Jelenia Góra (Deer Mountain in English and Hirschberg in German) was our first stop in Lower Silesia and a starting point to our castle adventures! And the name did not disappoint; we did see a couple of deers on the road when we approached the city at night, so fitting! It is called the Pearl of the Karkonosze Mountains so read up to find out why 🙂
I am a little ashamed to admit, but I knew almost nothing about the region and history of the place even though I was born and raised in a city only 4 hours away! We discovered so many unique and exciting locations throughout the week, and Jelenia Góra was one of them.
Lying by the Czech border in a valley between the Karkonosze mountain range and the Kaczawskie Mountains, Jelenia Gora is a beautifully built city with numerous splendid buildings and magnificent landscapes nearby. It makes for a perfect base, from which you can take different day trips in the area (more posts about it later).
History of the city
Jelenia Góra was established at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries and was ruled by Silesian Piasts. Its convenient location at the crossroads of important trade routes to the Czech and Germany enabled its dynamic development. The town received numerous privileges from the Silesian rulers. In the following centuries, it became famous for producing and exporting linen; it was also a mining and metallurgical center.
In 1392, Jelenia Góra came under Czech rule, and in 1526 the town was inherited by Habsburg Austria; two years after, the city adopted the Protestant faith. Like many towns in the area, the city suffered greatly during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), where it was under sieged a couple of times and suffered from many fires. It recovered from its devastation thanks to the production of flax.
Hirschberg was annexed with Lower Silesia by the Kingdom of Prussia during the Silesian Wars (mid-18th century), after which it never managed to regain its industrial position back. Later that part became Germany. This situation lasted until the end of World War II, after which it became Poland again. Post-war turmoil led to the expulsion of all Germans from in the area westward and the settlement of Polish people from other regions of Poland.
It somehow hit me and surprised me when I realized that only ~80 years ago, everyone in that area was German and was speaking German. You know, even though you learn all of it in history lessons, you kind of forget how dynamically the Poland border was changing (Poland even got erased from maps for 123 years!) and that it wasn’t a that long time ago.
Old Town and Town Square
Walk through the colorful streets of Old Town and look for statues of deers hiding around. All roads in the Old Town lead to the Town Hall Square (Plac Ratuszowy), surrounded by picturesque merchant houses with arcades from the 17th and 18th centuries. They are the only remaining structures of their kind in the region.
There are a couple of intriguing things located here. One of them is the Neptune Fountain in front of the town hall that symbolizes Jelenia Góra’s foreign contacts with European cities. While walking around the square, look for a red deer and take a selfie with the symbol of Jelenia Góra.
Next, head towards the town hall and look for a figure of a stilt walker emerging from one of the walls of the building. The statue represents street theaters whose international festival has been taking place in Jelenia Góra since 1983.
On the town hall’s other side, you can notice a historic tram, which symbolizes the 19th-century trams transporting patients between the Jelenia Góra and the Warmbrunnen health resort (Cieplice). Today it is an interesting-looking kiosk selling postcards and souvenirs.
The Grodzka Tower and the Castle Tower (Baszta Grodzka i Baszta Zamkowa)
The Grodzka Tower and the Castle Tower are what remains of once impressive city walls with 36 towers. Castle Tower was once used as a prison and is accessible right now for tourists. Climb to the top to see the panoramic view of the city and surrounding area, with Karkonosze mountains in the background.
The hill of Bolesław the Wrymouth (Wzgórze Bolesława Krzywoustego)
From what I have read online, there is an observation tower on top of the hill, from which you can see amazing views of Jelenia Góra and the area. However, I have not been there as we run out of time ;( Next time!
Holy Cross Church (Kosciól pw. Podwyzszenia Krzyza Swietego)
We stumbled upon this gem by pure coincidence. I was ad hoc googling what to check out in Jelenia Góra, and someone mentioned that it’s an exceptional church to see. Exceptional doesn’t even give it justice! It was one of the most marvelous churches I have been to.
After the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Protestants and Catholics started to coexist in Jelenia Góra. However, that was only in theory, and in reality, Catholics took many churches from Protestants.
In 1709, in the face of war and the Swedish intervention during the convention in Altranstadt, the Austrian emperor Joseph I had to grant Protestants freedom of religion again. He also promised the King of Sweden to build six new churches in the Lower Silesia region, including this one. However, to diminish the importance of evangelical communities, churches could be located only on the outskirts of towns.
It was initially was built in 1718 for a Lutheran congregation, but after the Second World War, the complex was taken over by Catholics. This temple is a testimony to the incredible wealth of Jelenia Góra burghers, who built an immense and richly decorated church and financed ornamental lapidaries and tomb chapels.
Make sure to enter the church itself. Unfortunately, all the information about the church was only available in Polish, polishing my skills of live translations 🙂 But even if you do not understand what is being said, just looking would be enough to knock you off your feet.
The church seats almost 10 000 of the faithful, and at the same time, 4000 of them may sit. The representative elements of the church decoration include organs located at the main altar made in 1727 by Michael Roeder from Berlin. The Jelenia Góra organ is the only such large instrument in Poland that has preserved original pipes from past times. They originally had 53 voices and 3,456 pipes. They now have 4,571 pipes, of which only 300 are new. The organ has the option of imitating an entire symphony orchestra, including percussion instruments and cymbals, and the sound of a male choir. Since 1998, the European Festival of Organ Music called “Silesia Sonans” has been taking place annually during autumn. While walking, also take a look at different sculptures, paintings, and frescos.
If you are interested to know more about what you can find in the church and history, check this link out.
Take a walk in the area surrounding the church, which used to be a protestant cemetery. Unfortunately, it has been devasted dramatically through the years, so not many graves are still standing. However, what was left, was recently renovated (thanks to EU 😀 ), and now you can see restored chapels and pieces of tombstones. You can notice Vanitas themes, skulls, grim reapers, and death that intertwine with religious symbolism and local references in all tombstones.
Cieplice is an area mentioned in all guides online; however, we didn’t manage to see it ;(
Cieplice is the oldest spa resort in Poland. According to some local sources, Cieplice was discovered by Duke Bolesław Wysoki, who, in 1175, ventured into the region in pursuit of a wounded deer. Since then, the healing properties of the thermal waters began attracting the sick in search of a cure.
The town and surrounding lands belonged to the Schaffgotsch family from the 14th century till 1945. In 1945, after the city was incorporated into Poland, the former German name of Bad Warmbrunn was changed to the Polish name of Cieplice Śląskie-Zdrój.