Lower Silesian Province: Land of 100 Castles
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(Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland) – Lower Silesia, located in the basin of the river Oder in SW Poland, is a treasure trove for fans of history and architecture. The region with its long and turbulent history, alternatively owned by the Kingdoms of Bohemia, Habsburg/Austria and Prussia, is home to well over 100 castles, dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Approximately ¼ of Poland’s castles, residences and fortresses are located in the rolling hills and along river shores in Lower Silesia, giving rise to another sobriquet: Loire Valley of Poland.
Most castles are open to the public, some have been converted into luxury hotels after the end of communism in Poland.
It’s not only castles which make Lower Silesia such a worthwhile destination. Other attractions are the world-famous glass blowers of Jelenia Gora, the wooden Church of the Peace in Swidnica or a relaxing cshort ruise along the Oder starting in the capital Wroclaw.
How to get there:
Wroclaw has an international airport, frequented by many airlines. Otherwise you can fly into Warsaw and catch connecting flights of Wroclaw.
Motorways A4 and A18 connect the most important cities of Lower Silesia, as do regional trains run by the company Koleje Dolnoslaskie or coaches.
If you prefer to get around on your own wheels, many car rental companies are represented in Wroclaw.
Poland is not in the Euro Zone, the currency is the Zloty. Credit cards are widely accepted but for local purchases. i.e souvenirs, meals in small restaurants etc it’s best to have cash. Important tip; public toilets are not free and if you don’t have local change you will be in dire straights.
Things to do and see in Lower Silesia, Poland
Start your Lower Silesia round trip in Wroclaw which was Capital of Culture 2016. As a result, much of the city has been renovated which makes it a very pleasant place to visit. Located on the banks of the river Oder, Wroclaw is also known as the city of the 100 bridges. Some are pedestrian only, others are open to cars and trams. Small passenger vessels offer river tours with a splendid view of all bridges and the well-kept medieval buildings of Wroclaw.
Notably polished are the medieval houses including the Town Hall which form Wroclaw’s Market Square in the Old Town. Wroclaw Cathedral which once stood on an island in the river, is now connected to the city. A fun way to explore the city is to follow a ‘dwarf route’. Bronze dwarfs which symbolized the Orange Movement, an anti communist movement , stand everywhere, each one a little work of art.
Wroclaw’s Opera House has been newly reopened and is renowned for its acoustic. Try to see a performance, but remember, that Poles dress up for visits to theater and opera. No torn jeans and sneakers.
Wroclaw features a vivid nightlife with many nightclubs and pubs, mostly around or near the market square. Beer is the national drink and pork, gravy and dumplings are the staple fare.
Where to stay in Wroclaw
Hotel Lothus (hotel info), a 3 star hotel in the Old Town just 300m from the Market Square and close to a shopping center. It offers comfortable rooms all amenities and WiFi throughout.
Where to eat in Wroclaw
A must in Wroclaw: Restaurant Spiz, one of the oldest and most traditional. Fine Polish food, a great variety of beer, among them the famous honey beer.
Approx. 70 miles west of Wroclaw, you are welcomed by the medieval town of Jelenia Gora, located at the foot of the Karkonosze mountains. History and art are the main themes of Jelenia Gora. Legends surround the founding of the city and you are reminded of them everywhere. Huge towers guard the entrance and you will want to stroll around the market square admiring the beautifully restored medieval houses. Eye catching wrought iron sculptures turn the old town into an open air museum.
Most fascinating though is the Karkonosz museum and glass blowers. Part is a reconstruction of houses and village life in the middle ages until the 18th century, but the two top floors of the museum are dedicated to astonishing – and fragile – works of art made from glass. Next door, the glass blowers and cutters are at work, creating beautiful glasses which you can buy in the adjacent shop.
Just a few miles outside you find Cieplice with its famous bath and spa. A huge, modern complex with several indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and massages, near a relaxing spa park.
On the way there stop at the Baroque Schaffgotsch Palace for your first taste of Lower Silesia’s 100 castles. Jelenia Gora is easily reached from Wroclaw by car, regional train or bus.
Where to stay in Jelenia Gora
Hotel Caspar (hotel info), 6km from the center of Jelenia Gora in Cieplice. A 3 star hotel with elegant rooms and vaulted ceilings, offering all amenities WiFi and bicyle renting if required.
Where to eat in Jelenia Gora
Mazurkowa Chata, a lovely rural wooden building, nice to sit in. Predomiantly Polis cuisine which means pork, poataoes, dumplings, gravy and borscht, the typical vegetable soup.
About 1hour SW of Wroclaw lies the romantic little town of Swidnica. 16th century buildings surround the market square of the Old Town, but the most important site is a UNESCO World Heritage site: The Church of the Peace. The wooden church, built in just one year from 1656 to 1657 is a marvel of architecture and wood carvings. Gilded baroque altars, richly decorated galleries and a huge organ make you stare in awe. The church is surrounded by a park and churchyard with interesting graves and headstones.
One of the most famous ‘sons’ of Swidnice was Manfred von Richthofen also known as the Red Baron and a World War I aviation hero.
Where to Stay in Swidnica
Stay in the fabulous Red Baron Hotel (hotel info) nearby. It’s half hotel and half museum, each room decorated with an aviation theme and with photos and memorabilia everywhere. The Baron’s birth house is next door and the current owners of the hotel want to acquire the building and incorporate in the hotel. Friendly and knowledgeable stuff, big rooms and bathrooms, excellent breakfast buffet and a great restaurant for all other meals.
Kliczkow castle, at a distance of 1 ½ hours from Wroclaw via the A4 was founded in 1297 as a border fortress. It has a long and turbulent history, changed hands countless times, even burnt down and was rebuilt in the Renaissance style in 1585. Today it’s a luxury hotel, spa and conference center.
Upon arrival you are received in style by stuff in period costumes and a mini canon fires a salute. 80 acres of English country garden surround the castle, so between swimming in the indoor pool, enjoying the spa and massage you can go for a walk through typical Polish woodland.
Kliczkow Castle forms part of the European Route of castles.
Ksiaz Castle / Walbrzych
If you have time for only one castle in Lower Silesia, it has to be Ksiaz castle. It’s the largest castle in Lower Silesia, a massive complex on a hill overlooking the gorge of the river Pelcznica and part of the Waldenberg mountains.
First built in 1288, the castle underwent changes in ownership and was extended to its present glory in the lavish Renaissance style in the 16th century.
During WWII the castle was occupied by the Nazis and, with the help of forced labor, transformed into a headquarter for Hitler. Extensive tunnels and escape routes were carved out of the rock.
First you make a tour of the upper part of the castle including ball rooms and salons, then you descend into the harsh underground world of dripping tunnels niches and cells. The time during the Nazi occupation until the conquest by the Red Army in 1945 is extensively documented in an information center at the entrance to the underground part.
The castle is also surrounded by rumors and the mystery of a Nazi gold train, hidden in shafts of the adjacent mountains although to this day, it has not been found.
Where to Stay in Walbrzych
Ksiaz Castle (hotel info) is, like Kliczkow Castle, is a hotel where you can stay and eat in style.
Lower Silesia Itinerary Tips
To see all these sites mentioned, it’s recommended to plan a two day round trip from and to Wroclaw, following the route to Swidnica, Walbrzych and Jelenia Gora or vice versa.
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