I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. It is 7:00 am on a cold April morning in Warsaw.
I’m standing on the sidewalk, holding my backpack as if I’m ready to hitchhike with the first car that pulls over. I’m not. I’m waiting for Anna from Intopoland to pick me up to go to Wolfsschanze – Wolf’s Lair – in Ketrzyn, Poland.
Wolf’s Lair was Adolf Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia. Hitler spent nearly half of World War II (over 800 days) in this compound, which contains over 80 buildings including massive bunkers for high-ranking German Officials like Göring, Bormann, and Hitler, among others.
It was here where decisions like the construction of the death camps and the fate of many European nations were made.
The 250-km-four-hour ride from Warsaw to Ketrzyn crosses through some of the most beautiful countryside, stuck-in-time villages and untouched valleys. This is the Poland that is rarely seen and visited. The farthest I am from Warsaw, the more foreign it feels.
It’s almost 11:00 am and I am now at the Mazurian Lakes. Getting close. I feel like we are entering a once forbidden place.
I start looking very attentive to every detail as we whoosh through the forested rural road that leads to the compound.
The tall evergreen trees, the dark ground once covered with thousands of landmines, the desolate environment, the steel, and concrete debris; all strange to me, yet somewhat familiar. I am exploring the place I’ve seen through images and movies like Valkyrie.
Inside the compound, I meet Jadwiga –a Wolf’s Lair local expert. Today I’m her only visitor. I feel special. The place is all mine.
“Ready to see Wolf’s Lair? Jadwiga says to me with her accented English.
“Hell yeah!” I reply with a big smile.
“Since you are alone I’m going to give you a special tour.”
My lack of words betrays my serious composure and reveals my uncontrollable excitement. I feel like a kid, unearthing treasures in a secret playground.
We head towards the remnants of the Situation Conferences Barrack. This is where Col. Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Hitler during Operation Valkyrie (as seen in Valkyrie, the movie).
There are barely a few recognizable structural elements on the ground and a plaque that memorializes the act of von Stauffenberg.
As we continue and head towards the main bunkers area, I am stunned by the scenery. No single bunker survived intact the German self-attack.
Every single one of the over 30 bunkers was cracked from floor to ceiling, caved in, or completely obliterated by dynamite explosions. You can only imagine the destructive force necessary to raze these 5 meters thick reinforced concrete walls.
I try to imagine this place as it once was before its destruction in January 1945. That’s the time when Hitler ordered the SS troops to destroy this compound with high explosives to prevent its capture and use by the Red Army.
After the war, locals plundered the ruins leaving only the massive broken figures that today still cast the ghostly shadow of a dark moment in human history.
“You chose the perfect time to come to visit.” Jadwiga tells me, as she continues, “The weather is not too cold, and the deciduous trees have no leaves. You can see the bunkers without the foliage cover.”
Nature has taken over this place, covering paved streets with layers of dirt and dry leaves, and complementing its concrete walls with muss and creeper.
Bunker after bunker I get a better understanding of the immensity of this compound and of the vast destruction left behind by the Germans.
The only habitable structure is the former headquarters for Hitler’s personal security, which today is a small hotel and restaurant. (Currently closed for renovation until the end of 2024)
We continue walking until we get to Führer Bunker –Hitler’s Personal Bunker. It is the biggest building in the complex. Surprisingly, its exterior still stands with some noticeable cracks and damage, but its interior is completely destroyed. Oddly, this is bunker #13.
We enter the bunker. It is dark, cold, and humid. The walls are full of sweat. The sound of the water drops echoes in the empty space.
As I make my way inside, it is impossible for me to recognize whether the remaining debris and fragments were once part of the wall, ceiling, or floor. The interior is obliterated; the environment, ominous.
As we exit Hitler’s bunker, crossing through one of the crumbled thick walls that are almost laying flat on the ground, Jadwiga offers me a piece of a slightly discolored yellow tile that belonged to the Bunker’s Kitchen.
I’m astounded by this act. She is giving me a unique souvenir.
We head towards the back of the complex and we enter another partially destroyed bunker. This one belonged to Göring –Hitler’s appointed successor.
Once inside I see a massive concrete wall that has tipped over to the outside and an iron ladder right above it.
