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Vicarious Travel Poland 2017 | Wrocław + Silesia

Hi all! I've been seeing a lot of interest in travel to Poland these past few days. So I decided to share another one of my photo albums, this time of my 2017 trip to the little-known south-west corner of Poland, the ancient region of Silesia, bordering Czechia to the south and Germany to the west.

Here is the link to my photo album:

I would describe Silesia as a land of rolling green hills flanked by the imposing Sudeten mountain range. The landscape is dotted with forgotten medieval villages, baroque spa towns, and grand old castles. This region has been at the center of a constant tug-of-war since the middle ages, between the Germans, the Poles, the Czechs, and the Austrians. Outside of the regional capital of Wrocław, Silesia was mostly spared from the destruction of WWII, as most of the fighting went north.

I went in early September and while many of the historical sites were very well preserved, they were surprisingly untouristed. Even though I was in the heart of Europe, I felt like I was really off the beaten path. I rented a car in Wrocław and used spa town of Polanica as a base to explore the region.

My first stop was the medieval town of Kłodzko which is referred to as the “Little Prague”, definitely the baroque architecture of the town reflected that. By far the most interesting site in the town is the old Prussian Fortress that dominates the center of the town. It was apparently one of the largest star fortifications in the Prussian Empire and is in remarkably well preserved. Again I was literally the only one in the fortress, had the whole thing to myself to explore!

The day after was Zamek Książ aka (Schloss Fürstenstein in German) a large, an originally medieval castle of the Duchy of Pless, which overlooks the Pełcznica river gorge. During WW2 the Germans built underground tunnels here. In these tunnels is apparently where the train filled with Nazi gold is hidden. This tunnel network was part of Project Riese, which was a secret Nazi project consisting of several underground megastructures (for yet unknown reasons).

Early the next day I made the trip up to the Protestant Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the biggest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe built after the 30 Years War. Again, I found I had the whole place to myself and a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that :)

I coupled that trip with a stop at Ząbkowice Śląskie aka (Frankenstein in German) for dinner at a medieval restaurant, I chose their ham-hock specialty dish paired with spiced mead, fantastic! This town of Frankenstein has often been speculated as the inspiration Shelley's Frankenstein story. At dusk, the town itself had a very spooky medieval feeling with its Neo-Gothic Rathaus and leaning Renaissance Tower.

The next set of photos is from Polanica, an old German spa town located in the Sudeten mountain range. Really relaxing place with restorative mineral waters, I had the best pierogi I've ever had in Poland at Villa Polanica, where I stayed during my time in the region.

The next day was all about the nature, I visited the Stołowe Mountains National Park, a primeval forest deep in the Sudeten Mountain Range, dotted with some very unique rock formations (they actually filmed one of the Narnia movies there). There are some pretty good hiking spots here, between the rock formations themselves!

The last 2 days were back at Wrocław, which I had been to twice previously. One new place I visited was the Old Wroclaw Arsenal, which houses an exceptional museum of 20th century militaria and armaments, including a fascinating exposition of historical Polish Sabers. The Arsenal also houses the Silesian Archaeological Museum, which has ancient Roman and Celtic artifacts found in the area.

Well that's about all the room I have lol, hopefully this can stoke some travel dreams to the lesser known parts of Poland!

Posted by
1271 posts

Beautiful! I’m particularly intrigued by the pictures with variable focus - would you be willing to reveal how you do that?

Posted by
1929 posts

@lnbsig - of course, it's called a "tilt-shift effect", my camera (Canon 60D DSLR) can do this effect directly in camera. It puts a strip of blur at the top and bottom of the frame and slightly bumps the saturation, that way what ever is still in focus in the centre of frame gives the illusion of a "miniature". It is quite a common post-process effect in many a photo editing software too. Here's some really good examples:

Posted by
1703 posts

Thanks Carlos, made me pull out my scrapbook from our trip to Poland. Very underrated, definitely worth a trip.

Posted by
1646 posts

Thanks for the visit, Carlos, I enjoyed that!

Love the keyhole style picture through the cave. That little red mushroom looks too perfect to be real!

I hope I make it back to Poland this September. And I'd love to do a driving trip such as yours one day. One day soon!

Posted by
1929 posts

No problem, happy I could share some of my experiences, I've noticed in Poland the mushrooms really do look like they are out of a fairy tale, those pics have minimal post processing if you can believe!.

Posted by
1646 posts

That's amazing. It really does look like it's a picture from a fairy tale!

Posted by
1174 posts

Thank you for this post. We have a trip to Poland scheduled for mid September but at this point we're not sure if we will go. Your pictures are great and make us determined to visit Poland! If we can't go this year we will just postpone it to September 2021. Thanks, again.

