IN MEMORY OF MY FRIEND, WŁODZIMIERZ SZCZĘSNYWłodek died in January 17, 2008 in the Cordillera Darwin, Patagonia Andes
In the Łomniczka Cirque, north of Śnieżka, in its higher part a small “memo cemetery” is situated. On bare rocks there are mounted small metal plates. They tell a sad story on mountain victims. For Wlodek there is the home not only there but first of all in our hearts.
The KARKONOSZE MTS. are located in the most distant SW part of Poland and NW part of Czech Republic.They are called Karkonosze by Poles. Czechs know them as Krkonose, for Germans they are Riesengebirge and the Giant Mountains for English speaking people. This massif is a central unit of the western Sudetes Mts. and also the highest one in the whole Sudetes (see an attached diagram). A main range is stretched in the EW direction between Szklarska Pass in the west (by Czechs marked as Novosvetsky prusmyk, 886 m asl) and Lubawska Gate in the eastern part (by Czechs known as Kralovecke sedlo, 516 m asl). Their length is ca 35 km and a total area is ca 617 sq. km (71% in Czech Republic). There is also located here along the main range a state border between Poland and Czech Republic. The highest mountain of Sudetes, Sniezka (1603 m asl) is in the eastern part of Karkonosze. Southward from the main range in Czech Republic and northward in Poland there are many cities very attractive for tourists, e.g. Janske Lazne, Pec p. Snezkou, Spindleruv Mlyn, Harrachov, Szklarska Poreba, Cieplice and Karpacz (see a scheme below). In these cities many hotels are at the disposal for tourists. Any hiker can also stay in beautiful hostels located just in mountains. During the last glaciation period (ca 10,000 years ago) the glaciers in the Karkonosze created several beautiful cirques where some ice-climbing can be done, e.g. in Labska Jama. Also ski and snowboard activity is very popular here during winter. In some cirques snow can be seen sometimes through all the year. From these cirques the waters run in spring through many streams and cascades. In the Czech part southward from Wielki Szyszak Mt. (1509 m asl) there are springs of Labe (Elbe). From the springs on peatbogs in Rownia pod Sniezka other two beautiful rivers, Upa and Bile Labe, start. In both states this valuable area is protected in form of the national park (since 1992 as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve). The Karkonosze are built of coarse- and fine-grained granite rocks, in some places characterized by a little increased radioactivity.
All the range of Karkonosze is built of granite rocks which are of a fine-grained or porphyritic texture, sometimes as a pegmatite one with K-feldspar crystals of several centimeters in diameter. A central part of these crystals was formed at 700 oC and crystallization of outer parts was at ca 550 oC. These mountains are more than 320 mln years old and appeared between Devonian and Carbonian. They are the most NE part of the Variscan orogenesis extended from the Iberian Peninsula up to Sudetes. The granite in Karkonosze is adjacent to older micaschists of a different variety with muscovite or biotite. Most often biotite is changed under weathering into chlorite. In micaschists one can see some inclusions of metamorphic quartzite composed of hornblende and Ca-Na-feldspars. A metamorphic interaction between granite and micaschists in the high temperature of magma created new minerals, e.g. andalusite, cordierite or corundum as well as metallic ores. Others, younger rocks which neighbour granite, are gneisses and granite-gneisses. They are observed between Karpacz and Kowary and then southward to the state border. Gneisses have plenty of the K-feldspar. Metamorphic rocks like micaschists and gneisses were formed during Precambrian orogenesis. Granite in Karkonosze has a characteristic morphology created under cooling down in the form of vertical and horizontal cracks invaded by pure quartz or aplitic magma with albite as the main feldspar. These beautiful granite forms can be seen in Skalna Brama, Bazynowe Skaly, Pielgrzymy and other isolated rocks. During Tertiary in Sniezne Kotly (in English Snow Cirques) near Wielki Szyszak Mt. basaltic veins were crystallized in an old volcanic chimney. However, basalts are rather scarce in Karkonosze. During the glaciations the highest parts of the range were heavily weathered and flattened, and now we can see there fields covered by granite stones and boulders (Sniezka, Wielki Szyszak and other summits).