“Want to go up to the roof?”
“Can I?” I reply somewhat confused.
“Yes, that’s the special part for you.”
Not many visitors get to climb to the roof through the unsafe rusted iron ladder, but she thinks I’m fit and capable of accomplishing this.
She goes up first and I follow. Once I have a solid footing on the crumbling roof, I take notice of the flak towers that once housed anti-aircraft machine guns that once protected the compound and of the massive and organization of this place.
All around me I see miles and miles of forest. This place is well hidden.
Back on the ground, safe and sound, we walk back towards the main entrance. Two hours have passed since we started, and I still feel like I want more.
Walking through this abandoned destruction has moved, thrilled, and amazed me beyond my expectations. I have enough to “digest” during my four hours journey back to Warsaw.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip to Wolf’s Lair
I recommend visiting Wolf’s Lair with Intopoland. Not only do I vouch for their excellent service, but they also offer the best options for a day trip to the bunkers or more.
Contact: Anna Ostrowska
Tel. +48 692 287 390
Alternatively, if you wish to visit Wolf’s Lair on your own, you can find more information on their website. Or, you could go with these other tour options available on Viator.com departing from Warsaw or Gdansk.
Should you be interested in spending the night at Wolf’s Lair, you can book a night at their hotel (currently closed for renovation until 2024). Alternatively, there are hotels available nearby Wolf’s Lair and in Ketrzyn, which is the closest town to Wolf’s Lair.
Wolf’s Lair is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, 7 days a week.
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Very cool experience and fantastic pictures you got here. How lucky to be alone and have it all to yourself. I would imagine getting to climb up and get a different vantage point was amazing, too. This is an area of the world we have never been to, but it looks amazing!
It was very cool! Yes, the view from the top was somewhat surreal; like looking at an abandoned city eaten by the forest. Poland is a great place to go. It has so many overlooked sights that are well worth visiting.
Congratulations this is an excellent post Norbert. I am especially interested in this history. I guess you have been to Eagle’s Nest as well? Thanks.
Thanks John! I’m also very interested in WWII history. I haven’t been to Eagle’s Nest yet, but it will be one of my stops when I go to Austria. 🙂
The Eagles Nest is Magnificent the views are something else – thanks for posting this and the photos my girlfriends family is 90 km south of here and I am looking fwd to seeing the place . Ash
Oh yes… I’m really looking forward to go to the Eagle’s Nest in the near future! I’m sure the view from up there must be magnificent!
What a haunting experience. I didn’t realize this was in Poland…
Yes it is in Poland. Well, this one, the main one. But Hitler also had bunkers in Berlin and other parts of Europe.
I love this Norbert. What an incredible experience. It must have been so eerie and unsettling. Do you still have the yellow tile?
It was an incredible yet strange experience. At first I didn’t know how to react to it by how overwhelming and ominous it felt. Being there and gives you that eerie feeling that makes you reflect on the incomprehensible things that happened there.
I still keep the piece of tile. It is a bit dirty and the glossy coat is all worn out due to the years of harsh weather. I consider this a unique souvenir to keep! 🙂
“Since you’re alone, we are going to give you a special tour”- Music to my ears! I love when I’m all alone somewhere. I bet that also added to the experience of the trip. I’ve heard of this place, but have never seen any first hand experience or photos from it. very interesting!
I too love it when I do tours by myself! Guides are usually are more flexible and tend to interact better with you. Having the place for myself added a lot to the experience. It was easier for me to experiment, reflect, and to experience things without anyone spoiling it. 🙂 It felt like I was rediscovering something.
And you can do it all by yoursef, without a tour guide at all. I did so in April. I had a small guide book that you can buy at the hotel or kiosk at the entrance to the site. I took about 4 hours and saw all the ruins (including Sperrkreis II) and went through all the bunkers. I also climbed to the top of Goering’s bunker – it was not a problem. It was certainly a unique experience!
Thanks for your input! Glad to know you can do it by yourself.
That is one really interesting trip that I would like to go, not that I’m a Hitler’s person. I think it’s a interesting sight to see. You seem quite enjoyable in those shots lol.
hahaha! You don’t need to be a Hitler person to find this place interesting. There is so much history hidden here that anyone can enjoy a visit to this place. I did enjoyed it a lot. This place was really high on my European Bucket List. It was hard to get there… but it was way worth it!
