Krakow

The Cloth Hall

Błędow Desert

Here’s sand in your eye: 40 kilometres away, smack between Kraków and Katowice, lies Pustynia Błędowska - a bonafide, genuine, centuries-old desert. The largest sand-pitch in Central Europe covers an area of 32 square kilometres, about 9km long and 4km wide, between Klucze, Chechło and Błędów. Like all strange geographic phenomena, the sand was purportedly dumped by a migrating glacier – at which point the wasteland was considerably larger. With 150 square metre origins, the desert had shrivelled to 80 metres at the beginning of the 19th century. It was here that Field Marshall Rommel trained his 'Afrika Korps' detachment during WWII, and abandoned military bunkers can still be found scattered around.

In the 1970s government action was taken to prevent the sands from encroaching on farmland and populated areas. A programme of forestation was undertaken, and today the wasteland finds itself gradually disappearing, strangled by the pine and willow trees that were planted around it. If left unchecked, the desert could shrink to the size of a sandbox or vanish altogether like the desert mirages visitors were still able to witness as recently as the 1960s. Fortunately, action is now being taken to restore the natural area, with the EU even flipping them some coinage. Naturalists plan to strip the encroaching vegetation from the southern edge of the desert and weed out plants which were able to take hold on their own in other areas. Steps will also be taken so that the pristine dunes of the north will be overrun not by vegetation, but by camels. Actually, camels were never mentioned.

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06.05.2014
Jon Rosamond
Horsham, UK
Hi, I've just spotted an important error on your page about the Błędowska Desert. You state that the German general Rommel trained his 'Desert Rats' on the sands; in fact the Desert Rats was the nickname for the British Army's 7th Armoured Division - Rommel's deadliest enemy in north Africa! Rommel commanded the German Army's Afrika Korps. Kind regards, Jon Rosamond
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