A couple of my friends, who visited me last summer, promised to take me to a particular region of Poland during my holidays. That promise was fulfilled last weekend. On Friday afternoon we went to a resort town of Polanica Zdrój, a mountainous region south off the city of Wrocław.

The next day we travelled to three spots in the area. First on our bucket-list was a natural reserve of Błędne Skały, a rocky maze naturally created by erosion in sandstone. A special trail had been built there making the place a tourist attraction. It wound its way among towering rocks, going between them or under them, sometimes through narrow and low gaps. Passing through them required squeezing the belly, taking off my rucksack and sometimes crawling on all four. The rocks and trees had created a strange looking landscape, with impressive narrow and tall cracks, where the light played tricks, and many misleading forks. Thankfully the trail was pretty obvious as in many places there were timber boards laid on the ground, and many false paths had been fenced. Eventually we passed through the maze in less than one hour, coming to an open glade circled by rocks on one side and the woodland on the other. There were wooden tables and benches, some of them under the roof. After a short stay we returned to our car going along the Polish-Czech border, trampling on a quite wide path made out of concrete blocks; I wasn’t impressed by it.

From there we moved to a village of Karłów a few kilometres away. The village is at the bottom of the hill of Szczeliniec, and that was our second place to go on the day. Unlike the previous location this one required some serious ascend. Firstly we had to climb gently along a wide cobbled road (recently laid, and closed to traffic) for about 15 minutes. Then the road crossed a stream via a bridge, and about 200 metres behind it the road forked into two much narrower paths; one signed as Entrance, another one as Exit. Obviously we took the former and started climbing a long and quite steep stairway, with steps made out of concrete and metal handrails on both sides. For me it was rather easy and pretty dull, so I was quite happy to reach the gap between our destination and a neighbouring hill. From that spot the path looked more promising, winding its way up the rocky formation, though still with occasional handrails or concrete steps along the way. The landscape resembled our previous walk, though at this point was less demanding. After 15 minutes we reached the top of the hill, topped with a mountain hut, quite common in the Polish mountain, offering food and overnight accommodation. There were also two viewing platforms raised on the edge of the cliffs, with great views. We spent about half an hour there, and headed towards the main attraction of the place: another natural rocky maze. This time it was a bit longer, similarly demanding, and in few places going really deep down between the rocks. That maze is closed to the public in winter, and there’s a very good reason for that: the cracks filled up with the snow and are simply impassable. At one spot called Piekiełko (Little Hell) there was still quite a lot of snow covered with mud and thawing very slowly. The path eventually led us out of the maze to a little forest glade. There were two viewing platforms built on top of the rocks nearby (we visited both of them) and a path leading downwards; initially really steep with concrete and metal stairs, then on a less steep concrete stairway with metal handrails. Pretty boring and dull, tiring by its monotony. Some time later we reached the same place where we had started our climb. It was time to have lunch, so we stopped at one of many semi open air eatery and enjoyed pretty good grilled fish with chips, salads and cold beer.

Our last destination for the day was the rather small town of Wambierzyce, a historical local shrine dated back to the 12th century, famous for its impressive Basilica built on the slope on one side of the river, and the Stations of the Cross consisting of small chapels built on the opposite steep hillside on both sides of a massive stairway, topped with the chapel of the crucifixion.

It was a very nice day full of impressions and experiences. However there was a reminder for me why I had grown to dislike the Polish mountains several years ago; they had been turned into industry with all its consequences. They are often overcrowded with many insensitive, noisy and sometimes unpleasant people; there’s a lot of commercial activity around; tourists are charged for many things on an industrial scale. I call it the curse of the Polish mountains.

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