There are not many cities in Europe that are located in two countries at the same time. Tseshin is one of them. As a result of the Polish-Czech conflict of 1919-1920, the western part of Cieszyn Silesia went to Czechoslovakia, and the eastern part to Poland. The city of Cieszyn was also divided into two parts: the Czech part was named Cesky Tesin.
The very name “Cieszyn” comes from the Polish verb “cieszyć się”, that is, “to rejoice”. According to legend, the city was founded in 810 by the sons of prince Leszko III Boleslav, Cheszmir and Leszko: after a long journey, they met at a small well and, delighted with the meeting, decided to return later to build a city on this place. The Well of Three Brothers (Studnia Trzech Braci) has become one of the symbols of Cieszyn.
Today Cieszyn is a charming small town with many attractions. It is worth stopping here for a few days to take a leisurely stroll through the old town with its Baroque and Renaissance churches and narrow streets, drink coffee in one of the cozy cafes, climb the Castle Hill, where the former Habsburg residence, an old brewery and a rotunda built in the 11th century are located. St. Nicholas is one of the oldest monuments of Polish architecture. In the old town, the Cieszyn Venice deserves special interest – a section of Przykopa Street located at the artificial water channel Mlynówka. Previously, artisans who needed access to water lived here. Thanks to the numerous bridges across the canal, this part of the city really resembles Venice (you can take a virtual tour of it here). And since we are talking about bridges, you should definitely cross the bridge over the Olshe River to get to the Czech Republic and take a photo at the border of the two countries.
By the way, every year Cieszyn hosts one of the best and most famous summer schools of the Polish language, which is organized by the branch of the Silesian University. So you have a great opportunity to combine business with pleasure!
In the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, 80 kilometers south of Wroclaw, lies the town of Klodzko – a real find for those who like to combine outdoor recreation with historical sightseeing. The history of this city, founded in the 10th century, is connected with the rule of the Přemyslid, Luxemburg, Silesian Piast, Habsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties. At various times, Klodzko was part of the Czech Republic, Austria (Habsburg Monarchy), Prussia and Poland, so it is not surprising that today you can see traces of different cultures in the city, and its architectural diversity is truly amazing.
The main attraction of Klodzko is a medieval defensive fortress, which acquired its present form at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. The most famous battle for the fortress is associated with the Napoleonic Wars. It took place in 1807 and lasted for three whole months: in the end, the head of the defense, the Prussian general Friedrich Wilhelm von Götzen, was forced to surrender to the French. Now the fortress is open to visitors. Tourists can also enter the underground and walk a whole kilometer through the underground labyrinth. Night excursions take place here several times a month, but you must sign up for them in advance – the number of places is limited, and there are many adventurers. But even if you have not fallen under the ground, it is worth climbing into the fortress at least in order to admire the panorama of the city from above.
The fortress is not the only thing worth seeing in this unique city. There is, for example, the majestic medieval St. John’s Bridge, which is often compared to the famous Charles Bridge in Prague, several old churches, defensive walls and the neo-Renaissance town hall built at the end of the 19th century. And from Klodzko, you can go to the picturesque Klodzko Hollow: along one of the tourist trails you will reach Klodzko Gora – the second highest peak of the Bardzkie Mountains, a mountain strip in the Sudety.
This small town with a funny name is located in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship, about 70 kilometers from Krakow. The city, located in the Gorce mountains (Western Beskids), is primarily a health resort: people come here to be treated for respiratory diseases. In the central park of the city there is a salt cooling tower with healing mineral water – with its help rheumatism, throat diseases and allergies are treated. Another important attraction of Rabka is the 17th century wooden church, one of the masterpieces of Polish wooden architecture. Now it houses the Museum named after Vladislav Orkan, where the life of the Polish highlanders is presented. A few kilometers from Rabka Zdrój, in the village of Chabówka, there is the Railway Museum (open-air), where you can see one of the richest collections of old trains in Poland, and in the summer you can ride a retro train with a real steam locomotive! Among the 90 historical examples, there are eight operating steam locomotives, passenger cars from the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as “luxury” cars in which officials of the People’s Republic of Poland drove. , you can go to the mountains – for example, climb the top of Turbach (one way trip will take about five hours) and enjoy beautiful views and idyllic landscapes along the way.
From Lesser Poland we will be transported to the Subcarpathian Voivodeship, to the city of Sanok. The city, presumably founded in the XI century, owes its name to the San River, on which it is located. In the XIV century, Casimir the Great included Sanok in his kingdom: it was then that he received city rights. In 1772, after the partition of Poland, the city became part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, which was part of the Austrian Empire.
One of the main attractions of Sanok is the royal castle built in the 12th century, which has managed to see many Polish rulers. Now it houses a historical museum, and also houses the largest collection of paintings by Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksiński. Beksiński is the most famous native of Sanok, so the city even has a “memory track” for the artist: houses where he studied and lived have memorial plaques, the main square is a monument to Beksiński, and books about his life and work are sold in bookstores.
