Restore yourself in the Garden of Good Thoughts
PLAJNY – Garden of Good Thoughts is a cosy habitat, located in a tiny village near Żuławy, in the northern part of Poland bordering Kaliningrad. It is a charming, rural spot away from noisy cities. Here, time slows down. Every morning you will wake up to birds singing, and in the evening, you will fall asleep to the sound of a breeze playing with the leaves. Read on to learn the story of how an immigrant Mennonite community laid the foundation for what is a rural, peaceful getaway offering yoga retreats, tranquillity and homemade cottage cheese. Like the Mennonite settlers, who once lived in our arcade, we live surrounded by nature and rely on its charms and crops.
If you are looking for tranquillity and to connect with nature, let’s meet in Plajny.
From the Mennonites to the Garden of Good Thoughts
Today, hardly anyone remembers the Mennonites who once settled in the area of Żuławy, Elbląg and its surroundings. They built and lived in arcaded houses, leaving behind a rich heritage of culture and tradition. In Plajny Garden of Good Thoughts, we pay tribute to their unspoilt life and restore – if only a little – of these past times.
The Mennonites are a Dutch branch of Anabaptists. The persecutions in the Netherlands, which increased after 1555, caused their emigration to other European countries, including Poland, which at that time belonged to the most tolerant countries in Europe. From mid-sixteenth century, they settled in Żuławy, in Elbląg and its surroundings. The Vistula delta became their homeland for more than four centuries.
The humble immigrants from the Netherlands, who were skilled farmers and managers of wetlands, soon became an important support for local communities. They built flood banks, sluices, drainage ditches, drainage mills and mills. Although they did not drink alcohol, they ran distilleries and breweries.
In their rules of conduct, they were reminiscent of today’s Amish people – they were hardworking, frugal, neat and calm. Thanks to the cultivation of land, they were a practically self-sufficient community. They fled from the world of contemporary civilization, and their religious rigors heavily restricted the use of their property, denying consumption and luxury.
They were avowed pacifists. They did not use weapons and could not occupy high offices. The rules of their religion were closely reflected in social organization; the most important rules were intra-group solidarity, equality and shared responsibility. All members of the community helped members who were less fortunate. The elderly, lonely and infirm could rely on support.
The Mennonites’ distinctive mark was their outfit – simple and modest. Women wore dark dresses fastened on a hook, aprons, and kept their heads covered. Men wore simple dark trousers, light-coloured shirts, vests and hats. The Mennonites used only ribbons, as all other decorations on clothing, including buttons and outer pockets, were considered symbols of attachment to material goods.
Many, many years later…
For a long time, our dream was to have a home outside the city, somewhere in a small village, among meadows and forests… We wanted to be closer to nature, to be able to enjoy its pure charm and breathe fresh rural air.
Finally, the day came when we decided to make our dream come true. We started the search for interesting locations in Warmia and Mazury. After many attempts, talks and visits to a number of places, we arrived here, in Plajny.
That was in 2008 and the weather that day was just perfect. An impressive wooden house with a stork’s nest on the arcade revealed itself to us. Although it was badly damaged and time had taken its toll on it, we had no doubt that we had found our dream house. The barn and cowshed, as well as three overgrown ponds, were also part of the farm. Everything required revitalization.
Enthralled by the place, we imagined how the property would have looked in its prime. We wondered how many people had lived in it, what life they had lived, what they ate, how they dressed, who they were friends with, what their habits were…
In 2009, the farm in Plajny became ours, our “garden of good thoughts”. At the end of 2011, we started the renovation of the barn, where we installed a small flat, which also served as a temporary office. We were able to manage the renovation, supervise the work and the details in 2012. That year we also signed a contract with the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization Agriculture for co-financing from the EU renovation of the arcaded house.
The roof was replaced, the shutters were painted a beautiful blue, the pillars of the arcades were strengthened and the façade was thoroughly refreshed. From month to month, the house seemed to regain vitality, surprising us with its idyllic charm.
Plajny – Garden of Good Thoughts is a place to give yourself a restorative break
The heart of the habitat is the renovated two-hundred-year old main building, the House of Arcades. The neighbouring Stodoła (the barn), as well as Obora (the cowshed) and Marian’s House, are undergoing final touches and will be furnished equally beautifully and comfortably. The Winter Garden is a multifunctional space; ideal for organizing retreats, workshops, shows, celebrations and various group activities.
In addition to its peaceful, rural surroundings and home cooked meals, the Garden of Good Thoughts also host retreats. Guests have come to take part in flamenco classes, spring yoga, May-break yoga, spring Pilates, to name some. Check their website for dates for coming retreats, prices and availability. Partners and children are welcome too, even if they do not participate in the activities. If you are considering organizing a workshop in rural, organic, nearly self-sufficient, historical surroundings, Plajny could be the venue you are looking for.
The rooms are not numbered, but named after flowers and herbs that grow in the Garden of Good Thoughts. After a long day of yoga, eating and reading, you can rest in Calendula, Lavender, Cornflower or Thyme. There are currently 16 rooms, most of them accommodate two people, while some can sleep up to five.
Our kitchen philosophy
Vegetarian dishes are very important to us, but we will cook other kinds of food, too.
We try to eat healthy, and above all, in harmony with nature – just like the Mennonites who once inhabited this land. We do not have a permanent menu. Every day we cook something new, from what nature gives us at a given time. When preparing meals, we use products purchased from local farmers and regional suppliers and, naturally, from our own vegetable garden and larder.
Stay updated on Instagram for upcoming retreats and to see Plajny’s images; you will be able to feel the blissful atmosphere in the Garden of Good Thoughts. Their Facebook page offers many pictures and examples of how the Garden of Good Thoughts has been used for workshops, and you’ll also find an image of the state of the property, when the owners first fell in in love with it and envisioned their dream. To read their story in Polish, have a closer look at the accommodation and property, and for more info, visit Plajny.pl.
All photos by Kaja Makacewicz, Agata Jędraszczak and Piotr Gęsicki.