Metamorphic contacts between granite and older rocks made good conditions for interesting mineralisations in these mountains. Exploitation of minerals, gold and precious stones started here during colonization of this area by Celts. Mining of different ores was serious in the 10th century and such an activity was greatest between 17th and 19th c. The most interesting minerals were found in pegmatites near Szklarska Poreba, Karpacz, Kowary and Liberec. In total 232 minerals were detected in Karkonosze and their vicinity. Some native ones include silver, mercury, gold or bismuth. Between others are: pyrite, chalcopyrite, molybdenite, galene, sphalerite, antimonite, fluorite, spinels, magnetite, hematite, garnets or corundum. Especially important for tourists there is an occurrence in Karkonosze some radioactive minerals. There are e.g.: autunite found in Skalna Brama, Spindleruv Mlyn and Kowary; uranitite from Kowary, Skalna Brama and Harrachov; torbernite and uranophane detected in Kowary and Karpacz. The last review on radioactivity of the Karkonosze made by A. Solecki from the University of Wroclaw shows that content of uranium and thorium reaches the level of 67 ppm. Radiation of the background is not higher than 90 nGy/h but in some areas like depressions surounded by granite outcrops it can be seriously higher (440 nG/h), e.g near a past mine of uranium in Kowary. My own measurements made in the rocky complex called Skalna Brama showed that the dose of radioactivity there is not higher than 0.50 µSv (1 Sv=1 Gy for gamma and beta rays). A dose of 1 mSv/year can be received by a man being in an area with radioactivity of 120 nGy/h. A conclusion is that the Karkonosze are safe for tourists.
GEOMORPHOLOGY AND POSTGLACIAL CIRQUES
Already in the 19th century Joseph Partsch described postglacial forms in Karkonosze. Next, in the 20th c. there were studied in details the rocky fields and stone circles. Professor Alfred Jahn from the Wroclaw University, a known glaciologist, did great effort to increase our knowledge on geomorphology of these mountains. The most interesting geoforms there are here: flattened top surfaces, oryginally wethered granite outcrops, glacial cirques, periglacial boulder fields and stone wreaths. Characteristic plane areas we can observe in Rownia pod Sniezka, Bila Louka and Labska Louka. These extensive surfaces are covered by grasses, Ericaceae, a Pinus montana vegetation and large peatbogs. These sites are strictly protected as natural reserves. Another georelief is made by rivers, e.g. Labe and Upa, in form of very deep valleys (500-600 m), especially in the southern, Czech part of Karkonosze. The glacial cirques are the best evidence of the past climate. Sniezne Kotly (in English Snow Cirques) present almost the high-mountain relief. On the northern slopes, in a tectonic ridge of the 150-200 m height some rivers, e.g. Kamienna, Wrzosowka and Podgorna, created deep rocky beds. This ridge is also sculptured by smaller streams which have there sharp falls. The last tectonic activity has been noted in Kowary in 1903. The Karkonosze’s granite has typical rectangular cracks. Two types of this rock, porphyritic and fine-grained, created two forms of landscape. The first one often seen at the bottom of Karkonosze weathered in form of irregular cracks, isolated rocks, dome hills and dells. The latter built the higher parts of Karkonosze with characteristic planes, flat slopes, rare rocky outcrops and boulder-stone fields. In the granite outcrops the weathered holes are often observed. The very fine-grained granite is seen in the summits scattered along the main ridge, like Labski Szczyt, Maly Szyszak and Szrenica. Older, metamorphic rocks, like gneisses and schists, were weathered more heavily. At the contacts of these rocks with granite they were changed into the more resistant hornfelses and andalusite slates. Summits of Sniezka, Studnicni hora, Lucni hora, Kotel and a sharp ridge of Kozi hrebet are composed of hornfelses. Lenses of crystalline dolomite rocks in the metamorphic ones weathered sometimes into small caves, not longer than 200 m. They are met only in the Czech Karkonosze. The best pictures of the periglacial activity there are extensive fields of debris of sharp stones having on average 0.5-1.0 m in diameter. They are well developed in sites where a contact between granite and metamorphic rocks appears as well as in areas composed of fine-grained granite, e.g. Czarny Grzbiet, Sniezka, Lucni hora, Maly Szyszak, Wielki Szyszak, Labski Szczyt and Szrenica. In Pleistocene these boulders were welded by ice and moved down on slopes. In Holocene stone fields were fixed when ice disappeared. On the top of Karkonosze one can find original geomorphological structures created by frost sorting of smaller stones. They form circles of 1-3 m of diameter. On Lucni hora and Wielki Szyszak there are periglacial cliffs and terraces. The most spectacular periglacial forms there are cirques open to the north, east and south. No cirque is open to the west. A postglacial origin, looking at sediments, is proved for the following cirques: Sniezne Kotly, Czarny Kociol Jagniatkowski, Kociol Wielkiego Stawu, Kociol Malego Stawu, Kociol Lomniczki, Upska Jama, Studnicni Jama, Dlouhy Dul, Labska Jama and Kotelni Jama. In Karkonosze the largest glacier of the 5 km length was developed in Upska Jama. Terminal and lateral moraines evidence now a size of the past glaciers. They are distinct on the foreground of Sniezne Kotly, in valleys of Wrzosowka, Lomnica and Obri Dul. The depth of cirques is even 300 m (Sniezne Kotly, Upska Jama, Studnicni Jama). The largest glaciers were in Karkonosze ca 87,000-93,000 years B.P. The last small pieces of ice still existed here at the beginning of Holocene.
