Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Nestled in a beautiful valley is one of the prettiest Polish cities I had never heard of until we had lived in Poland for a while.

At the end of 2013, I met the author of Rose Petal Jam & Sugared Oranges, two Polish cookbooks you should own, who is originally from Jelenia Góra, located in Dolny Sląsk, the south-western part of Poland.

When I planned my solo road trip last year, I made sure to include Jelenia Góra (yeh-len-yah goo-rah) as my evening resting spot after visiting neighboring Polish castles throughout the day. I’m glad I did because this small city has a relaxed feeling and features one of the loveliest (and photogenic) town squares I’ve seen in Poland.
The local story goes that Jelenia Góra was founded in 1108 by King Bolesław Krzywousty after he had been following a wounded deer and was astounded by the beauty of the place that he named it ‘Deer Mountain,’ the English translation of Jelenia Góra. The border stronghold later came under the rule of the powerful Duchy of Świdnica-Jawor and under the Habsburg Monarchy in the 1500s (and then called Hirschberg), Prussia and later Germany before reverting back to Polish land. Luckily, the city wasn’t damaged that badly during WWII since it was a German stronghold.

In this new post, I’m hoping that my photos will entice you to make your own road trip or at least discover why the city is also called the Pearl of the Karkonosze Mountains.

Town Square
Typical of most Polish towns, all roads in the Old Town lead to the Town Hall Square (Plac Ratuszowy), which is surrounded by pastel-colored burgher houses with arcades. The arcaded, baroque and rococo buildings were built in the 17th and 18th centuries and are the only remaining structures of their kind in the region. Each front used to have its own name related to the main trade or services such as furrier, weavers, rope maker, etc.
These cotton candy-hued houses made me fall in love with the center of Jelenia Góra! 

After a long day of driving and sightseeing, I was content to just sit in the square at one of the local pubs and have a glass of French wine with my hearty dinner.
Plenty of outdoor seating at the local pubs and restaurants in the Town Hall Square.
My dessert at Metafora Pub in Jelenia Góra.
Oh, I should note it will help if you can speak a bit of Polish or German. Interestingly, most menus I saw were only printed in these two languages, but luckily I could get by with my basic Polish. As long as you can order food and drink, you’ll be just fine.

From this ornate square, it’s only a short walk to the remnants of city walls, Gothic and baroque churches and interesting architecture with many buildings dating from the 18th to 20th centuries.
I can't resist taking photos of old doors!
Historic Churches
Following Ulica 1 Maja (May 1 Street), you’ll find several historic churches that are worth photographing. Unfortunately, since I arrived at the end of the day, the churches were shuttered for the day.

Surrounded in a gated park by nearly 300-year-old Baroque tombstones and mausoleums, don’t miss the Church of the Holy Cross (Kościół Św Krzyża). This massive church originally was built in 1718 for a Lutheran congregation (remember the German connection), but has served a Catholic one since 1947. The 3-storey church can accommodate 4,000 people. Inside the ceiling is supposed to be covered with Baroque paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, but I enjoyed just wandering around outside. The tombstones and mausoleums have been restored in recent years thanks to EU funding.
A yellow façade adorns the Church of St. Peter and Paul (Kościół Św Piotra i Pawła), built in 1737, but the first Catholic Church was built here in 1453. The Orthodox community took over the church in 1950. Its walls are decorated with Byzantine-style frescoes.
A white-rounded building is home to St. Anne Chapel (Kaplica św. Anny) and was part of the medieval defense complex, dating back to the early 1500s. However, the chapel was burnt down in 1634 during the Thirty Years’ War, and finally rebuilt in 1715.
Left: St. Anne Chapel
Right: Church of the Holy Cross
Medieval Fortifications
As you walk around Jelenia Góra, you’ll come across many crumbling reminders of the city’s medieval past. The best preserved example is the Grodzka Tower (Baszta Grodzka), ul. Grodzka 14, located on the western side of the Old Town. Built in the 15th century, this tower is one of the only surviving 36 bastle houses used at the end of the Middle Ages to reinforce the city's walls. After serving its military purpose, the building was used as a residence and currently is a café and cultural center.
Two other examples are the Castle Tower (Baszta Zamkowa), located around the corner from Grodzka Tower and the remains of Wojanowska Gate, which is next to St. Anne Chapel. You’ll also find some other remaining defense walls as you wander around the city.
Local Markets
I have no idea what day the local markets take place, but on Tuesday morning I discovered a market set up near my hotel. If only I could have bought a basket of these fresh strawberries, which cost only 4zl!!
Hot Springs in Cieplice
Before I checked into my hotel, I took a dip in the well-known thermal pools in Cieplice – a district of Jelenia Gora that has provided hot springs treatments for centuries. I bought a 2-hour pass for 30zl (about $10USD at the time) to use the pools and spa area at the Cieplice Baths. The complex houses several pools for swimming or relaxation. I relaxed in a heated, bubbling pool for a while before enjoying the hot tub. I even could have cooled down with some freshly-made ice chips if I had wanted.

The area of Cieplice is quite pretty to wander around as well since it’s filled with beautiful buildings built by the Schaffgotsch family in the 1700s, one of the oldest noble families in the Silesian region. In the mid-1800s, the family also reconstructed Park Zdrojowy into an English garden and opened much of it to the public.
Hopefully my photos have enticed you to visit this pretty Polish city. I spent 4 days in this region and absolutely loved it!

What do you think of Jelenia Góra? Would you like to visit?
It’s not easy to find a lot of information in English about these places, but the local tourist office is usually a good place to start or you can try the Jelenia Góra website.

Where to stay: I stayed one night at Hotel Baron, a comfortable place located within the Old Town. I paid 150zl (about $50USD) for one night, including a typical Polish breakfast of cured meats, cheese, breads, pastries and fruit. The staff were quite friendly and spoke a bit of English, but they did appreciate my attempts at Polish too.
My Traveling Joys

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Sherry's Pickings said...

I love both her books! And it made me want to visit Poland as does your fabulous post. It looks really beautiful and fascinating and with so much history. One of these days ...

Courtney {Alkeks Abroad} said...

I love those colorful buildings! What an adorable town.

Joy said...

Hi Sherry! So do I! Yes, if you ever get a chance to visit, this part of Poland is exceptionally beautiful! :)

Joy said...

Thanks Courtney! Yes, Jelenia Góra is quite photogenic. :)

Joy said...

Thanks Courtney! Yes, Jelenia Góra is quite photogenic. :)

Joy said...

Hi Sherry! So do I! Yes, if you ever get a chance to visit, this part of Poland is exceptionally beautiful! :)

Tiina A said...

Looks so charming! There are so many smallish towns that I don't know anything about. This one seems to be a great spot on a nice summer day. I aleays love to visit the local markets and buy somethogn seasonal.

Martin Carey said...

Having lived in Cieplice, Jelenia Gora for five years, I fully endorse your description. It is a beautiful place to visit and also to live. I miss it greatly.

Greg said...

This year I visited Jelenia Góra and it made a great impression on me. It has so many attractions that one day is not enough to see everything :)