Day 4: Jelenia Góra
Margaret, June 12, 2004


Saturday and a train to catch. We woke up bright and early to make the 7:00am train to Jelenia Góra. In addition to being “a nice place with much historic character” (Lonely Planet) at the foot of the Sudeten mountains, Jelenia Góra is the town formally known as Hirschberg (literally “Deer Mountain”), where my grandmother had attended the Real-Gymnasium (preparatory high school) for girls. We caught the train without a problem and then promptly fell asleep for the three-hour ride. Jelenia Góra is only about 75 miles from Wroclaw, but the train was a slow regional one, and it never went particularly fast. It was also a lot rougher than the smooth-riding German trains I’ve become accustomed to.

When we reached our destination, we headed west into town. After walking a ways, we came to the theater house with its deer statue out front and realized we had veered left instead of right several streets back. No matter. We cut north and reached the edge of the center of town just as it began to rain. We ducked inside a bookstore and reemerged when the rain let up. The Rynek was very attractive, with wall-to-wall colorful burgher houses (apparently most of Jelenia Góra survived the war intact) and the town hall in the middle. Stores occupied the ground floor spots of the townhouses and tourists were in abundance. We wandered along the Rynek and down the main shopping street on which we had intended to arrive. We glanced in the old parish church and what used to be the largest protestant church in Poland (but is now Catholic). Neither allowed visitors inside, so we could only glimpse the interesting tiered gallery structure of the latter.

We decided on a trip to the mountains and hopped on a bus that wove along tiny roads through countryside and villages to Karpacz, a sprawling tourist town on the edge of the Karkonosze National Park. We hiked up through the town to a path that continued the ascent. Had we had an entire day, we would have hiked up Mt. Kopa and continued on to the top of Mt. Sniezka, the highest peak in the Karkonosze. But we had only a few hours, so we opted for the chair lift up Mt. Kopa and were glad it didn’t decide to rain then, as the lift took twenty minutes. The views from the top were nice, though we were a bit spoiled having been in Italy’s breath-taking Dolomites the week before.

We caught the lift down again, then the bus, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the bus stopped at Jelenia Góra’s train station. We had enough time to pick up food to eat for dinner on the train ride back to Wroclaw, and then we were on it, rattling slowly along the tracks as they curved around Sudeten foothills, watching the rain come down.