The first note on the climate of Karkonosze was made by Jirasek in July 1786. The first meteorological measurements on the top of Sniezka were realized during the period 1824-1834. Since 1880 such observations through all the year are provided regularly untill today. Insolation is the main factor influencing the weather in different parts of Karkonosze. The sky is covered by clouds in 75% as an average and it is the highest value when compared to any other part of Poland. Sniezka Mt. has 1425 h/year of the solar radiation and its maximum occurs in August. The winter insolation of the main range is greater than in Jelenia Gora, a large city situated at the northern bottom of the mountains. An average annual temperature measured during the last decade is for Karpacz 7.5 oC and on the top of Sniezka 1 oC. An altitudinal gradient of temperature is -0.60C/100m. The main massif of Karkonosze, especially at the level of 600-800m asl, is privileged termally in winter by foehn winds. Such a weather creates an inversion well visible in form of sea of clouds lying in valleys, e.g. in the Jelenia Gora basin. Then the highest snowy parts of Karkonosze have maximum of solar radiation. Winter begins here at the end of October and persists through six months. The meteorological data from the last decade when compared with previous measurements show some warming of climate, +0.8 oC/100 years, and shortening of winer, -14 days/100 years. Winds are here most often from the west, but locally they are directed by the mountain topography. Foehns blowing from SE, S and SW cover all the range by the one long cloud, altocumulus lenticularis. This cloud is called “a moazagotl” by the Karkonosze inhabitants and now in meteorology this term describes a stable lens cloud. These winds occur with frequency of 128 days/year and on the top of Sniezka they are of the 20-40 m/s velocity with maximum 60 m/s. The most of snow precipitation appears here in December and March, on the top of Sniezka 130 and 98 mm, respectively. July ist the most rainy month, e.g. in Karpacz it is 167 mm. In Jakuszyce near Harrachov an average annual precipitationm during the decade 1991-2000 amounts 1360 mm. In the Karkonosze a lot of snow appears near the upper limit of forest and in the glacial cirques (Sniezne Kotly, Labska Jama, etc.). As a rule snow covers the Karkonosze from the half of November untill the first decade of April, but in the highest parts this period is distinctly longer (the half of September- the end of May). In some winters a snow cover is very thick, e.g. on the northern slope of Labski Szczyt there was noted the 10 m layer of snow. In the season 1969/70 the snow cover in Sniezne Kotly was persisted till the end of August. Thanks to these snowy conditions the winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are very popular here, especially in the Szrenica and Harrachov ski complexes. The massif of Karkonosze is not very exposed, but avalanches are a real danger. The largest and numerous avalanches are formed in the following cirques: Kociol Lomniczki, Bialy Jar, Kociol Malego Stawu, Kociol Duzego Stawu, Sniezne Kotly, Czarny Kociol Jagniatkowski, Labska Jama and Kociol Szrenicy. In the very snow winter 1985/86 there were observed 38 avalanches. The most serious tragedy occurred in March 20, 1968, when in the huge avalanche falling down in Bialy Jar nineteen persons were killed.
Rivers and streams of the Polish Karkonosze are flowing like some fan from the northern slopes of the main range. Most plentiful waters in the western Karkonosze are in Kamienna river which is supported by Kamienczyk and Szklarka tributaries. Near Piechowice this river is enriched by the supply from Mala Kamienna, a river having its springs in the Izerskie Mts. In the eastern Karkonosze the main waters are in Lomnica, Lomniczka and Jedlica. Some streams in the central part of the northern slopes have not so much water, e.g. Wrzosowka and Podgorna. Most of these streams start from abundant springs located in the highest parts of the range, very often they flow from numerous peatbogs (see a diagram attached). Bile Labe and Upa in the Czech Karkonosze have their springs in the extensive peatbogs developed on Rownia pod Sniezka. On the Polish side Kamienna, Kamienczyk and Szklarka start also from the large peatbogs stretched between Szrenica Mt. and Mumlawski Szczyt. Labe, Bile Labe, Upa and Mumlava are the largest rivers in the Czech Karkonosze. The western part of the Czech Karkonosze contacts with Jizera, a river having its springs in Izerskie Mts. Jizera flows through Harrachov, Rokytnice and Jablonec. In the eastern part near Zacler the river Bobr has its springs. Bobr is the main river which surrounds Karkonosze from the north in Poland and it flows through the main city of the region, Jelenia Gora. Lomnica river is also supplied by waters from the beautiful mountain post-glacial lakes, Maly Staw and Wielki Staw. In these sites where rivers break through very steep slopes, like in cirques, spectacular waterfalls are created. In the Polish Karkonosze the most beautiful waterfall is on the Kamienczyk stream. It is located at 840 m asl and its height is 27 m. Another one is on Szklarka with its height of 13.5 m – here a natural reserve is established. On the Podgorna stream a triple cascade is of the 10 m height. Other natural cascades are on Lomniczka, Myia and Srebrny Potok. In the Czech Karkonosze the rivers: Labe, Bile Labe, Mumlava and Upa create also many beautiful waterfalls and cascades. I have got the best “water impressions” during hiking in Karkonosze when looking at runs of Lomniczka, Bile Labe, Mumlava and Kamenice. The last one is an especially beautiful stream flowing from the southern slopes of Mumlawski Szczyt and it runs into Harrachov. It is a northern tributary of the Mumlava river. An excess of water, especially during the spring snow thawing, is stored in many artificial reservoirs, the largest one near Podgorzyn. These man-made ponds and lakes are new habitats for water flora and fauna in the Karkonosze surroundings.
