Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 2

Tourist use of border markers in Poland

Marek Więckowski

Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 2, pp. 253-271 | Full text

This article has turned its attention to the marking of borders and the way this acts in support of the tourism-related objectives now seen to represent a novel function served by borders. Specifically, results are presented here in relation to the marking and delimitation of borders of Poland both past and present.

The ways in which, and means by which, borders are marked, indicated and delineated have recently emerged as matters of some interest to enthusiasts of this particular activity, to explorers, and to tourists in general. In this way, certain associated places, elements and means of marking borders have become tourist attractions in their own right – to the extent that specific tourist products have even been made ready on the basis of them. Both local and regional authorities have observed this happening and have sought to respond by making relevant areas more ready for the paying of visits by those taking an interest. This trend is also to be noted in Poland, hence the author’s readiness to pursue pioneering research on how border marking(s) may operate in a new role as tourist attractions.

As is implied above, it has only been in the most recent years that there has been any real intensification in the process by which border marking(s) are treated as – or converted into – tourist attractions. In this context, aspects and items of the marking of borders have gained protection, been restored, been reconstructed or augmented, been exchanged, or even been re-established deliberately. Items may indeed be re-created where former border crossings are reconstructed; or else may be transferred to museums. They may also remain in place in their original form, or be renovated, altered or entirely reinstated – sometimes even decades after their disappearance in the field.

In the context of the work, the author has sought to draw a distinction between various different ways of marking and delimiting state borders. Thus there may be border embankments or lines, large stones indicating the course taken, border posts (in the meaning of erect fixtures made of wood, metal, stone, etc.), painted lines or markers made from a wide diversity of materials, and various additional elements (such as written or inscribed names of the countries involved, as well as flags, emblems or other mark(er)s taking a wide variety of more or less tangible forms).

The research as presented here takes account of both the current borders of the Polish state and former ones that assume the status of relict borders given their inability to perform their original functions. The author here takes a constructivist approach, drawing on post-modernist theories as regards building and the shaping of space. Methods used have been of both an indoor nature (with analysis of the literature plus secondary materials like websites) and field-based (even as they related to both spatial aspects sensu stricto and the analysis of content present on tourist boards). The most in-depth analysis was then based around four case studies, i.e. one for each of the following identified periods in existence of given borders in operation at one time or another on the Polish lands, i.e. the borders:

• in place prior to the Partitions of Poland taking place from 1772 (as exemplied by the Bogusze-Prostki section);

• present during the Partitions (Lipa-Dąbrowa Rzeczycka);

• of the (1918‑1939) Second Republic of Poland (Dębki);

• in place following the Second World War (Czelin).

The research sustained several key conclusions, in line with which it has been worth stressing that each of the examples or aspects of border marking serves, not only as a factual tourist attraction, but also as a significant message conveyed. And what is being passed on in that way can be seen to have 3 key thrusts, i.e.:

a) events from history, meaning old divisions (but also the loss of independence due to the Partitions of Poland, and its regaining, as well as the remembrance of heroes, changes to the lines followed by borders, and the associated regaining of land in the west, extending as far as the River Oder);

b) local conditioning;

c) the symbolic significance attachable to the most important border markings.

The results of the work done can be said to offer – at one and the same time – new ideas, approaches and proposals when it comes to borders being understood and appreciated from the point of their newly-acquired role. The attention is furthermore drawn to content of a geographical and historical nature characterising the heritage that remains, as well as to the establishment of cultural attractions as efforts are increasingly made to encourage the development of regional tourism. The latter may prove a factor activating peripheral border-located areas of Poland, given the way their local and/or regional authorities ascribe opportunities for development to border marking(s).

Keywords: granica, znak graniczny, granica reliktowa, atrakcja turystyczna, dziedzictwo, Polska

Marek Więckowski [], Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania im. S. Leszczyckiego PAN