What an amazing experience! I got chills reading it and imagining being there. Excellent post.
WOW…what a post man! You were so lucky to be alone that day. Completely enjoyed the narration, I could feel your excitement as well.
The surrounding areas look pretty, but somehow it all reeks of death. Or maybe thats just in the mind…
Thanks Sid! Well, the area has a gloomy quality by itself. But when you add the psychological baggage of knowing what happened there, that’s when it feels very eerie. Still, I loved the experience!
Wow! I didn’t even know this place existed. Your photos capture it beautifully. It looks eerie and yet mesmerizing. I have got to go and see this for myself.
Thanks you so much Dave and Deb! Yes, although it is somewhat hard to reach and far from the city, I recommend anyone who goes to Poland to visit this place. It is a unique experience and it’s still very crude and real as to how it was left after the war.
I know what you felt. I visited the bunker in Berchtesgaden. It’s chilling because it’s such recent history.
Yes, this history happened just a little over 60 years ago! It was so huge and it is still fresh in the minds of many. I would love to visit Berchtesgaden Bunker!
I absolutely loved this…..it really gave me the chills! I’m definitely interested in Hitler/WWII and am fascinated by this type of stuff. When I was in Berlin, I took a great tour of the city and stood above his bunker there (I’ve heard you can enter it now, but I’m not sure.)
The way you described the Wolf’s Lair put me right there–and that’s the kind of post I enjoy reading. How awesome that you stepped off the beaten path and traveled back in time. Great experience!
Thank you so much Lisa! Good to see you around. It was a great experience. I too have a huge interest in WWII history. Every time I have the chance to visit a WWII sight I go there to have a perspective of what happened there and when. Such a huge moment in history and so complex.
Sadly, I missed his Bunker in Berlin. Didn’t have the time. But I’ll make sure I go there next time. 🙂
really interesting. I’ll definitely check it out if I make it to Poland this year (which I might!)
Definitely. If you get to Poland this year, take a full day to go there (4 hour drive each way). I recommend you contact Anna from IntoPoland. She is very nice and to my best knowledge (from my previous research to go there) she is the only tour guide who is willing to go so far out of Warsaw to take you there.
Amazing account, more beautiful vivid photography still! Would love to go back to Poland for another history lesson – this period is what I studied at college – and whilst I’ve been to Auschwitz, I’ve never been to the Wolf’s Lair.
And I can well imagine the Lair being surrounded by a sinister aura, much like the one I felt in Auschwitz.
Thanks Dylan. Yes, Wolf’s has somewhat of a sinister aura but it is different from Auschwitz. In my opinion Auschwitz is very dark and heavy, where Wolf’s is more mysterious and somewhat scary.
What an intense experience! The inside of Hitler’s Bunker looks so creepy, but I love the photo for some reason. Great job describing your experience. I can’t believe you were the only one there!
Christy, the inside of those bunkers are somewhat creepy and scary. I think I also added some creepiness to it since I was practically alone (like in the horror movies). It is completely dark, wet, unstable, and everything is crumbling down. It is a unique experience!
Wow do you see how Ereeeee those pics look? Woah
what an interesting day — I haven’t been to Poland yet, but need to hit this spot when I do
Sure Michael. When you go to Poland, if you have the time, venture north to the small villages and Wolf’s Lair. That’s a Poland that is rarely seen.
Poland is definitely high on my travel list. From your descriptions, this area of the world sounds even more intriguing. It is nice you had the tour all to yourself. I can only imagine how eerie it would feel to wander around Hitler’s former hang out.
I couldn’t believe how intriguing Poland is, yet how little we know about them and all those places. I’m so glad I had the tour all to myself, I think it added to the experience. 🙂
Congrats on being included in Suzy’s 5 Favorites! I really enjoyed this post and think it was well deserved!
Wow! Thank you so much for the heads up Laurel! So excited to have been included!!
Congrats to you too on your Cultural Assimilation post! 🙂
What a great post! It’s almost year when we met:-) I’m really happy I could assist and it’s a very nice feeling to read about it now. Thank you and good luck!