The main geomorphology of Karkonosze was created during Peistocene age. Masses of snow and ice flattened the highest parts and created many cirques with very steep walls. In such inaccessible sites some special plants called the glacial relics survived during the last glaciation. The glacier retreated from Poland ca 10,000 years ago and then plants’ vegetation started in Karkonosze again. The extensive fields of sharply edged stones and boulders can be seen along the main range (Sniezka, Wielki Szyszak, Labski Szczyt, Szrenica) and they are an evidence of the glacial activity. There are there no plants and these stone fields are covered by lichens only. In areas where fine-grained soils were formed the more rich vegetation was developed. When comparing zones of vegetation in the really high mountains like Tatras with those in Karkonosze, we can observe the serious lowering of such zones. For example Pinus montana appears in the Tatra Mts. at the level of 1800 m asl and in Karkonosze this occurs already at the level of 1600 m asl (see a diagram). Starting from Karpacz and going up to the Sniezka top through the Lomniczka valley we meet as the first a man-made spruce forest. This artificial vegetation was here introduced by Germans ca 100 years ago. In upper parts of the forest zone we can observe Senecio fuchsii, Athyrium filix-femina, Luzula maxima, Mycelis muralis and Carex silvatica. All these plants are well assocciated with a wet mountain forest. Further up spruces are changed by lower trunks of Sorbus aucuparia, small shrubs of Vaccinium and new species of ferns and lycopods like Athyrium alpestre, Blechnum spicant and Lycopodium selago. There are also beautiful perennials like Gentiana asclepiadea, Mulgedium alpinum and Adenostyles alliariae. In the Lomniczka cirque we observe very interesting plants like small trees and shrubs of Padus petraea, Salix lapponum, Salix silesiaca, Rosa pendulina and Daphne mesereum. In places made wet by the Lomniczka stream there are numerous others: Trichophorum alpinum, Allium sibiricum, Sweertia perennis, Pedicularis sudetica and Bartsia alpina. In the more dry sites we observe Campanula polymorpha and Thesium alpinum. On slopes of the cirque one can find Veratrum lobelianum, Lilium martagon, Digitalis grandiflora and Aconitum calllibotryon. Nearby Rownia pod Sniezka there is a grassy vegetation composed of Calamagrostis villosa and mosaics of Calluna, Vaccinium and Pinus montana. Rownia pod Sniezka and Bile Louka are an extensive grassy vegetation where grow the plants typical for an arctic tundra. Here two rivers, Bile Labe and Upa have their springs and these waters are collected from the high-mountain peatbogs. South of the Bile Louka there is a nice mountain, Lucni hora. The Karkonosze’s arctic tundra presents a mosaic of grasses (Calamagrostis, Deschampsia, Nardus), small shrubs of Ericaceae (Vaccinium myrtillus, V. vitis-idea, V. uliginosum, Empetrum nigrum, Calluna vulgaris), Pinus montana and dwarf trees of Picea excelsa. Under the snow cover Gnaphalium supinum, Veronica bellidioides, Rubus chamaemorus, Oxycoccus microcarpus and Empetrum hermaphroditum survive here during long winters. On the slopes of Sniezka Pinus montana grows up to the level of 1545 m and above there is the only alpine zone in the whole Karkonosze. Flora of steep walls of cirques is especially valuable. There are there some glacial relics and endemic plants, e.g. Sedum alpestre, Saxifraga moschata ssp. basaltica, Saxifraga nivalis and Primula minima. The Karkonosze’s locality of the subspecies of Saxifraga moschata is unique in the world. This plant grows on basalts in Sniezne Kotly. The vegetation of Sniezne Kotly is also composed of other rare plants, e.g. Saxifraga bryoides, S. oppositifolia, Arabis alpina, Androsace obtusifolia, Myosotis alpestris, and ferns Woodsia alpina and Cryptogramma crispa. In a cirque surrounding Maly Staw (Small Pond) the most interesting plant is Peducularis sudetica. On the bottom of Wielki Staw (Great Pond) a rare plant, Isoëtes lacustris, grows. All the Karkonosze’s flora and fauna, their geology, geomorphology and waters are protected as the National Park, now as the Biosphere Reserve in both states, Czech Republic and Poland. The highest parts of these mountains are preserved by more keen rules, and all the park is additionally buffered by a broad surrounding zone (see the diagram attached below).
