The big trip

Trip of the week: the timeless charm of Poland’s Lower Silesia

Arriving here from the dull plains around Warsaw is like entering a different world

With its forested hills, its castles and “Swiss-style” villas, and its medieval towns, Lower Silesia feels like a fairytale corner of old Germany “hiding in plain sight” in the heart of modern Europe, says Magdalena Miecznicka in the FT.

Its quaint charm and quiet beauty are the result of a complex history. Largely German and Austrian since the late Middle Ages, it was incorporated into Prussia in 1742, then ceded to Poland in 1945. Decades of relative poverty and neglect followed – which helped preserve its old buildings and wild places. Lately, arty types from Warsaw and Berlin have moved in or snapped up second homes here, but it is still little visited, and more enchanting for that.

Arriving here from the dull plains around Warsaw is like entering a different world. First comes the beautiful old regional capital, Wrocław, and then south of the River Oder, the landscape starts to crumple and settlement becomes sparse.

Your first stop might be Sokołowsko – or Görbersdorf, as it used to be known – a village of “rare beauty” where tall early Modernist villas are overshadowed by the neo-Gothic towers of a 19th century tuberculosis sanatorium, the first in Europe. The film director Krzysztof Kieslowski grew up here, and his archive is housed in Villa Rosa, now a boutique hotel and a meeting place for artists.

From there, it’s an easy hop across the Czech border to Adršpach – a municipality famed for its turquoise lake and thousands of spectacular natural sandstone spires; from there you can travel back into Poland, to the mountain spa town of Miedzygórze, where there are several Arts and Crafts guest houses, including the pleasant Villa Titina.

Nearby is Kłodzko, a “stunning” medieval hilltown; you might visit the 16th century Sarny Castle, now a hotel that hosts concerts and literary events; and Osówka, where you can see the remains of Project Riese, a vast tunnel network constructed by the Nazis, its intended purpose lost to history.

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