Hi Anna!! So glad to see you around and thank you for your comment! Definitely, your help made this experience so memorable, I’m so grateful for what you did. My recommendations for you are endless! 🙂
Good luck to you too! And hopefully we’ll see each other in the future!
Hi Anna, I am from India and would like to visit Poland in May. Will you please guide me.
Sometimes being the only one is an advantage. Interesting post, and great photography.
Thank you Nancie! True, I agree that being the only one was an advantage as I feel like it added to my experience.
Hi, Norbert. I’m about to go to Poland and almost booking all the way with IntoPoland agency. Do you recomend it? Can it be trusted? The reason for my fear (of being robbed): they ask me to pay 100% before the trip .What do you think? Should I go for it?
Hi Paula –
So great you’re going to Poland! it is a great country that is heavily underrated. I do recommend IntoPoland. I went to the Wolf Lair with them and they were excellent all the way. There’s a chance that Anna will be the one taking there from Warsaw. They are a reputable (licensed) company in Poland, so I don’t think there should be any fear of getting robbed of that 100% deposit. In my opinion, go for it!! Once you’re at the Wolf Lair, you’ll be glad you went with it. 🙂 Let me know if you have any other questions about IntoPoland or Wolf Lair.
i like – from indonesian…i like germany
Im currently planning a trip out to Wolf Lair. Wondering if you thought 2 hours was enough on site or would longer have been better? Do you feel you saw it all?
We are tossing up driving ourselves from Warsaw and staying overnight (to get a full day out there) or getting Anna to drive us (which means just 2 horus on site)…..
Hi Angela –
I believe 2 hours are fine to see the site. While the complex is pretty big, not all areas of the complex are open or accessible. What you’ll see is the central and main area, where the most important bunkers (and most impressive ones) are located. I personally felt satisfied with my time there and with the pace I went through it (including Jadwiga’s detailed explanation – she’s a great guide, by the way).
If you prefer to stay longer and walk even farther, you can stay at the small inn that is located right at the site.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
i like military germany ilike wermacht
Hi Norbert –
Enjoyed your post & pictures. I too am a WWII buff, but have not yet had the privilege of visitng the Wolf’s Lair. In the interim, I have been putting together a photo album of the Wolf’s Lair complex using photos found online, including yours. The problem is identifying which structure is shown in many of the photos, and so I’m writing in the hope that you can help:
Do you by any chance still have the pamphlet you got at the site identifying what each of the ruined structures was? I have a photograph of the painted wooden site map near the entrance, but the building numbers on it are illegible and the photo does not include the Legend on the right side. I need some key to the building numbers that are painted in yellow on or near each of the ruined buildings. A good photo of the table model of the complex in the Visitors’ Center would also be very helpful if it shows (any of) the building numbers. So would a closeup of the wooden site map just mentioned if the photo shows the individual building numbers.
In addition, if I were to e-mail you some photos, do you think you would be able to identify from memory what ruined structure is shown in each? If so, please let me have the e-mail address you’d like me to use.
A couple of final questions, also to help me identify the structures in certain photos:
a. In your post, when you refer to Goering’s “bunker,” do you mean his air raid shelter (which I think is Building 16) as opposed to his residential quarters?
b. I have some photos showing a huge concrete slab, apparaently a former bunker ceiling or wall, which is lying tilted at about a 45 degree angle. Many people have put sticks under it (which I understand to be a Polish “good luck ” custom), making it look almost like the concrete slab is being propped up by the sticks. Do you recall what structure that tilted slab belongs to?
Many thanks for your help. Please feel free to e-mail me directly. I would be most appreciative of any assistance you can provide.
– Dean Allison
Hi Dean –
Thank you so much! I enjoyed a lot visiting the Wolf’s Lair, and from what I see you will too! I’ll do my best to help you with your questions. While I still have the pamphlet, I do not carry it with me because I’m traveling at the moment. But, I do have two pictures of the map on site that I believe will help you identify some of the buildings. I will email them to you. Actually, the photos I have are of that same map you mentioned, but the numbers are legible and I included the legend. Sadly I don’t have any pictures of the model, but I believe the map will help.