The man’s activity through many centuries in the Karkonosze caused disappearance of many carnivorous mammals and birds. The last bear has been killed in Obri Dul near Sniezka in 1802. The same happened hundred years later to wildcats, wolfs, eagles and eagle owls. When beech and oak forest have been here cut down the large beetles characteristc for this vegetation like Rosalia alpina, Cerambyx cerdo, Cerambyx scopolii and Lucanus cervus disappeared also. Serious pollution of waters eliminated trouts, salamanders, newts and swan mussels. Restitution of large mamals like bears, wolfs or lynxes is not possible at present because of the great tourist movement in Karkonosze. Now in the Karkonosze and at their bottom one can find the same large mammals which are also common in other parts of Poland and Czech Republic. Lower sites, wet deciduous forests, meadows near rivers and ponds are habitats for boars. Higher places, spruce and larch forests are visited by roes and deers. Especially spectacular for tourists there is a deer’s rut in September/October when roars of males are listen from a long distance. Other animals there are: foxes, badgers, squirrels, martens, polecats, ermines, weasels and bats. At the end of the 19th century from Sardinia and Corsica the mountain sheep, mouflon (Ovis musimon) has been introduced into the Karkonosze by Schaffgotsch, a count from Jelenia Gora (in German Hirschberg). In the area of the Karkonosze National Park we can meet rare alpine butterflies: Gnophos operaria, Psodos quadrifaria sudetica and Stigmella woolhophiella. A relic worm, Otomesostoma auditivum lives in the Great Pond, and on peatbogs in Rownia pod Sniezka some dragonfly, Somatochlora alpestris. Occasionally one can meet rare spiders, Tetrilus macrophthalmus and Araneus coropegius. Acid rains caused by the brown coal mines and power-stations near a meeting point of Czech, Germany and Poland borders destroyed completely the Karkonosze’s spruce forest. Now on decaying trunks many new insects live. The rare and relic fauna can be well preserved in areas which are not often visited by tourists. Peatbogs are such localities and they are especially carefully protected. The linked Polish-Czech peatbog reserves protected as the Ramsar objects are good habitats for threatened birds: Lyrurus tetrix, Luscinia svecica svecica, Carduelis flammea, Circus aeruginosus, Circus pygargus, Haradrius morinellus, Gallinago gallinago, and Water Pipit, Anthus spinoletta. On this subalpine area we can also see other rare birds like Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) and Scarlet Rose Finch (Carpodacus erythrinus). A rare mammal, Sorex alpinus lives also there. Relic peatbog molluscs are Acantholebris curvirostris and Vertigo modesta, and insects: Nebria gyllenhali, Patrobus assimilis and Aeschna coerulea. Natural and artificial water reservoirs near Podgorzyn and Myslakowice changed habitats, especially for water birds. I observed above these ponds White-tailed Eagles and their nesting in the Karkonosze is documented today. Also another beautiful and very rare bird, Peregrine (Falco peregrinus) has a nest in the highest locality in Karkonosze. Unfortunately in 2007 eggs or nestlings of this falcon were stollen by a poach-dealer. On ponds in Podgorzyn the Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps griseigena) and Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) as well as Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) have nests. Among owls there are small ones like Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) and Tengmalm’s Owl (Aegolius funereus) as well as some magnificent one, Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo). In the Karkonosze there are noted rare woodpecker species: Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) up to 1250 m asl, Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) up to 550 m, Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) in the beech forest up to 850 m and Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) up to 1200 m. Other rare or extremally endangered birds are listed below:
Hazel Hen (Tetrastes bonasia) on Labski Szczyt,
Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) in the deep coniferous forest,
Dotterel (Charadius morinellus),
Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola),
Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) in streams and rivers amounts to 55 pairs,
Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) reaches up to 1600 m asl and amounts only to 10 pairs,
Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) only observed (!), without nests,
Wall Creeper (Tichodroma muraria) only one specimen (!) seen in 1962,
Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes),
Raven (Corvus corax) amounts to several pairs. Other birds like tits, finches, bullfinches and thrushes are more common in Karkonosze.
I noted that males of cuckoo can awake you at 2:00-3:00 a.m., much earlier than any other birds do it!
