Saturday, 28 February 2015

Winter sports

I am sure that some of you wondered why I have chosen Karpacz as our last destination. The answer is simple - I wanted to try this year some of the winter sports and Karpacz seemed to be the perfect place.

Today seems also to be the perfect day to start some skiing classes. I woke up early morning so that the ski slope is relatively empty.

It took me a moment to get ready so I was not the first to show up on the slope but the conditions seem good.

Even though it has snowed over the last days, the snowmaking machines are working hard to make the piste comfortable.

The snowcat has removed all moguls to make it safe as well.

The ski poles are already waiting for me.

I just need to put on the skis and I will be able to sit on this comfortable couch and move up the hill.

Well, there is a tiny problem.

None of the ski rental offices in Karpacz has skis that fit to horseshoes!

It seems that skiing will not be my favourite winter sport. Maybe I should try sledge instead? I could feel just like Santa Claus.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to control the sledge without fingers. What else could I try? Somebody on the slope has told me that it is possible in Karpacz to practice winter swimming. Maybe this would be an option for me? Let's have a look.

Let's face it, this water is just soooo cold. How can one even think of putting on a swimming suit with snow lying on the edge of the swimming pool?

Alright, I think that I have found the perfect option for me. Making snowmen is great fun and it allows you to greet a new friend everyday (until it melts of course).

When you will be choosing your favourite winter sport remember that the weather in mountains can change quickly. Sunshine on one side and dark clouds on the other can switch within minutes.

 I'd better go back to the hotel and pack my luggage. Time to move to new adventures.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wang church in Karpacz

As promised, I will take you today to the biggest tourist attraction in Karpacz - the Wang church. It is located on a hill above Karpacz, 885 metres (2,904 ft) above sea level. I hope that you have put on your best trekking boots. Off we go!

If we turn back we can see the valley below us.

Next to the road you can spot another small-leaves lime, like the Tribunal Lime we have seen down in the city center.

Good, we go in the right direction.

Before we arrive, let me share with you briefly the history of the place. The church we are about to visit was built in the twelveth century in Norway, in the city called Vang. In early nineteen century it became too small for the local community who intended to demolish it. Thanks to the engagement of the famous Norwegian painter J.C. Dahl, the church was sold to the Prussian crown prince Frederick William. Originally it was planned to re-erect the church near Potsdam but finally it landed in Karpacz (called Krummhübel at the time) and until now it serves the local protestant community.

So finally here it comes my friend - the Wang church. 

The 24-meter high belfry built of stone is a local addition to the original wooden church - its aim is to protect the church from harsh winds coming from the highest peak of Karkonosze - Śnieżka.

In the garden next to the church you can admire a little fountain.

The monument of Saint Lazarus in the back is modern, dating back to 1990s.

Another monument commemorates the countess von Reden who was a friend of Frederick William and who convinced him to place the church in Karpacz.

Let's enter by the wooden door. On top of the pillars you can see small Nordic lions who serve as guards. The Wang church, like all other so-called stave churches, has been built of wood, without use of nails. All pieces are collated by means of woodworking joints.

Just after entering the church you can realise that you are in a protestant not a catholic church. It is enough to look at the tables with the numbers of readings and songs. I must tell you however that these tables are only a hundred years old.

On top of the gallery over the main entrance you will see the organ that (of course) was not part of the original church in twelve century either. From time to time, the Wang church houses concerts.

The front part of the church is supported by wooden pillars. People say they in the old days could have served as masts of Viking ships. The crucifix was made in mid-nineteen century by a Silesian carpenter. It was curved out of one piece of wood.

The old Scandinavian roots of the place can be seen amoung others in the carvings of the capitels supporting the side doors. This face is believed to be a portrait of a Viking warrior.

And just below it there is a runnic inscription identifying the author of the carvings as Eindridi, the son of Olav.

The church is surrounded by an external corridor that goes round the building.

Before we leave, I propose we look at the back of the church.

On the small cemetery you can find graves of people who have died in the mountains. But here lies also the famous Polish poet Tadeusz Różewicz.

And a last look at the Jelenia Góra valley below us.

If you would be interested in going up again, I suggest that you start your journey at this porch.

This is the entry to the Karkonosze National Park and the path that leads to the "Samotnia" mountain hostel, located 1,195 meters above sea level.

The track is not easy in winter time but it is more than beautiful.

Saturday, 14 February 2015


Some of you have told me that they were surprised that I prefer to spend wintertime in exotic places while Polish winter can be so nice. I would like to explain then that I fully agree with you when it comes to "real" winter, the only period of the year that I dislike is the dully November. As a proof, I will take you now to the Karkonosze mountains when winter is in its full bloom.

Karkonosze are a range of mountains in South-West Poland, close to the Czech and German border. I have chosen as our base the nice town of Karpacz. The city center concentrates around a pedestrian lane that is, I admit, pretty steep.

The buildings are modern. Even though Karpacz exists for around 800 years, until 1950s it was only a small village. The Town Hall is pretty modest as well.

Karkonosze mountains are not very high - the highest peak is just about 1,600 meters. But apparently the local government is very ambitious and looks up. Next to the Town Hall I have found a "winter rock" that commemorates 30th anniversary of the Polish winter expedition to Mount Everest.

I propose that now we go down the pedestrian lane.

The building in the back, topped by a black onion-like dome, is the main church in town, 100 years old church of the Visitation of Virgin Mary. The dome (called also "helm") is inspired by baroque churches from the Tyrol region.

Before this church was erected, people from Karpacz could only attend masses in the former catholic school, located on the other side of the lane.

A few meters down, you can find a tree. To be more specific - a small-leaved lime (tilia cordata).

This particular lime is called "Tribunal Lime" because since 1602 in its shade the local authorities were conducting tribunals, judging criminals and solving conflicts between inhabitants. The Tribunal Lime has over 5 meters of diameter.

On the other side of the street (that is no longer for pedestrians only so be careful!) you can spot yet another church, dedicated to the Holy Heart of Jesus.

You may be surprised that such a small town needs two pretty big churches. Well, this second one was built to serve the protestant community in Karpacz and was transfered to the catholic parish only after the Second World War when not many protestants remained in the town.

On the walls of the church you may notice a little commemorative table. The inscription says "Truth cannot be destroyed". It commemorates the fact that in this church Jerzy Popiełuszko has delivered his first mass. Jerzy Popiełuszko used to be the chaplain of the Solidarity. In 1984 he was killed by special agents of the communist government. As such, he is considered a martyr and has been beatified. His death is considered to be one of the milestones of the political revolution in Poland that led to the termination of the communism.

 Next to the main entry to the church you can find a table with miniatures of 3 churches.

This refers to the fact that Karpacz is on the path of Via Sacra, a touristic path that runs through Poland, Germany and Czech Republic. All 3 churches in Karpacz are on the way (ans yes! there is a third church but it is so special that I will show it to you next time in more details).

Karpacz is not a big town but I hope that you have liked this little tour. I propose we say goodbye to its guard and try to look for a place to sleep.

I have chosen for you the biggest hotel in town (actally it is huge by any standards).

The greatest thing about this hotel is the view. You can see from there a truely beautiful panorama of the Karkonosze.

If we walk a bit around it you will see some small brooks, running fast despite the cold.

And yet some more mountains.

On top of one of the hills you can spot a building with a high tower. This is the gooal of our next trip.

Get some hot chocolate, put on your best winter shoes because there is some nice climbing to come. I guarantee that you will be able to really see and feel the beautiful Polish winter.