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.