HISTORY AND MONUMENTS
Southern parts of the Karkonosze could be already visited by paleolithic people because this area was warmer during glaciation. The Polish side of these mountains has been inhabited probably later, during the neolithic period. This is evidenced by discovery of stone axes known from Piechowice and Staniszow. At the beginning of the 12th century two pedestrian roads going through the range of Karkonosze and called Slaska Droga and Czeska Sciezka were used. A trade way leading through the Lubawska Pass was known a long time ago. Gold-diggers from Crete worked here 2000 B.C. and later (4-3rd c. B.C.) Celts mined the same. Settlements at the bottom of Karkonosze were established in the 12th century. A document edited in 1305 A.D. lists two villages, Piechowice and Podgorzyn, while Jelenia Gora obtained the city rules already in 1288 A.D. On the Czech side the first settlements are mentioned in the 13th c. During the later centuries (14-16th A.D.) on the Polish side new settlements, rather of mining character, were established, e.g. Karpacz, Szklarska Poreba and Kowary. On the Czech side there was developed at the same time a glass and metal industry in Rokytnice, Spindleruv Mlyn and Zacler. Most often villages were built along water ways like chains. There are well documented the glass-plants near the Kamienna river starting from Piechowice, next developed in Szklarska Poreba and finishing in the Izerskie Mts. For these glass-works a lot of timber was cut and subsequently this area was early deforested. Gold- and precious stones-prospectors of local and foreign origin leaved here not only mining traces but also a lot of descriptions of these mountains. At the bottom of Karkonosze there were active the members of several count families of Polish, Austrian or German origin, e.g. von Schaffgotsch in Cieplice, von Seidlitz in the eastern part, von Gendorf in Vrchlabi or von Harrachov in the western Czech part. In 1563 the Karkonosze and their flora were carefully described by Pietro Adrea Mattioli and Caspar Schwenckfeldt. A significant change of the image of this area occurred at the end of the 17th c. This time many Protestants escaped from the catholic Habsburg’s Empire and settled in the area of the Schaffgotsch’s property. Members of this count family were confessors of the same religion. The needs of the glass, textile and mining industry caused almost complete deforestation of Karkonosze in the 18th c. and next step-by-step a fall of this activity. During the 19th c. the pastoral life was here very rich and was evidenced by ca 2,000 small woody buildings with ca 14,000 inhabitants. This was a special and exotic phenomenon of Karkonosze, very attractive for many tourists and described in details by Zoellner (1791) and Assmann (1798). In Karkonosze a herbs gathering was very popular and then a traditional medicine was developed. Since Karkonosze are mountains easy accessible and Snezka Mt. is very well visible from the distance therefore tourists visited this area more early than any other European mountains. Railways built here at the end of 19th c. increased a touristic movement. Pastoral woody shelters were changed into more convenient hostels. In villages and cities many beautiful hotels were built. In 1880 the Riesengebirges Verein (the Karkonosze Union) arised in Jelenia Gora (in German Hirschberg). This union was active on both sides of Karkonosze belonging this time to Austrian and German Empires. A lot of people did sledging and skiing. Karkonosze started to be overpopulated. Such cities like Karpacz, Szklarska Poreba, Spindleruv Mlyn and Harrachov were large touristic centers. After the 2nd World War the northern part of Karkonosze and all the Silesia area were connected to Poland. Population of the area has been decreased and people assembled mainly in larger cities. However, the last years bring serious political and economic changes in Poland and Czech Republic. They induced a new but rather chaotic development of settlements.
Historic monuments are scattered along the Karkonosze bottom. The most interesting for tourists in the Polish part are wooden buildings preserved in some villages, e.g. Jagniatkow, Michalowice, Sosnowka and Niedamirowice. The beautiful tourist hostel called “Samotnia” (in German “Teichbaude”) is located near the Small Pond within a postglacial cirque. This building was erected at the end of the 19th c. but some its fragments are a hundred years older. Two monuments settled in Karpacz and near Sobieszow are very magnificent. One of them, the wooden Protestant church called Wang was built in the 12/13th c. Previously it was erected in the Vang village near the Vangsmjosen Lake, southern Norway. King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm IV bought this church and next a countess Frederique von Reden settled it in Karpacz (1842). Another object, the beautiful ruins of the mediaeval castle called Chojnik are preserved a little south of Sobieszow. This castle perfectly situated between rocks was established by the Polish prince from the Piast dynasty, Bolko II during a period 1353-1364. In the next centuries this castle was a property of the Schaffotsch count family. On the western slope of Grabowiec Mt. (784 m asl), a little north of Karpacz there is a baroque St. Ann Chapel from the 18th c. Near this chapel is a Good Spring, a site of a pagan cult. Other valuable objects there are churches in Kowary, Milkowice, Opawa and Szklarska Poreba. In Szklarska Poreba there is a church erected in 1884-1886 and surrounded by fourteen pictures of Way of the Cross called in Poland “Kalwaria”. This “Kalwaria” is documented on a scheme below by S. Jastrzebski from Wroclaw. Each painting is made on a metal plate and presents the Christ’s Passion. In many sites of the Lower Silesia one can find the mediaeval penitential crosses. They were made in granite by murderers and put in a place of a murder. Unfortunately many of them have been stolen lately. In the bottom of Karkonosze there are such objects in Marczyce (NE of Podgorzyn), Wojcieszyce (NW of Cieplice) and near the Kowarska Pass. Tourists can also visit the defence walls and buildings in Jelenia Gora, the Schaffgotsch’s Palace in Cieplice, museums in Karpacz, Szklarska Poreba and Harrachov. In my opinion the most spectacular among monuments there is a small chapel of St. Laurentius erected by a count Ch. L. von Schaffgotsch in 1665-1681 on the top of Sniezka.
