Previously, I wrote in my album devoted to this massif that Ślęza is a very special mountain in Poland. The pronunciation of a word “Ślęża” is “seelenja”. Its name is of the old Slavic origin. A word “sleg” means moist, humid; “slega” is humidity, and “slegwa” a rain. The main summit of the massif is distant from the Wroclaw’s centre exactly 35.5 km. This massif is composed of four parts: the northern one with the highest summit of Ślęża Mt. (718 m a.s.l.), the southern area with Radunia Mt. (573 m a.s.l.), the eastern region of the Oleszeńskie Hills with Oleszenka (387 m a.s.l.), and the western Kiełczyńskie Hills with Szczytna (466 m a.s.l.). The massif extends 10 km. in the NS direction and 15 km. from east to west. Looking at this massif from a distance is very spectacular because the mountain is distinctly elevated above a surrounding region, the Lower Silesia Lowland with its average height ca. 200 m a.s.l. The really mountainous nature of the massif appears in its hard climate. Summits are often cloudy and there are most numerous thunderstorms when compared to any site in Europe. Maybe these climate features of the massif caused in the past that here some cults devoted to pagan ghosts were developed. There are many evidences of ancient cults of the Sun on Ślęza Mt. and the Moon on Radunia Mt. Then, it is not a surprise that Sleza is also called the Saint Mountain. The massif is surrounded by an agricultural landscape as well as in many sites the granite and serpentinite quarries are around. A province where the Sleza Massif is situated is called Lower Silesia (Dolny Slask in Polish, Niederschlesien in German, and Silesia Inferior in Latin). It is the most SW part of Poland with southern Polish-Bohemian border running along the main range of the Sudetes Mountains. The massif has very ancient history reaching the Neolithic period and next related to the activity of Celtic tribes since IVc. BC. History has been here created by Poland, Bohemia, Austria, Prussia, Germany and now again Poland. Written data from the Bavarian Geographer (ca. 845 A.D.) announced about ancient tribes living here, Sleenzane (Slezanie gave probably a name for our mountain and the total area) and Dziadoszanie. Christianity started in Lower Silesia since 1000 A.D. and the Millenium Cross erected in 2000 on the top of Sleza is devoted to this event. During the last glaciation (ca. 180,000 BP) only the rocky summit of Sleza has not been covered with ice in form of nunatack of 100 m height. A hard climate of this period created today’s image of the mountain, mostly bouldered. Geology of the massif, like the whole province, is very interesting. An endemic flora developed on original rocky soils. The massif has rich flora and fauna as well as clean streams. The total area is protected since 1988 as “Slezanski Park Krajobrazowy”, 8,500 ha (the Sleza Landscape Park) with three strict reserves. A very picturesque landscape of the massif, many monuments of nature and very interesting remnants of ancient culture attracted here many tourists from XIX century up today.
Around the Strzeblów village, westwards from Sobótka, there are many granite quarries, at present not exploited. One can also find there some type of a white granite composed of 70-75% of quartz and orthoclase. It has sometimes small brown inclusions of iron oxides. The NW part of the Sleza Mt. is built from granite changed into diorite with large amount of biotite. In the western part of the massif two large seams of pure quartz were discovered. The contact surface of granite rocks with other ones is composed of different type of granite, rich in two micas, biotite and muscovite. This type of a rock has sometimes small red inclusions of garnet creating red gems. Sleza’s granite has been used here from the prehistory. The NE part, where Wiezyca Mt. (415 m a.s.l.) is covered by rich beech forest, consists of a metamorphic dark green rock called amphibolite. Its grey-green naked boulders cover the summit of Wiezyca. The southern part of massif with the main summit of Sleza and Olbrzymki Mt. is covered by outcrops of hard gabbro. It is a coarse grained magma rock. A large area occupied by the massif of Radunia, Oleszenskie and Kielczynskie Hills is built from a dark or light green rock, serpentinite. This part is the largest serpentinite mountains in Poland. Outcrops of serpentinite we can see in the past quarries near villages Tapadla, Wiry, Kielczyn and Przemilów. Small amounts of black or brown chromite with admixture of platinum were exploited on the NW slope of Czernica Mt. (481 m a.s.l.) in the Radunia’s massif. A metamorphic green rock called nephrite is rare and creates small inclusions in serpentinite. The only bed of nephrite in Poland is here, near Jordanów Slaski, small village situated several kilometers eastwards from Sobótka. This bed is world known. Another mineral, magnesite, is in the past quarries in Sobótka, near Strzeblów and in the Wiry village. A beautiful green and blue mineral chrysoprase, the best variety of chalcedony, was discovered together with magnesite in the Wiry’s quarry. This outlined geology of the Sleza Massif is only a short story of geological wealth of Lower Silesia. Mountains of this province are geologically most interesting in Poland. P.S. The last geological news is that near the Tapadla Pass the pieces of jade jadeite (a mineral very similar to nephrite) were found, however, no archaeological utensils made from this gem were discovered.
The weather of the massif is very different when compared with a surrounding lowland. There is here more water condensation, clouds and rainfall. Numerous days are with thunderstorms (an average 36.5 days, mainly from April to August). An average rainfall per year on the summit of Sleza equals 650-820 mm and it is 200 mm more than on the neighbouring lowland. Maxima of rainfall are in July and August, and minima during December and January. Mean temperature at the highest points of the massif is 4.60C and nearby on the lowland it is 8.60C. Winds are mainly from SW, W and NW directions. A number of snowy days is almost doubled (94) in comparison with lower sites (40-50). Although at present in all the province the snowy weather disappears distinctly. Only in Sudetes, and especially in Izery Mts. a thick layer of snow lies through a long period.
Streams flowing from the slopes of the massif are tributaries of larger rivers, Bystrzyca which passes the massif from the west and Sleza from the east. These both rivers are tributaries of the Odra river, one of the largest in Poland and flowing to the Baltic See. The southern slopes of the Radunia Massif and Oleszenskie Hills are drained by many small brooks which finally create a larger one flowing eastwards and called Oleszna. This small river flows through fertile soils between Oleszenskie Hills and located more eastward Lagiewnickie Hills where, near Janska Mt. built from serpentinite and nephrite, it forms a picturesque ravine. The Janska Mt. is an isolated steep hill which is included into the Slezanski Landscape Park. A water net on the southern slopes of Kielczynskie Hills is poor. Brooks on their northern slopes are tributaries of the Czarna Woda river which flows around western slopes of the Sleza massif. The NW part of the Sleza massif formed by granite has more streams finally going into Czarna Woda. The eastern part of the massif is drained by tributaries of the Sulistrowicki Potok (Sulistrowicki Stream). On it, in the Sulistrowice village, there is made an artificial small lake. At this lake a tourist centre is organized. Waters of the whole massif are very clean. An evidence of it is a presence of some rare rhodophyta, Hildebrandtia rivularis, in a stream flowing to the Chwalków village (the NW part of the massif).
Flora of the massif is very well known because has been distinctly observed by botanists from the University of Wroclaw. Through many years they studied vegetation of this area. Especially plants growing in reserves located on the summits of the massif as well as in the Laka Sulistrowicka reserve were elaborated in details. Most vegetation of the massif is composed of the mixed coniferous and deciduous forests built by pine, spruce, beech, larch, birch, sycamore, maple, rowan, oak and fir. The summit of Radunia Mt. is overgrown mostly by dwarf xerothermic trees of Quercus petraea, spruces, pines and some admixture of Pseudotsuga menziesii. A beautiful beech forest we can see on the slopes of Wiezyca Mt. There are there also nice trees of lime and Sorbus torminalis. A primeval beech-sycamore-fir woodland of the massif were cut out and spruces were introduced here during the XIX century and now this species is a dominating tree. In many sites huge and very picturesque specimens of beech, spruce, lime, oak, sycamore or larch can be find, also in villages surrounding the massif, e.g. in Górka, Kunów, Slupice, Sulistrowiczki, Swiatniki, Tapadla, Tomice or Winna Góra. These monuments of nature are evidences of the rich ancient woodland here. In autumn the dominating colours of vegetation are created by dark spruces and brown-red beeches. Vegetation of the Laka Sulistrowicka reserve is most interesting. It is composed of rare plants. Some are here more numerous like Iris sibirica, Gladiolus imbricatus, Dianthus superbus, Gentiana pneumonanthe, Dactylorhiza maculata and Lilium martagon. Others are only scattered, e.g. Daphne mezereum, Digitalis purpurea, Gymnadenia conopsea, Pedicularis sudetica, Platanthera bifolia and Trollius europaeus. In this reserve small wet meadows are interlaced by the Pinus silvestris light forest. Going from this reserve westwards we reach the summit of Radunia Mt. with a reserve of a xerothermic, basic serpentinite vegetation. Despite of growing there dwarfed oaks and white blooming Potentilla alba the vegetation includes also many protected plants, e.g. Digitalis grandiflora, Lilium martagon, Daphne mezereum and very rare orchids like Gymnadenia conopsea, Epipactis helleborine, Cephalanthera rubra and C. damasonium. Some plants belong to strictly defined mountain flora, e.g. Allium senescens ssp. montanum, Thesium alpinum, Gentianella austriaca and Prenanthes purpurea. A rocky summit is covered by xerothermic grasses, Festuca glauca, Koeleria glauca and Phleum phleoides. Most valuable are endemic ferns belonging to the Asplenium genus, species characteristic only for serpentinite rocks. In this reserve Asplenium cuneifolium, A. trichomanes and A. septentrionale are extremely rare. A highest reserve on the summit of Sleza has other mountain plants: Lysimachia nemorum, Prenanthes purpurea and Senecio fuchsii. In the massif were discovered 70 species of mountain mosses as well as some rhodophyte, Hildebrandtia rivularis.
Thirty species of mammals have been observed in the massif, mainly animals living in forest. There are between others: roe, fox, badger, boar, squirrel, marten, polecat, ermine, weasel, Edible Dormouse or Alpine Shrew. In the massif six species of bats can be seen, e.g. Myotis myotis, Plecotus auritus. Ornithologists noted 130 species of birds. The most interesting are: Yellow Wagtail, White-throated Dipper, Bullfinch, Nutcracker, Buzzard, Kestrel, Black Woodpecker, Kite, Black Kite, Tengmalm’s Owl, and Eagle Owl. In a distance of ca. 15 km. from the massif towards NW the Mietków Lake is formed on the Bystrzyca river. This artificial reservoir (930 ha) is at present very good place for nesting of water birds and their resting during migration or wintering. There are observed there 105 species with the most numerous Bean Goose (Anser fabalis). Such a bird fauna attracts large sea eagles which frequently visit this area. Fauna of reptiles and amphibians is represented by Lacerta agilis, Anguis fragilis, Natrix natrix, Vipera berus, Hyla arborea or Triturus alpestris. Invertebrates are very numerous in the massif. They have amidst boulders very good habitats. There are found here 72 species of mollusks, e.g. Tundra Vertigo or Cheese Snail. The Sleza Massif is also interesting place for work of entomologists. They described 70 species of butterflies, some very rare like Maculinea sp. and Lysandra thersites. Fauna of spiders was studied in details. 380 species of spiders inhabit the massif. From Poland as a whole we know their 761 species. On the Wiezyca Mt. is the only locality in Poland of a small spider Pelocopsis bicapitatta. Here also lives a large mountain spider Chiracanthium elegans.
The first traces of man in the province are dated from Pleistocene. These people were active as hunters and gatherers. The oldest man’s skeletons from 7000-4000 BC were found in Tyniec over Sleza river. During the Neolithic period in this area an original culture called the Jordanów Culture was developed. Members of this culture used stone utensils made from serpentinite exploited in the Radunia Massif and nephrite from the Jordanów Slaski quarry. An old “tin trail” from Alps to Asia Minor went through Jordanów. Probably during the Bronze Age (1800-700 BC) a pagan cult centre was developed in the massif. