in the region of Mazury, and a collection of documents relating to the history of Pisz.
Still, the main attraction seems to be the fantastic nature surrounding Pisz: scenic meadows and fields, dense forests full of berries and mushrooms, and the crystal waters of the lakes. Above all else, it is the beauty of nature that ensures Pisz is host to large numbers of visitors all year round.
The town of Pisz, with a population numbering some 20,000, is located in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship and serves as the administrative centre of the county. Its location in the vicinity of the Piska Forest and on the banks of the Ros Lake, from which the river Pisa flows, is extremely picturesque. The Ros Lake is linked by canal to Poland’s largest lake, lake Sniardwy.
Lying in the south-eastern region of the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes, Pisz is affected by both continental and oceanic climates. The average yearly temperature in July is 160 C and –4.50 C in January. This small town experiences four distinct seasons, ranging from warm summers to bitter, lengthy winters with heavy snowfalls.
Pisz’s history dates back to the 14th century, when the Teutonic Knights erected a wooden castle at the southernmost tip of the Piska Forest in the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes. The first privilege for the settlement which grew around the Teutonic castle was granted in 1367, which allowed settlers to fish freely in the surrounding waters. In 1645 the town attained municipal status and was officially named Johannisburg, after the name of the castle. Nevertheless, the local inhabitants still had their own name for it, Jansbork, which was in use up to at least 1946. Saint John the Baptist became the patron saint of the town, as it was on this particular saint’s day that the Teutonic Knights gained a significant victory in this area.
Chosen by the natives, the name “Pisz” is derived from the ancient Prussian word “pisa”, meaning “swamp”. The reasoning behind this choice is clear, describing well the original state of the land here beside the lake.
Once a centre of beekeeping, Pisz prospered in the 15th century. Thanks to its advantageous location by a river and a lake, traders stopped here during their journeys to and from Gdansk. Many craftsmen transported their goods through Pisz to the rivers Narew and Vistula, becoming regular visitors to the town.
Because of the rich woodlands and shallow deposits of bog iron ore, the main industries here have always been linked to wood processing (including a sawmill) and metallurgy (industrial smithies in Wiartl and Jaskowo and an iron works in Wadolek). The wood processing industry in particular has provided a sound economic base for Pisz.
Following World War II, the town had to be rebuilt from rubble. While in 1939 Pisz had 6,400 inhabitants; by 1992 this number increased to 19,375. Today Pisz is an easy place to visit and stay in, with a wide range of services to meet everyone’s needs.