KARKONOSZE IN PAINTING
During the 18th and 19th c. the Karkonosze and all the province called Lower Silesia belonged to the Prussian Kingdom and next to the German Reich. The Karkonosze Mts. were the most interesting area in Lower Silesia for German painters. They presented landscapes in the form of romantic paintings. Sebastian Carl Christoph Reinhardt (1738-1827) was the first painter who lived in Jelenia Gora since 1789 and painted Karkonosze’s landscapes. Drawings of the same sites were made by Christoph Nathe (1753-1806). Painters living in Lower Silesia were assembled in the Schlesischer Kunstverein. An example of this early painting of Karkonosze there is attached a fragment of the Bruecke’s picture “View of Milkow and Sniezka”. The style of the most paintings in this period is described as “biedermeier”. At the half of the 19th c. pictures are going to be more realistic – this new painting style is called in French “paysage intime” and this artistic movement was also present in Lower Silesia. A significant role there was played by the Ernst Resch’s workshop in Wroclaw (1807-1864). Resch was this man who directed Adolf Dressler (1833-1881), the most known landscape painter in Lower Silesia, to such an activity. Dressler especially was fond of the forest pictures, e.g. presented here “Czerwona Dolina”. It is the picture of a forest stream near Przesieka and Podgorzyn. “The play of light” is a very nice element of this painting. He painted also a large “Panorama of Karkonosze” (oil on canvas, 109x321 cm, 1880) and a small one "Sniezne Kotly” (oil on cardboard, 16x21 cm). Many such works were painted during his stays in a small Karkonosze’s village Przesieka. Dressler during a short period of activity (27 years) created a Silesian school of landscape painting. Georg Mueller-Breslau and Gertrud Staats were his the best pupils. Therefore in Przesieka there was some kind of an artistic colony like in Barbizon in France. Carl Ernst Morgenstern (1847-1928) was a successor of Dressler. He enriched iconography of Karkonosze and their bottom area in form of water colours, oil paintings, drawings and even post-cards. Also his pupils, Alfred Nickisch (1872-1948) and Georg Wichmann (1876-1944) painted many landscapes of Karkonosze. They and their colleagues established in Szklarska Poreba an artistic group called “Kuenstlervereinigung St. Lukas”. In the 20th c. also two writers, brothers Gerhart and Carl Hauptmann, and a painter Vlastimil Hofman lived in Szklarska Poreba. For this reason this city was through a long time a cultural capital of Karkonosze.
Lately (2007) it was very nice for me to see in Wroclaw an exhibition of paintings presented by Bogumila Twardowska-Rogacewicz. She was born in Wroclaw but now she is living in Jelenia Gora. It is evident when looking at the four attached pictures that the Karkonosze are an important object in her artistic creation. My painting of Sniezne Kotly is here the only small addition to the great achievements of Dressler, his pupils and Twardowska-Rogacewicz.
HIKING AND WINTER SPORTS
Looking at two schemes of cirques attached above one can remark that in Karkonosze there are many touristic trails. The summer hiking is easy in these mountains. From cities surrounding this area the covenient roads are built into the massif. A broad red trail called “Droga Przyjazni” leading through all the range from the Kowarska Pass to Szrenica Mt. is accessible almost for anybody. Such a trip between these two points needs more than one day. Tourists can stop for a night in several hostels located on both sides of the state border. All the area is included in the National Park therefore no hiking is permitted outside of the trails and no free camping is possible here. In my opinion the picturesque and interesting trails in Poland are the following:
* a yellow-red trail starting from a part of Karpacz called Wilcza Poreba and leading along the Lomniczka Valley to the Lomniczka Cirque and then reaching the summit of Sniezka;
* a yellow trail from Karpacz Gorny to two hostels, Strzecha Akademicka and Samotnia, near Maly Staw situated in the Maly Staw Cirque;
* a green trail from a rocky group called “Pielgrzymy” to the Karkonoska Pass, and going further to the Czarny Kociol Jagniatkowski, Sniezne Kotly through Szrenica Mt. up to the Kamienna Valley near Jakuszyce. This trail is very long and you need for such a trip more than one day.
* a blue trail from the Okraj Pass leads through the upper part of a range to the summit of Sniezka. This path is not overcrowded and offers nice views on both sides, to Poland and Czech Republic.
