The Pearls of Lower Silesia

Fountain Spring (Zdrój)  at Doves' Square, Wroclaw

Lower Silesia stole my heart. Even at this moment, while I'm drinking some Żubrówka Vodka (nastrovje!) and thinking about this gem in the south-west of Poland, my mind becomes at ease and I get this magical feeling again. And there's a pretty good reason for that.

Lower Silesia
Population: approximately 3 mln people
Area: 19,948 square km
Capital: Wroclaw 
Currency: Zloty (meaning 'golden')
Bordering Germany to the west and the Czech Republic to the south, Lower Silesa is a region of many treasures. You will find hundreds of majestic castles and palaces, numerous SPA resorts, picturesque villages and Medieval towns. The province is famous for its excellent nature qualities, mild climate, mineral springs and the stimulating air in the Sudety mountains. Throughout the centuries, this region became well-known as a holiday destination for many of Europe's richest families and monarchies. The verdant landscapes, virgin forests and mineral springs acted as a magnet, and these families spent many of their holidays here in the custombuilt palaces. Today the region is also popular because of the recent "Nazi gold train" rumours. This train is believed to be hidden near the city of Walbrzych.

For a week I had the privilege to discover the Lower Silesa region together with the deputy director of the Polish National Tourist Office and two other Dutch travel fans. We caught a flight from Eindhoven Airport directly to Wroclaw Airport. A quick and convenient flight with Wizz Air which lasted for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. At the Aiport we rent an Audi A6 (actually one of my favorite cars) from Hertz, so we had the freedom and luxury to drive to whatever place we would like to go.

Car rental services - Wroclaw Aiport
At Wroclaw Aiport you can rent a luxury car from several car rental companies. The car rental car parks are located in the front of the terminal for easy access. 

Route: Wroclaw - Karpacz - Jelenia Góra - Szklarska Poręba - Świeradów Zdrój - Jugowice - Wroclaw
Time: August 31 - September 6, 2015
Temperature: around 18-32 degrees

Our first destination was Karpacz. Karpacz is a holiday resort situated in the Karkonosze Mountains. If you're in this idyllic city you can't miss the 4-star Hotel Golebiewski Karpacz. This gigantic Vegas like hotel is a place for relaxation and features a huge aquapark. I'm not a fan of aquaparks, but hey, if you have kids, go for it!

After a little power nap at Hotel Golebiewski we went for a dinner at restaurant U Ducha Gór, well-known for its typical local dishes in Karpacz. Here I had the pleasure to meet Joanna Klaga, the Deputy Mayor of Karpacz, and I enjoyed some of the tasty Polish food and wines.

A room with a view at Hotel Golebiewski Karpacz / Photo by Nino de Snoo

Karpacz is a popular spa town and ski resort in Jelenia Góra County, renowned for its Mount Śnieżka (1,602 m) and its borders with the Czech Republic. Listed among the "winter capitals of Poland", it draws more visitors than it has permanent inhabitants and is especially attractive for outdoor types (skiers, bikers & hikers).

The next day began with a strong breakfast and a heavy jeep trip to the Karkonosze National Park. The moment we arrived at the park I felt a strong, peaceful energy which made me want to do some meditation and yoga. I didn't want to leave this place. Not only for its beautiful aura, but also because of the Samotnia Ref, the 'wooden pearl' of Lower Silesian mountain refuges, which served us some sweet beers.

Shooting my fellow traveller Iris Hermans from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in Karkonosze National Park / Photo by Andrzej W. Pawluszek

Following the press program, the next stop on our route was the Karkonosze Museum, situated in Jelenia Góra. Established in 1914, this museum distinguishes itself especially by the collection of artistic European glass – the biggest one in Poland.

Jelenia Góra
Friendly inhabitants, good restaurants and beer gardens, nouveau style houses and Baroque churches. Jelenia Góra (pronounced yeh-lane-yah goo-rahhas it all. Ideally located in a valley and surrounded by the Western SudetesJelenia Góra is a vibrant city which boasts a rich cultural life. TIP: Looking for the best beaty treatments in Poland? Go to Cieplice Zdroj. It is the oldest Polish spa, located within the town's boundaries.