Finally, in Sanok, there is an open-air ethnographic museum, which displays the architecture of different ethnic groups that have ever lived in Subcarpathia. Houses, taverns, mills, churches and other structures were brought here from various places disassembled, and then reassembled. There is also a Galician market in the reserve: during the high season there are souvenir kiosks and cafes.
Not far from Sanok, also on the San River, is the tiny town of Lesko, home to less than six thousand people. Founded in the 16th century, the city was first part of the Kingdom of Poland, in 1772 it fell under the rule of Austria, and during World War II it was occupied alternately by Hitler and Soviet troops (for some time the city was even part of the Ukrainian SSR). Before World War II, more than half of Lesko’s population was Jewish: there were several synagogues in the city, of which only one has survived to this day. This is the main attraction of Lesko: this building, built in the 18th century, impresses with its grandeur and original Baroque-Mannerist architecture. Today the synagogue houses an art gallery and the Museum of the Jews of Galicia. One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Europe is located not far from the synagogue: the oldest gravestone dates back to 1548.
In addition to the synagogue, Lesko is worth seeing the Gothic-Renaissance castle of the Knits noble family (now it has turned into a hotel) and the town hall building.
In this tiny town in the Pomeranian Voivodeship, you will not find medieval fortresses, luxurious palaces, or even famous museums. True, there are the ruins of the church of St. Nicholas destroyed in the 16th century, as well as the one built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Castle “Neptune” (now – a hotel) right on the seashore is a typical example of local architecture, but this is not the main thing in Leba. Polish tourists know this area primarily because it is from here that it is easiest to get to the Slovinj National Park, a unique protected area famous for its sandy moving dunes, the highest of which, Lončka, is 42 meters above sea level. You can get from eba to Slovinj National Park on foot, by bike or by car, but in the park itself, it is strictly forbidden to travel by car.
However, if you are not in the mood for walking in the park, then there are many entertainments in Leba itself, because it is not for nothing that it is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Poland. Travelers with children will especially like it here: the town has an amusement park “Łebskie klocki”, an unusual labyrinth park, a dinosaur park, a butterfly museum, and, of course, many beaches and restaurants serving fresh fish dishes.
The city, which is home to 60 thousand people, is located in the very center of the “green lungs of Poland” – this is the name of the north-eastern region of the country, unique in terms of climate and ecology. In addition, Ełk is the largest city in Mazury, which is why it is the most convenient place to start a trip to the Masurian Lakes, one of the main natural attractions in Poland. In Elk itself, which is located on several lakes and rivers at once, there are also plenty of natural beauties: it is especially pleasant to walk or ride a bike along the shore of Lake Elk, stopping from time to time in a cafe to taste traditional Masurian dishes and desserts.
One of the favorite attractions of tourists in Elk is a trip on the narrow-gauge railway to the village of Sypitki. The railway, opened in 1913 (Elk was then part of Prussia), was built to make it easier for residents of nearby villages to get to the city. The narrow-gauge railway functioned until the end of the last century: after the economic crisis in the late 1980s, they even wanted to close it, but local self-government activists managed to defend it, and for a quarter of a century the railway has been attracting tourists from all over Poland to Elk. The narrow gauge railway operates from May to September. Tickets can be bought only on the day of the trip, but you should do it in advance: the number of seats is limited.
Lovers of architecture and history in Elk will be interested in the ruins of a Crusader castle built in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. at the direction of the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen – the very one about whom one of the heroes of the “Crusaders” Sienkiewicz says that he is one of those few Teutons “who stand for justice.” At various times, the castle housed a court, the Ministry of Justice and a prison. By the end of the last century, it finally fell into disrepair, but a few years ago it was bought by a private owner. Now you cannot visit the castle, but let’s hope that someday it will be possible – they say that a hotel will be built here .
“W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie” – “In Szczebrzeszyn, a beetle hums in the reeds.” Anyone who has studied Polish is familiar with this line from Jan Brzehwa’s poem “Chrząszcz” (“Beetle”), which has become one of the most popular Polish tongue twisters. In Polish it sounds something like this: In Shchebzheshyn hshonshch bzhmi in detail. The town of Szczebrzeszyn really exists, and it is worth looking here not only at the monument to the famous buzzing beetle Brzehva (however, for some reason, the beetle turned into a cricket) opposite the town hall. In this small town in the Lubelskie Voivodeship, there are several original Baroque churches, an old synagogue, one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland, and the Klemensuv palace and park complex, which belonged to the Zamoyski family of magnates.
Since 2014, in Szczebrzeszyn, which in Poland itself has also become famous primarily thanks to Brzehwa’s tongue twister, the festival “Capital of the Polish Language” has been organized. Meetings with writers, city walks, and master classes for adults and children are held here.
In the same Lubelskie Voivodeship, on the Vepsz River, there is the town of Zwierzynets. This small town is located in the heart of the Roztochie region, known for its rich flora and fauna and several national parks. Zvezhinets is surrounded by forests on all sides: it seems that you are in a fairy-tale forest. Here it is worth renting a bike and taking a walk along the river bank, and then be sure to cross a small wooden bridge and visit the church “on the water” – the city’s hallmark.