In the Czech Republic I propose you to try the next offers:
* a blue trail from Pec along walls of Upska Jama to the summit of Sniezka;
* a red-yellow trail from Lucni Bouda along an original range called Kozi hrbety to Spindleruv Mlyn;
* a blue trail from Lucni Bouda along the Bile Labe Valley to Spindleruv Mlyn – it is very beautiful and wilde path;
* a blue-green trail from the Petrova Bouda to Labska Jama;
* a blue trail from the Labska Bouda near Labska Jama leading along the beautifil Mumlava Valley to Harrachov.
A winter hiking in Karkonosze is completely different and it is really dangerous. In the area of the glacial cirques the avalanches are often formed. The upper part of a range is covered by an icy snow and you must always use crampons. Trails covered by a thick layer of snow are marked by high sticks. GOPR, a mountain emergency service in Jelenia Gora, communicates on the level of danger. Winter sports, especially skiing and snowboarding, are very popular in Karkonosze. The mountains are visited by Poles, Czechs and Germans. Two large ski complexes in the Polish part are situated in Kopa Mt. (1377m) and Szrenica Mt. (1362m). The same possibility is offered in the Czech part in Harrachov, Rokytnice and Spindleruv Mlyn. I know that some people practice a snowboarding in Sniezne Kotly but it is rather an extreme activity. An ice climbing is possible in the Labska Jama where many streams flowing from Pancavska Louka create nice icefalls.
Getting ThereFrom Poland the best access into the Karkonosze is from two cities, Karpacz and Szklarska Poreba. Both can be reached by cars and buses from the main city of a region, Jelenia Gora. Rare trains are also provided from Jelenia Gora to Szklarska Poreba. At present an old railway between Szklarska Poreba and Harrachov is renewed and a trail leading through the beautiful valley of the Kamienna River, next to Harrachov and finally to Germany will be proposed for tourists. From Szklarska Poreba you can reach the summit of Szrenica by a red trail. The black trails are going to the main range from the Jagniatkow village. The most picturesque trail from Karpacz-Wilcza Poreba leads along the Lomniczka valley to the summit of Sniezka. All the cities in the Czech Republic, i.e. Harrachov, Rokytnice, Spindleruv Mlyn and Pec pod Snezkou offer very good touristic trails. In Poland the main city of the Lower Silesia province, Wroclaw, you can reach by planes. Between Wroclaw and Jelenia Gora you have at disposal some trains (not very often and not very convenient) and regular buses. Czech Republic you can attain also by planes to the capital, Prague, and next you can move easy to cities surrounding the mountains from the south. From Harrachov a nice blue trail is leading along the Mumlava valley to Pancavska Louka siuated west of the Labska Jama. A red trail from Rokytnice is marked up to Harrachovy Kameny, north of the Kotelni Jama. Being in Spindleruv Mlyn you are almost in the heart of Karkonosze – a place where Labe and Bile Labe join together. Having a travel from Czech, through Harrachov from the west and the Okraj Pass from the east one can go by good roads into Poland.
Red TapeThe Karkonosze Mts. are well protected by creation here the National Park, however this area is visited by a lot of people. For this reason some restrictions are introduced. First of all you can move in these mountains only trough marked trails. Some areas, especially those which are ecologically more fragile like peatbogs or steep slopes with original flora and fauna are protected in the form of strict reserves. The highest area of the range forming an enclosed part of the park is protected by such rules. Also some other valuable isolated surfaces like waterfalls on Szklarka and Kamienczyk streams, Chojnik Mt. with a castle, three enclaves in Rychory and one situated NE of Cerna hora as well as an SE part of Kozelsky hreben located west of Spindleruv Mlyn are strictly protected. Most precious ones are under rules of Natura 2000 and Ramsar Convention. You may visit these sites if you get a special permission from the park management. The authority of the National Park in Poland ordered for hiking in the park area some duty (4.60 PLN for a person per day) since January 3, 2008.
External LinksThere are at the disposal numerous www pages with necessary tourist information for visitors in Karkonosze (Krkonose, Riesengebirge, Giant Mountains), e.g.:
CampingCampings you can find in the following sites:
A. In Poland - Szklarska Poreba, Jagniatkow, Cieplice, Sobieszow, Kowary;
B. In Czech Republic – Harrachov, Jablonec nad Jizerou, Spindleruv Mlyn, Vrchlabi.
Additionally, a very good hotel accommodation you can get in all the cites surrounding Karkonosze. One can also have a convenient stay in many tourists hostels on both sides of a border. I mention here only some like Szrenica, Pod Labskim Szczytem, Odrodzenie, Samotnia, Strzecha Akademicka, Slaski Dom, Na Sniezce, Na Przełeczy Okraj, Jelenka, Lucni bouda, Vyrovka, U Bileho Labe, Spindlerova bouda, Petrova bouda, Medvedi bouda, Martinova bouda, Labska bouda and Vosecka bouda. All these tourist huts are located in very picturesque places.