In the evening we drove to Palac Paulinum, a XIX century palace somewhere hidden in a forest. For some reason it felt I landed in The Ninth Gate mystery thriller movie with Johnny Depp. Maybe because of the Palace's dark atmosphere and scary drive haha. I don't know. But that feeling quickly dissapeared when we were welcomed by Marcin Zawila, the President of Jelenia Góra and his wife, for a supper in the palace. Surrounded by gold leaf motifs, mozaiec walls, candle light and traditional Polish dishes, Martin told us about the history and myths of the Jelenia Góra region. Very interesting, but I was al ready a bit sleepy while driving to the Palace, so I was looking forward to jump in my king size bed in Pałac Pakoszów, our accomodation for the night.

Pałac Pakoszów 
Built in 1725, Pałac Pakoszów combines historic architecture of a nobleman palace with modern design. This charming hotel in Piechowice offers 19 rooms & suites and features an indoor swimming pool with terrace, library, gourmet restaurant with summer terrace and a cozy drink-bar with a fire-place. 

I slept like a baby in my romantic Design Room with double beds and open bath / Photo by Nino de Snoo

Ready for a refreshing dive! / Photo by Nino de Snoo

View from inside the Pałac Pakoszów w Karkonoszach / Photo by Nino de Snoo

arly birds supposedly do better. Well, I don't think so. But ok, the refreshing dive in Pałac Pakoszów's swimming pool plus a healthy breakfast at the restaurant was a fine start of the 3rd day of this trip. At 10:00 (perfect time!) we drove to our next destination: Szklarska Poręba. Here we met Mr. Tomek Januszka, our private guide for the morning. With a lot of energy and enthusiasm Tomek showed us his favorite spots in the Szrenica Karkosze mountains. Great guy!

Szklarska Poręba
Szklarska Poręba is a large holiday resort and centre of winter sports in the Sudeten Mountains. With its splendour of nature, abundance of outdoor activities and wide variety of accommodation facilities, the region is very attractive for leisure and outdoor pleasure seakers.

I was literally in the clouds / Photo by Tomek Januszka

Breathtaking views in the chair lifts in the Szrenica mountain peak at 1362 m a.s.l. / Foto by Tomek Januszka

A trip in Lower Silesia isn't complete if you didn't try some body treatments and comforting your senses in one of the many Spa Resorts in Świeradów ZdrójTipTry the 50 minute 'mango treatment' in the newly opened Cottonina Villa & Mineral SPA Resort. Believe me, I've never had such an intense full body treatment and massage.

Thanks to Cottonina we were totally destressed at 8PM and ready to eat something in Restaurant Uczta in the old Czocha Castle. There's a first time for everything, so I tried one of the restaurant's specialties: Filet Z Kaczki (Fillet of Duck Breast with Apple Sauce). It was delicious. 

 Świeradów Zdrój
 Świeradów Zdrój has long been a spa known for its healing mineral waters, unpolluted air and pleasant scenery. Apart from being a spa, Swieradow is a popular tourist and holiday centre, visited particularly by people interested in winter sports.

Panorama - Cottonina Villa & Mineral Spa Resort

The fourth day was an exciting one, because I had the chance to see the spendlid Książ Castle, one of the biggest castles in Europe and I got to dine, relax and sleep in Palac Jugowice. But first: some meditation in my room, coffee, sightseeing in Świeradów Zdrój and talking with Piotr Bigus, our guide for the morning...

Up in the Świeradów Zdrój mountains with Iris Hermans and Piotr Bigus talking about the German treasures from WWII hidden in this mystic area / Photo by Andrzej W. Pawluszek

The Książ Castle
Often called "The Lower Silesian Versailles", the Książ Castle is a must-see when visiting the Lower Silesia region. Gracefully hidden in a nature reserve and surrounded by a big forest, this castle is one of the big tourist attractions. Visitors can admire the majesty of numerous
chambers, underground tunnels, terraces and surrounding gardens.

The Książ Castle is the third largest castle in Poland / Photo by Nino de Snoo

As you can imagine, the tour in the Książ Castle was more than great, but I really needed a long, luxurious bath. And so did the others. On to Palac Jugowice! This 28-suite hotel, a 19th century Prussian hunting lodge which has been completely restored and refurnished, is owned by a lovely couple who are living in the Netherlands.
Palac Jugowice
Close to Wroclaw and hidden in the wonderful valley of Jugowice, an undiscovered part of Poland, you will find Palac Jugowice. This 4-star luxury hotel, which exudes grandeur, is a must visit if you're looking for rest, welness, and 'top of the bill' food. Outside the hotel there's a beautiful SPA with plunge pools, sauna and an open swimmingpool. 

