Between Piłka and Miały, the small village of Marylin rests on the luscious, green, rolling hills of western Poland. 98.5 kilometers from Poznań, the closest large city, Marylin isn’t a large tourist destination. The road leading into Marylin is rocky and uneven. The road is lined by Pinus sylvestris, Scots pines, that reach up to 120 feet. The bony trees blend together driving by on the unnamed road. If the road has a speed limit, it’s ignored. Vans, cars, and working trucks speed down the road on their way out of the village. In July, cars often find themselves passing by groups of summer camp kids. The kids carry a hand painted flag and sing songs on their way to buy ice cream at the local market in Piłka. The tree-lined road goes on for miles. Most of the trees are still standing but many of them have fallen, creating paths through the forest.
Taking a step from the road into the forest, it feels like temperature drops 10 degrees. Stepping over and under and through the pines, the crunch of leaves leads the way. The trees are blocked in acres. Walking through the forest gets dark. You can only wonder what bugs and animals are hiding behind the trees. Looking around, the forest feels like it’s closing in on you, but you can’t help but take in the beauty. Suddenly, the scenery changes. Stepping from the tree line, you understand how Lucy felt leaving the wardrobe into Narnia. The chasm between the two worlds is a single breath of fresh air. On the other side of the rocky and uneven road to Marylin in western Poland, 98.5 kilometers from Poznań, past the tallest, thinnest, fallen trees of the forest, the sun shines on the most beautiful field. There are green bushes and flying ferns everywhere. The bushes are full of little white daisies and dandelions. Down a gentle slope, sits a crystal blue stream. The sound of the water flowing echoes off the surrounding trees. There’s a small, wooden bridge that creates a path across the stream. Although it’s rotting, the overpass creates a sense of security. You can’t help but stop halfway across the bridge. Looking back at the dark forest, then across the spring, and to the picturesque village ahead, you feel like you’re stuck between three worlds.
A hundred more feet in front of the bridge is the dirt path to the village. Around the corner sits a cluster of colorful houses. Yellows, pinks, and blues paint the barns and sleeping quarters. There are farm animals everywhere. Horses and cows run freely on the plains that are protected by wooden fences falling apart at the hinges. The people who live in the yellow, pink, and blue houses are simple and hard working. Although it’s been decades since terror and war raged in Poland, the fear, hatred, and oppression still blemish their hearts. Your smile will likely be met by an untrusting scowl. The farmers don’t mean to be curmudgeons, but Poland’s blood-stained history haunts them. Although it’s 468.9 kilometers away, the screams of Auschwitz still seem to echo off the silent hills. The sun shines on the houses but the chill there feels darker than the forest.
The tension in the air is cut by the sound of children’s laughter. Over another hill, there’s a group of kids playing games on the grassy plain. They are wearing color-coordinated shirts and chasing each other in jovial fun. They have a sense of freedom and delight. They don’t have a care in the world, except winning the game. Looking below you at the children running and roaring with laughter, and back at the houses full of scars, you are stuck between two worlds. Although the children are happy now, their parents’ way of thinking will soon infect them. Their smiles will begin to fade. They will begin to lose hope. Their parents will take away the joy by telling them of the dark world they’ve experienced. The beauty of Marylin will fade for them too. There’s a sadness about it. Whether they see the beauty or not, it’s there. On the west side of Poland, 98.5 kilometers from Poznań, past the tallest, thinnest, fallen trees of the forest, through the most beautiful field with little white daisies and dandelions, in the midst of the most colorful yellow, pink, and blue houses is Marylin, the hidden gem of Europe.