On my birthday, at the end of November, we went and explored Poland’s Crooked Forest. I had heard of this forest where the trees mysteriously grow in the shape of upside-down question marks and needed to see it for myself. This pesky pandemic has really put a damper on our abilities to explore all of Europe like we planned, and so a morning adventure to the crooked forest, only about 15km from Szczecin, in the town of Gryfino, seemed like the best possible way to spend my birthday morning. You know, since we weren’t in Portugal and hosting my sister and her husband like I had planned in my head 11 months prior (insert tears). What even are “plans” anyway? Read on for everything you need to know about visiting the crooked forest, and examine the theories of how it came to be with me.
The Crooked Forest is a small grove of trees on the outskirts of the small town of Gryfino in Northwestern Poland. It is estimated they were planted in the mid-1930s. The trees uniformly grow in a hooked, “J” shape, and no one knows why. If you follow your navigation (my Google maps app finds it if I simply type in “crooked forest”) to the crooked forest, you might drive right past it. When you are “arriving”. Park alongside the road, where the big industrial pipe goes up, over, and down at right angles, making a sort of strangely juxtaposed industrial archway over the entrance to the nature trail. It is marked with a little unassuming sign that says “Krzywy Las” which, translates to “crooked wood”.
Follow the trail back a few hundred meters in to the woods. You are currently walking through a very generic deciduous forest that could be anywhere. Take a left at the first trail and walk another few hundred meters, and you will emerge in to the truly unique “crooked wood”. It isn’t a very large area, I’d guesstimate maybe an acre, or two, with hundreds of trees uniformly standing tall, after they all curve horizontally to the earth at a 90 degree angle. It is peaceful, pleasant, and magical, in a wizarding world sort of way. If you can ignore the big shiny industrial pipe lining one side of the forest, and pretend like you can’t see the bloc-style apartment building through the trees, it feels like you could have walked through a hidden charmed portal into a funhouse mirror.
“No one knows” why the trees grow like this. I put this in “quotes” because surely someone, somewhere holds the secret. If this is you, please! The people want to know! Why are the trees of the crooked forest crooked!? But actually, maybe don’t tell. I think the mystery of the unknown is half the fun. Like most things “no one knows”, there are enough theories to go around. Lets dissect a few of them.
Theory One: A furniture, or boat making company owned the forest and curated this grove of trees to grow in this shape for building furniture or, boats.
Theory Two: Soviet tanks parked in the forest caused the trees to grow out from under them while they sat.
Theory Three: Nazi Germany wanted a monopoly on uniquely shaped question mark trees.
Theory Four: A natural phenomenon like a blizzard, or strong sustained winds caused the trees to grow at right angles, before turning upward when the weather calmed down.
What do you think? My money is on theory number one. Here’s why. While there were Soviet tanks parked in forests in Poland throughout the later part of the 20th Century, I feel like the trees would have had more of a chance to grow up before they arrived. Germany had a lot it was busy with in WWII, I just don’t feel like making trees grow in a J shape was one of them. I’ve lived here for a year and a half, and the weather has never been more than slightly less mild than it was the day before.
Whatever the reason, the crooked forest is a must-see if you’re in the region. What do you think? Which theory do you side with? Let me know in the comments! For more theories and info click here.
It makes me so happy to connect with you. The more we explore together, the more we learn about the world. The more we learn, the better we can make it for each other I think the mystery surrounding the Crooked Forest is half the fun. Make the most of your visit to the crooked forest in Northwest Poland. Bring a little snack for the picnic tables, wander slowly through the grove and sit on a crooked trunk to ponder how the crooked forest came to be.