Welcome to Hel! Posted by on May 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

Hel (with one “L”) is a very pleasant place, I know because I went there yesterday. I would post some photos, however the file upload problem hasn’t been resolved yet (but the guys from Transparent are doing what they can to get it sorted out).

So, instead of looking at pretty pictures of Hel, you’ll have to read my descriptions of the place. In that case, let’s make them short: Hel is indeed lovely, but I wouldn’t want to be there during letnie wakacje (summer vacation) – the place turns into a madhouse.

If you can’t make it to Hel in person, you can always visit the town’s official webpage. It’s called “Go Hel” also seems to be the official city slogan. But oddly enough, there’s no English language version of the website. It’s in Polish only. (Why then “Go Hel”? To appear more “European” and what-not?)

What got me interested (and confused) was this sentence:
Witamy w Helu! (Welcome to Hel)

“Hmmm…. odd,” I thought. “Weren’t is used to be ‘Witamy na Helu’ once upon a time, or am I going totally senile?”

You see, Hel is an interesting place, not only because it’s at the very tip of Poland, but also because nobody’s really sure how to correctly say “I’m going to Hel”, or as it turned out yesterday – “Welcome to Hel.”

I’ve always thought that “Witamy na Helu” was correct. Apparently not, according to the Urząd Miejski in Hel. It’s “Witamy w Helu.”

Ok, fair enough, we say “Witamy w Gdańsku” and “Witamy w Warszawie” and Hel simply wanted to conform. I can live with that.

But how do we say “I’m going to Hel”?

I’ve always thought that “jadę na Hel” was correct. 99% of the population, if asked about it, would automatically answer “na Hel.” But apparently, it’s only correct if you’re talking about the entire Hel Peninsula. Then you “jedziesz na Hel.”

If however, you’re only talking about the town of Hel, then you “jedziesz do Helu.” At least that’s how a helpful Hel dweller explained it to me yesterday.

Whatever. People in Hel can say “Witamy w Helu” all they want. They’re not going to convince me.
So there!

I’m planning to return “na Hel” soon!


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  1. Mchl:

    ‘Hel’ is the colloquial name of the peninsula (formally ‘Półwysep Helski’) and a town at the very tip of it. So depending on whether you’re talking about a peninsula or a town, it’s either ‘Witamy na Helo’ or ‘Witamy w Helu’ respectively.

    You could for example go to Jastarnia, another town on same peninsula: ‘Możesz pojechać na Hel do Jastarni’.

  2. Mchl:

    It’s ‘Witamy na Helu’ in the first example above of course. A typo on my side.

  3. Gabriel:

    Hel’s website is very cool!

  4. Anna:

    Mchl, I understand the difference, but ask anyone who’s going to Hel (the town) where they are going and what you will hear? “Na Hel”. In normal speech, people just don’t see any difference.
    And it’s also interesting if you ask people who live there about where they live (meaning the town). They will tell you “na Helu” (sometimes in a heavy Kashubian accent).
    So, explanations “swoje”, and the everyday language “swoje”. 🙂

  5. Mchl:

    You’re probably right, that in everyday use people will almost exclusively use ‘na Helu’. I guess ‘w Helu’ is used on the website, to underscore, that it is about the town itself.

  6. Justin B.:

    There is a simliar issue with The Ukraine. in Russian, the word Край/ Kraj, means something like ‘edge’ or ‘far region’ and the grammar rule for Russian for Kraj is to use the preposition ‘на/na’ when referring to ‘kraj.’

    However, The Ukraine, Украина/U-kra-in-a, in Russian, felt that it was inappropriate to refer to itself as the ‘edge’ of something, especially after the split with the Soviet Union and Russia, and consequently has demanded that the preposition “в/v/w” be use when referring to the country, thus making it “В Украине(у)/ V Ukrainye(u)” depending on case.

    This is very similar to the debate over “Hel” that is how do you decline it, which preposition do you use, and what is right?

    Well, they are both right, it just depends what the speaker mean, and most of the time, the speaker thinks nothing of it, as this isn’t the most important issue in his/ her thought process.