Sure, feel free to send me any pictures and I’ll do my best to identify them from memory. My email is norbert (at) globotreks (dot) com.
On your other questions:
a. It is his raid shelter, building #16. His house is #15 and located right next to the bunker.
b. That one is Bunker C, Bormann’s Bunker. Yes, putting a stick under that specific wall is a Polish good luck tradition. I really don’t understand the meaning behind it, but it’s fun to take a picture putting a stick there. 🙂
Feel free to email me any more questions you might have.
Hey Norbert –
Thanks so much for your reply. Between sending my questions and getting your reply, I figured out the answers to questions A & B on my own, from comparing 100’s of other people’s photos. Also, I have since found closeup shots of the wooden site map and its legend, with the writing legible, so that stuff is all taken care of.
However, I’m still trying to identify the structures/locations shown in various photos and will send you those via separate e-mail for whatever assistance you can provide. Again, thanks very much for your help.
Best wishes. Enjoy Belize – – I’ve been. Take the river cruise to see Morelet’s Crocodile, one of the rarest in the world. And enjoy the diving.
oh, thanks Dean! Look forward to your email.
Cool, you’ve been to Belize! I haven’t done the river cruise yet, so I need to check out the Morelet’s Crocs. I’ve enjoyed the diving… it’s the best! 🙂
I wanted to go there and I am sure glad I did. Very interesting with all the history that goes with it.
Glad you got to visit it! It’s definitely an interesting place, especially if you love this type of history.
Thanks for posting your story.
Do you know the contact details for the guide ?
Hi Iain –
You’re welcome. Regarding the guide’s contact details, at the moment I only have a phone number.
Jadwiga Korowaj: +48 601 677 202
I can’t guarantee this number still works, but you can give it a try!
Many thanks Norbert. I will SMS her and see if she has an e-mail.
I last went to the lair in 1989 and the place was deserted. I can only assume that now it is more tourist-orientated with guides, etc. Certainly some of the contemporary images I have seen have had 20-30 people milling about the place. I really enjoyed my visit and would like to go again. Best, Iain
You’re welcome, Iain. I went there in 2010, and I pretty much had the place to myself. But I agree that the place is now getting more famous and tourist oriented, so it is possible you might run into a few tourists there these days. Best of luck with her number!
Thanks for sharing your experience at Wolf’s Lair. Great description and photos.
What a wonderful article! In 1997 I spent 3 weeks traveling all around Poland. I had a vague itinerary, a leased car, and no reservations anywhere. I found the people were generally warm and welcoming, and very willing to help me. My knowledge of the Polish language is minimal, so there was a lot of miming going on. My Dad’s family comes from a hamlet in the northeast, so my itinerary gave me the opportunity to visit Wolf’s Lair. I arrived an hour before closing and very few people were around on this warm August day.
Like you I marveled at the ruins. As I drew closer to Hitler’s bunker, I realized I was alone and began to sense evil. I turned around and saw behind me a black German shepherd-type dog. He followed me for the rest of my tour. When I got back to the parking area, the dog was gone. Just disappeared! It was as though he was a “spirit helper”, keeping the evil away from me.
Visiting this spot and several of the Nazi death camps was a reminder of how dark human nature can be. But visiting castles, open air museums, city sites and the beautiful countryside made my trip to this glorious country an outstanding adventure.
Gabrielle, it sounds like you had a uniquely wonderful experience in Poland, especially in Wolf’s Lair with the dog. I’m sure that you took every second, every sight there to try to understand the place. It’s so mysterious we can’t help wonder about it!
I’m glad you enjoyed Poland. It’s definitely a country I want to go back to.
идиот реплй what a crap reply about dog and evil ha ha ha bullsh*t
Hi, when I was 13 years old (1964) we visited our relatives in Poland. Whist there we made a trip to see the bunkers (just for me). Back then it had quite a few visitors. I can remember being astonished at the size and thickness of the bunkers and the force it took to destroy them.
Also went to Auswitz to the remains of the concentration camp. That was a sobering visit, no bird song, no birds a truly terrible place
Wow brilliant photos thanknyou for posting
Thanks for sharing this experience of your’s, very interesting.
What a unique experience! I experienced goosebumps while reading it and picturing myself there.