It didn’t take much to convince me that Jeleniogórska Valley is probably one of the most amazing corners of Europe for castle hunting. I would go as far as to say it is the Polish Loire Valley in terms of how abundant in castles and palaces this place is. Sadly, Polish history does not do the justice to these buildings and most of them were ‘saved’ thanks to the private owners, who turned them into hotels. Some of the buildings have been used as asylums for mentally ill, some have been turned into schools and some were falling apart over the years looking towards better days.
If you’re interested in the whole list of places to see go to The Palace and Garden Valley and use translation suggested by Google to help you read what’s been said. It’s worth the hustle.
As I mentioned in a blog entry from Day 1, the we spent the first night at Wojanów Palace, which, although it was beautifully renovated, was not what I was expecting to experience. However, grateful that private owners saved this wonderful place from falling apart, I was happy nonetheless and it was more about the company than the building.
Luckily, a place we went to on the 2nd and 3rd day of our stay hit home and left us speechless. In the morning of the 2nd day before we went into the mountains we drove down to a castle only 10 minutes away called Karpniki (ger. Schloss Fischbach).
Now let me be clear here, if you are looking to go and stay in a castle, this is a place for you. I wish I could keep it a secret but it’s so wonderful that my ‘Day 3’ account would make no sense without it at all. It’s been so welcoming, well-composed and charming we decided to cancel our last day in Wrocław for the sake of spending more time in the area. The castle was built around the 14th century most probably by Henryk Czirn and later put into it’s actual shape in 1846 by an Austrian architect Friedrich August Stuler. First used as a SPA and children nursing home is now in, guess what, the hands of the private owners. Thank God, by the looks of it!
As we drove in we were welcomed by a wonderful driveway along a pond in a park surrounding the castle. The building itself was surrounded by a real mote and Karkonosze mountains in the background. I wish I had more photos but I couldn’t be bothered to waste time, I just wanted to enjoy 🙂 But fear not, I do have some thanks to my companion who was kind enough to share.
They always say the devil’s in the details and they are right. I loved how the owners paid so much attention to keeping the reconstruction works as close to the original shape of the place as possible. Coming here you won’t find neat hotel-like floor-covering in the hallways or empty corridors with cold light sipping down from the light bulbs. You will find interiors that will eventually take you back in time to a point where you’ll wonder if that armor hanging in the representative hallway is not staring at you once you turn your head to head back to your room. I had a moment like that thanks to my companion (thanks once again! :P) but it is something we go to these places for, don’t we?
Apart from wonderful grounds, beautiful views and carefully refurbished building there is wellness in the basement with a jacuzzi outside right by the mote (with a pool coming in a separate building coming next year), beautiful bel-etage (of which existence I was unaware of) and a restaurant where you NEED to try pierożki with lamb and a duck with sweet potatoes, totally worth it! I am obliged to say I have never met more welcoming and helpful staff in my life. The first day I suffered from a terrible migraine and waitresses were so caring and helpful they pulled required medicine (no pharmacy in a radius of 5km) “from the ground for me”. Every time they approached us they were warm, kind and cheerful. On the other hand, the food was definitely one of the things worth coming for! NOTICE: you may only see the castle if you are a guest, otherwise you are only allowed into the restaurant located in the left wing and the yard of the building.
I highly recommend staying at Karpniki although I advise you not to come with kids. If you wish, come for a weekend with a friend or a lover. Treat yourself to a time where you don’t have you worry if your kids are exploring the muddy bottom of the mote. Seriously.
For more information on the rooms and availability go to Karpniki Castle.
Another one on the map was Czocha castle. I have heard on many occasions about how much “fun” this mysterious castle is. There were also stories of how this used to be a place where the Nazis would reside and use the structures within the castle to their advantage. To my taste it was a highly touristic place with many families visiting. A tour here included a dungeon filled with blue lights, semi-funny-semi-creepy narration from the speakers and plastic skeletons thrown here and there for kids to have something to think about at night. Later, we went into a great hall, where (bizarre!) waiters where running right through the crowd of visitors with plates of steaming food to serve guests of a restaurant conveniently positioned on the other side of the castle from where the kitchen was…
Generally speaking, Czocha castle is an attraction worth seeing if you have a small child but I would not waste time if you’re looking form something romantic or magical – there is very little magic there and sadly the building was turned into a money-making machine. There is a functioning hotel in the castle and a night sightseeing tour if you dare (it might be nerve wrecking to some as there were many people who tragically died on site or were murdered).
If you would like to try though it is worth you visit this site: Czaocha castle
It is somewhat hard for me to write about Książ castle. This was my second time I travelled there and yet I could not help the feeling of sadness even though the day was divine and the weather spoiled us. Placed like a jewel in a crown of Książ Landscape Park it has wonderful gardens stretching over the hills with lush rhododendrons (planted here by an English princess Mary Theresa Olivia Cornwallis-West known as Daisy) and monumental trees is definitely worth visiting.
It is the third biggest castle in Poland after Malbork and Wawel castles and one of the oldest. Against popular belief, the castle is of Polish, not German construction. It was built in its original form in 1288 by Bolko I the Strict. From its construction till the end of WWII the building has been re-built, refurbished and had new wings added. This explains why the castle appears to be a fusion of different styles over a long period of time.
My sadness, though, doesn’t happen to be unjustified. War, Communism and human lack of respect for private property and cultural heritage left the place almost empty of furniture and works of art. Only some were lucky to return back on their place and the building in its full beauty can be only seen on photos from the time when a Prussian noble house of Hochberg von Pless lived here last.
The Nazis decided Książ (known in Germany as Furstenstein) would be Hitler’s headquarters therefore till this day there are legends of what was the actual purpose of long fortified corridors constructed under the castle and its grounds deep into the Góry Sowie (Owl Mountains). Some people believe one of the blocked corridors might hide the “golden train” – a train containing a large portion of the III Reich’s gold stolen from other European countries during the war.
Książ bears the signs of unjust history but it is an interesting relict of days past. There is also Palmiarnia (eng. plam house), which was gifted to Daisy by her husband where she grew exotic fruits and flowers, a royal stable – a house to one of the Poland’s most wonderful breeds of horses called Konie Śląskie (eng. Silesian Horses), Daisy’s castle gardens (my favorite place!) and the general castle and Daisy’s Mausoleum. The skillton in front of the castle yard offers hotel rooms and restaurants for guests to stay the night if they so wish. There is also an option of night tour around the castle available. Over the summer the castle hosts the Festival of Mysteries exploring the unexplainable and mysterious stories of Książ castle and Lower Silesia in general.
If you wished to plan your tour and learn more visit Książ castle trip