Monday, 21 May 2012


Dresden was on our travelling list for a very long time and finally we made it:-). I still can’t believe that it is only 2,5 hrs’ drive from Wrocław. It is not only the distance that makes you think you are still in Poland; it is also the architecture and the landscape. Buildings and houses in Saxony look so similar to the ones in Silesia. No wonder because both countries had the same ruler at one stage in the 17th century’s history. It was Augustus II the Strong, who was elected the King of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Thanks to the election he could be a king, not only a duke;-). He had to ‘pay’ for it with the conversion into Catholicism and building an impressive catholic temple Hofkirche (the biggest sacral building in Saxony). 

Apparently he was a better Saxonian Duke than a Polish King weakening political power of Poland in the war with the Russian Empire and failing to carry out internal reforms. However, he left amazing Baroque palaces in Warsaw and Dresden, not to mention an extremely huge and expensive collection of jewelry, art, gemstones, sculptures, etc. Most of them can be seen in the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) – several rooms housing a breathtaking collection of very old and precious treasures, which gave beginnings to the first and oldest museum in the world (located in the Castle, cost: 10 euros, audioguide included, duration: it took us about three hours). Out of so many others exhibitions displayed in Zwinger and in the Castle it is definitely worth seeing. Of course, there is the world-famous Sistine Madonna by Rafaello in the Old Masters’ Gallery in Zwinger, which we did not have time to see (left for the next time, when the weather is more suitable for museums;-).   

Dresden has many faces. Naturally the most famous one is the Old Town with many baroque buildings, Frauenkirche, Zwinger palace and the Castle, a lot of fascinating museums and the history of a terrible bomb damage in 1945. I could not wait to see the Old Town, because whoever I had talked to before was mentioning it and for me, first, seeing Dresden meant seeing the Old Town.  How lucky I was that I could see also other faces of that amazing city! The Old Town is a landmark and a must-see, of course, and I especially recommend looking at it from the Augustus Bridge – it forms an amazing skyline, but all in all I was a little disappointed that it is not bigger and that it is quite black (the buildings are made of sandstone, which is very difficult to clean).

On the other side of the Elbe river the second face appears: a very hippie and artistic off-the-mainstream Neustadt (New Town) with fantastic and colourful Kunsthof, a lot of small caffes, bars and small cute shops, where one can wander (and wonder) for ages. One could spend the whole day strolling only around Neustadt, exploring every nook and cranny of that sometimes very surreal, but very welcoming, place.  The new town has also its old Martin-Luther church located in a calm square and surrounded by beautiful old houses. What is also worth mentioning is the amazing cinema that looks like from the 1920’s with huge (open) windows and chairs and tables behind inviting you to have a coffee after or before the showing.

Other faces are also very interesting and an absolute must-see including a beautiful area around the Blaues Wunder Bridge with breathtaking views and the two oldest mountain railways in the world (we took Schwebe Bahn), the river Elbe itself (steamboats, cycling, hiking, beer gardens), the glass VW factory, where you feel like in a luxurious space centre and really feel the huge amount of money they have put into it and many palaces and castles in the city and outside (e.g. Meissen, where they produced the famous china).  

A separate chapter should be devoted to a fascinating land of sandstone mountains and rock shapes called Saxonian (and Bohemian) Switzerland.  We climbed powerful Lilienstein, from where you have a 360 degree-view on the other amazing rock forms and the Elbe river.

Stanislaw Tillich – the prime minister of Saxony was a guest of Wrocław a few days ago. He came here to open a Saxonian Link Office, which is to facilitate contacts between investors from both sides of the border and to promote the Saxonian region. There are already Polish IT companies who give work to Saxonians in Dresden and Leipzig. Many Saxonians work in Lower Silesia – thanks to a good motorway connection they can commute easily. Mr Tillich said many years ago that one day Lower Silesia and Saxony will be one of the richest European regions. I think  we are already rich – in tolerance, respect, lack of bad stereotypes and, first of all, in heartfelt friendliness which I could experience personally meeting so many lovely Dresdenians.

Photos by K. Szostak, all rights reserved

Thursday, 12 April 2012


a view of the Ostróg Fort from the Warowna mountain 
I had no idea that a place only 70km away of Wroclaw was a witness to events of world-importance. Even though it happened 200 years, it is still very interesting. I am talking about the biggest mountain fortress in Europe, namely the fortress and village of Srebrna Góra (Festung Silberberg, Silver Mountain). 