Posted by
397 posts

Carlos, those are some excellent photos. We've only been to Poznan and Warsaw, which was a great trip, and we've been meaning to explore more of Poland, so maybe this is that catalyst.

I'm curious how you came to the decision to explore this part of the Country?

Posted by
1929 posts

Thank you for your comments! I've always had a soft spot for this region, it's so multifaceted in terms of history and culture. Although I was born in Barcelona, to a Spanish father, my mother's side of the family are ethnic Silesians who come from this region, since before when it was still part of Germany. I've grown up hearing about this region and its history, I first started with visiting Wrocław, the big regional capital, then started to branch out to the Silesian countryside. It feels like an adventure, so off the beat path, with so many things to discover, and if you are a big history buff like me doubly so.

You may also be interested in my photos from an earlier daytrip to Pszczyna in Silesia. An old baroque town, former capital of the Duchy of Pless. It's dominated by a large Baroque style chateau, which used to be owned by the von Pless family. The interior is very well preserved and many of the original furnishings are all still there. It is also historically important as this is the place where Kaiser Wilhelm II had his HQ for the eastern front during WW1. Here are my pics (also featuring Poland's high speed trains) -

I hope my pictures inspire you to visit this wonderful region :)

Posted by
43 posts

Carlos- Thanks for posting this. Very interesting.

We have a trip planned for late September to Poland, 16 nights (hope the world is somewhat normal by then).
3 nights Warsaw, 4 nights Krakow, 6 nights driving through Silesia, 3 nights Wroclaw. As of now, only the 3 city stays are booked.

We want to rent a car in Krakow, and just head out for those 6 nights, not booking any lodging in advance. I have a list of places to visit that i've collected from various trip reports. Polanica was on the list already, thanks for confirming it's worth a stop.

We like small town, countryside, castles...not so much museums. Dropping down into Slovakia or Czech Republic would be interesting as well.

Two questions: Will be be able to find lodging available in the smaller towns?

And, the more I read about Krakow, the more I see to do. Would you add a night there (so it's be 5 nights instead of 4), and take one night away from our driving of Silesia.

Appreciate any advice you can give.

Posted by
1929 posts

@bdokeefe - I think 3 nights in Krakow is the bare minimum for seeing the main sights of the old town. If you want to add some day trips or see lesser known things, you would probably what to add a night or 2. I think that 5 nights driving through Silesia would work, but I would not go any lower than that. You can find accommodations in small towns along the way, but you may need to do a little research beforehand, just to see what the options are. You could try something like this:

Warsaw (3 nights)
PKP highspeed train to
Krakow (5 nights) - day trip to Eagles Nest Castle Trail and/or Zakopane
Rent car, drive west
Silesia roadtrip (5 nights)
drop off car
Wroclaw (3 nights)

Considering your interests, a day trip from Krakow that I would highly recommend is the Eagles Nest Castle Trail. I have linked my trip report from last year. Here is my photo album with a few of my pics from that day trip -

When driving from Krakow to Wroclaw there are a number routes you can take. If you like small towns and countryside, I would actually recommend you swing down southwest to the Silesian Beskid mountain range. The tricorner where Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland meet. It's a popular alternate to Zakopane and the Tatra mountains, especially with local Poles. There are many great hiking trails through the mountains that meander into Slovakia and Czechia.

While exploring the Silesian Beskid mountain range. I would recommend staying at the mountain resort town of Wisła, it's about 2 hr southwest of Krakow. It's not as big as Zakopane and is less well know with foreign tourists. It's also where the President of Poland has his Presidential Castle, that he uses for winter/summer retreats, it's possible to visit the castle when he's not in. Next to Wisła is the larger spa town of Ustroń, which also makes for a great alternative to Zakopane. A nice day trip from Wisła/Ustroń is the quaint medieval Czech town of Štramberk, about 1 hr west.

After a few days, you can cut west across Czechia's northern border to the Kłodzko Valley, where Polanica is located. For accommodations in Polanica I would recommend Villa Polanica, a surprisingly affordable 4-star hotel located in a renovated manor house. Their restaurant is most excellent!

Hope this helps :)

Edit to add: I have serious doubts Europe will be open for international tourism by September, probably by Dec/Jan at the earliest. You may consider rescheduling this trip to May 2021 or mid Sept 2021, if needs be.

Posted by
43 posts

Carlos- Thanks, that helps a bunch.

I think I'll add the extra day in Krakow, we were planning on visiting the Eagles Nest Castle Trail. I see there is a guided tour, which we'll probably take as we won't have the car yet. Taking the train from Warsaw to Krakow as you suggested. I booked accommodations nearby each train station for an easy 'duffle bag drag'.

And regarding your edit, you are probably right. We already had a trip to Ireland, followed by a tulip cruise cancel, so I'm hopeful we can go...