Expo 86 / Nibork
Expo 86: ‘Polityka’
A rural retreat set up for the staff of a Polish news magazine combines the relaxed vibe of a holiday home with the quiet of a writer's bolthole.
Nibork, the hunting-lodge-style retreat of the leading Polish news magazine Polityka, is tucked away in Warmia, a region renowned for its forests and lakes. A 155km drive north of Warsaw, it is far from the bustle of the editorial cycle but close enough for weekend jaunts. The site serves as a venue for events ranging from training sessions to the board’s strategy meetings, held several times a year. At the same time it provides a year-round escape for the magazine’s staff and their families and friends, enabling them to recharge their batteries.
“We think of it as a family home for the family of Polityka,” says Jerzy Baczynski, the publication’s editor in chief. Nibork is where he and the editorial team retreat when they need to discuss important decisions facing the magazine. It’s also where some of its boldest ideas were born, such as the magazine’s policy think-tank Polityka Insight, which launched in 2013.
The site itself dates back to 1905, when the area was part of Germany, and was built as a recreational ground for the townsfolk. Later, in Communist-era Poland, it provided housing for forest rangers. When the magazine bought it in 2001 it was dilapidated after decades of neglect. “The place had a good energy,” says Jadwiga Kucharczyk, the magazine’s administrative director, recalling how it stood out from the other properties she visited. The crumbling buildings were painstakingly renovated, with care taken to preserve their origianl Prussian features. An architect familiar with the region’s architectural heritage led the process, with Kucharczyk checking up on progress every two weeks.
The main building, still bearing the original carving of a deer’s head, has 10 bedrooms. On the ground floor the spacious Fireplace Room used for meals and gatherings leads onto a terrace overlooking the grounds. A larger two-storey apartment block occupies the former stables; a third building, added during the renovation, is in the style of the other two. The atmosphere inside is smart but not stuffy, with white walls and wooden floorboards the standard. “The style doesn’t impose itself on you,” says one guest. In the lobby are copies of the latest issues of Polityka.
Trips to Nibork have a “resuscitating” effect, says Martyna Bunda, head of the magazine’s social-affairs desk. Sometimes she comes alone for a weekend; at others times she brings her family and reserves her favourite apartment, which has its own fireplace. The rooms fill up during the summer, with a more contemplative atmosphere during the snowy winter. New Year’s Eve draws prominent cultural figures from Warsaw.
The property is run by Joanna and Piotr Klarewicz, a couple from the nearby town of Nidzica who live onsite. “We try to treat the guests here like our own guests,” says Joanna. While she is responsible for housekeeping and preparing meals, her husband’s work changes with the seasons, from tending the lawns in the sunshine to shovelling snow in the icy winter. “I’ve been working here for 10 years but the place never becomes monotonous,” says Joanna, referring to the stunning natural surroundings and steady flow of visitors.
Nibork is known as the “house of creative work” and provides the perfect setting for writing. The magazine’s journalists often stay here to work on longer articles, far away from everyday distractions. Today one guest has disappeared to finish writing a screenplay. The main building’s crowning feature is a library; retaining the building’s original wooden beams, the space is generously lit by skylights. Working at the ample wooden desk in the room, Baczynski says, is like “sitting on a ship heading into a sea of green”.
Even award-winning journalists need a break however, and the grounds are scattered with focal points that encourage socialising but are also big enough for guests seeking solitude (some guests only re-emerge at mealtimes). Journalists’ children, many of whom have been coming here all their lives, play outside together while their parents put their feet up. For sunny days a raised swimming pool stands by the entrance to the forest; a sauna awaits for chillier moments.
The Klarewiczs are also happy to direct guests towards the hidden beaches to be found in Poland’s nearby lake district, which opens out a short drive away. In the evenings visitors can soak up the last rays of sunlight on the terrace or enjoy a drink in the atmospheric wine cellar. “Colleagues we bump into here are no longer our colleagues but our friends,” says Bunda.
Driving towards Nibork, visitors cross railway tracks and continue down a forest road that Bunda refers to as the “tunnel in the woods”. Green light filters down through the canopy of leaves. This natural boundary between Nibork and the busy workaday world gives the site its own “microclimate”, according to Joanna. Even a quick break here is enough for Polityka’s staff to return to their desks in Warsaw feeling refreshed and inspired.