Couldn't  wish for a better suite than this one / Photo by Nino de Snoo

The Restaurant at Palac Jugowice received a honourable mention in Poland's 100 Best Restaurants 

TIP: Try the Conhigle z kurczakiem (Conchiglie pasta with grilled chicken, gorgonzola cheese, spinach and cream sauce with mascarpone). Such a treat! Photo by Nino de Snoo

The last days (or name it part two) of this inspiring week we spent in Wroclaw, the administrative, economic and cultural capital of Lower Silesia. When we arrived on friday, the first thing we did was explore the charming 'old town' of Wroclaw with its colorful Market Square (the Rynek). Jan Wais, the Deputy Director of the Foreign Relations Office Municipality of Wroclaw, quickly guided us through the beating heart of the city, were we eventually ended up at restauracja La Maddalena for some great food and wine.

Key information about Wroclaw
Official website: www.wroclaw.pl
Population: 630 000 residents (+ about 137 000 students) * Hotels: 47 * Restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs: 947 * Cinemas: 11 * Theaters: 24 * Museums: 23 * Galleries: 32 * Parks (green space: 35% of the overall area): 65

Plac Solny (The Salt Square), Wroclaw

Wroclaw (pronounced Vrotz-waf; commonly known by its German and English name Breslau before 1945) is the fourth largest city in Poland and the biggest in the west of the country. Situated on the Oder river and its four triburaties, its is a unique city of 12 islands and 117 bridges. Wroclaw has the second largest market square in Europe, the Rynek. Known as 'the Meeting Place', it's the epicentre of Wroclaw life. The multicultural city opened the world's second-ever travel agency back in the mid-19th century and is now carving out a reputation as a top European tourist destination.

Friday evening was all about the inauguration of the National Forum of Music (NFM), an all-new state-of-the-art concert venue located in the Wroclaw historical city center, for which we received an invitation. Dressed formal and surrounded by VIPS, we were treated with a beautiful concert with major orchestras and ensembles (including the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, NFM Choir and the NFM Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Shwartz)  -Check the program here-

The National Forum of Music combines modern architecture with world-class acousticts. Believed to be among the finest projects of its kind in Central Europe, it will become an important place on the cultural map of Wroclaw and Lower Silesia and the seat of famous festivals: Wratislavia Cantans, Musica Polonica Nova, Musica Electronica Nova, Leo festival, Forum Musicum, and Jazztopad. 

The National Forum of Music celebrated its grand opening on 4 September / Photo by Nino de Snoo

I drinked a lot of champagne and vodka and slept for about three hours, but when I woke up on Saturday, miraculously I didn't have the slightest headache. Wasn't hung over at all. Good for me! In the morning we had an appointment with Magdalena Babiszewska at Barbara, the info point and meeting place for the program of the European Capital of Culture Wroclaw 2016. After a presentation about the ECoC 2016 program we visited the Wroclaw Zoo and ended the day with a dinner and drinks at the stylish Jazz Club & Restaurant Vertigo

Wroclaw: European Capital of Culture 2016
In 2016, Wroclaw, alongside the Spanish city of Donostia-San Sebastián, will boast the honour of European Capital of Culture (ECC). This is the European Union's most recognizable initiative in the area of culture, and it is considered an exceptionally prestigious distinction for each city which receives the title. It can be viewed as both a year-long cultural festival and as a multiphase cultural, social and economic process providing a singular impulse in the history of the city and region.

>> While walking trough the streets of the old city of Wroclaw you don't want to miss the Przedwojenna bistro, a cozy hotspot where you can eat a small dish for 8 zloty (that's around 1,90 EUR).

Inside the Przedwojenna bistro / Photo by Nino de Snoo

>> If you're a beer fan, like I am, try the Lwówek Jankes. It's a dark local beer in an oldskool bottle. A favorite!

>> Two traditional Polish dishes you should definitely try out when in Wroclaw: Rosół z koguta, jajko poche, warzywa (broth with rooster, poached Egg and
vegetables) and Bigosh (Polish hunter's stew).

>> Looking for an elegant 5-star hotel in Wroclaw? Than pick Monopol, situated just minutes from the Rynek, the city's main square. Famous patrons of the hotel during the German era included Marlene Dietrich and Gerhart Hauptmann.