Sappers clear WWII-era beaches of unexploded mines, grenades 22.03.2011 15:14
The biggest mine-clearing operation in fifty years is underway on the beaches of the Pomeranian resort of Kołobrzeg, on Poland’s Baltic coast.
It is expected that several hundred WW II era unexploded grenades, mines and shells are still buried under the sand or in the strip of woodland which runs parallel to the beach and where most of the resort’s spas, health and tourist infrastructure is situated.
As a Nazi stronghold and major strategic port on the Baltic route to Germany, Kołobrzeg was the site of particularly bitter and bloody fighting in March 1945 but few expected that the thousands of tourists which arrive here each year (in the summer the population of 50,000 can swell to at least twice and Kołobrzeg is home to a popular summer music festival) were holidaying on a minefield.
The first unexploded shells were brought up on the beach last autumn, as the city authorities began reinforcement and reconstruction work on sandbanks and breakwaters, removing and replacing old wooden posts.
A special bomb clearing team had to be called in.
Some of the WW2 explosives were found to lie no deeper than thirty centimetres below the surface of the sand.
To the chagrin of the local tourist industry, the mine clearing operation is expected to keep the beach out of bounds until well into the season.
Kołobrzeg isn’t the only place on the Polish coast where the sea can bring up surprises: the locality of Hel, on Hel Peninsula also keeps the sappers busy.
Kołobrzeg was seriously devastated during WW2. It was one of the first towns which had its non-existent centre reconstructed long after the war - in 1980s. You can see it well in the old fashioned materials used in the process.
I spent in Kołobrzeg about 6 summer holidays as a child - together it could be nearly half a year.
What I remember well from that time is numerous blocks of flats in communist style, accompanied by single houses which survived the siege. Vast spaces around the old Town Hall.
The recosntructed area is located around the neogothic Town Hall. They started the reconstruction in 1980s and finished in 200s, hence such a variety of styles and materials. They didn`t follow the original pre-war setting of houses.
Old houses which survived were incorporated into rows of new ones.