Donjon - the main part of the Srebrna Góra fortress
In middle ages the place called Silberberg was often hit by military confrontations, at first by the Hussite Wars, later also by the Thirty Years' War, which left the area devastated. Being Silesian, then Bohemian, it was finally annexed by King Frederick II of Prussia after the First Silesian War with Austria in 1742. He wanted have a protection against Austrians, so he decided to build a border fortress of the Prussian Army, which was finished in 1778.
the plan of the Festung Silberberg (Srebrna Góra Fortress)
The fortress was constructed on the Silver Mountain Pass by 4,000 workers. The huge Silberberg Fortress guarded the passage to the Kłodzko Valley and consisted of six forts and several forest bastions. It is one of the most interesting examples of Polish military architecture.  Its main building is a big Donjon. There were 150 casemates (fortress rooms) located on three floors.  There were huge storehouses, nine wells, a chapel, prison, hospital, bakery, brewery, craft workshops and a gunpowder mill. It held  3,756 soldiers with enormous stocks of ammunition, food and firewood.  The soldiers had 264 mortars for the defence. Sounds really impressive!!!

Unfortunately the Napoleonic army lay siege to  the fortress in 1807 and as a consequence  the town underneath was almost completely destroyed.

main entrance that leads to Donjon

Can you spot the icicles? 
Napoleon soldiers;-)

near the High Rock Fort
peeping into the High Rock Fort inside
The picturesque village of Srebrna Góra was founded in the 14th century as a mining settlement by Saxonian miners, who came to explore the silver deposits. At the beginning of the 16th century it stopped being profitable, but still now it is possible to visit the well-hidden mining drifts. 

colourful houses and the catholic church behind
Napoleon and Protestant church in Rest Square

Mr Napoleon resting ;-)

Protestant church and the fortress far away in the background
Currently, the place boasts of interesting urban layout in a triangle shape stretched out along a steep valley . The fortress build on Warowna Mountain at the height of 686m above the sea level in a narrow valley separating Bardzkie Mountains from Owl Mountains  overlooks the village in a very dignified mannerJ. The views are breathtaking , the walking routes  interesting, the landscape – really lovely and after all that you can enjoy a nice picnic inside the fortress:)
The view on the Srebrna Góra village from the fortress
The Ostróg fort
Opening hours of the Srebrna Góra fortress:
10:00-18:00 /April-September/
10:00-16:00  /October-March/
Holiday weekends: 10:00-19:00
Official website of the fortress

Photos by K. Szostak - all rights reserved

Friday, 9 March 2012


It will be ten years this May since we moved over here to live in the most special place in Wrocław called Leśnica (the western outskirts of the city, in German Deutsch Lissa). A lot has changed since then and how I wish now I had been taking many more photos of the place which I adore so much and which has become my little motherland. You pass the same streets and paths everyday and just take it for granted that they will always look like that. You don not even know when, suddenly, new buildings appear and the green remote fields and meadows vanish into oblivion, old buildings are pulled down or get renovated and,all of a sudden, you are not able to remember what they looked like before. They are just inside you, you can feel them and the general atmosphere, but if you want to share the feelings it would be much easier to have some more concrete sources. Again, you realize that everything is so fleeting…

Map of Wrocław with Lesnica marked in green (from Wikipedia)

When we moved here in 2002 from a posh district in the south of Wrocław, the people either did not know where Leśnica was or they could not believe that we had changed living in one of the most luxurious districts into going to such a remote, unknown and neglected area. To get to our place you need to walk about 1km from the main bus and tram terminus or take a bus, if you are lucky, because it runs very rarely. At the beginning, it only added to the attraction of living here, because on both sides of our street there was nothing, but green fields, meadows, bushes, woods and some half-legal allotments. It was like entering a completely new world – after the hustle and bustle of the busy Wrocław, in Leśnica, when you passed the main Średzka street, you suddenly entered the slow-paced realm of silence and greenery, an avenue of beautiful old linden trees. Besides, to get to our street first you have to go past the stunning and recently renovated castle and a beautiful park – very quiet and relaxing as not too many people appear there (those from the city do not know about it or it is too far for them and the locals probably have not enough time or do not see anything special there). 

a fragment of the Leśnica castle and the sorrounding park (photo by K. Szostak)
Unfortunately, the peace and quiet of my street disappeared after a few years with more and more blocks of flats which replaced the wild fields.  Still, opposite my place, in just a few metres it is possible to enter the green lungs of Wrocław – Las Mokrzański (The Mokrzański forest) and go jogging, cycling or hiking there, do Nordic walking or just explore the Kirschberg (cherry mountain) aka Goering’s Park and search for the remnants of the amazing pre-war  mansion of Frau Breugmann – the owner of shoe factory, who used to fly her own plane to get to work in Wrocław (!), with huge gardens, fountains and pools in the past, nowadays almost completely covered by the forest.  The wide avenue of dignified hornbeam trees, appearing totally out of the blue when you enter the forest line in an appropriate place is absolutely breathtaking!!!!

View on the high street with the castle on the left and the water tower in the backgound
(from Wikipedia)
I was going to write about the amazingly rich history of Leśnica which dates back to the beginnings of the Polish state in the 10th century and which hosted almost all Silesian dukes as well as Czech and Prussian kings, but somehow I let it go with the flow and wrote about other things. But I will definitely come back, because this place is extremely fascinating!!!!!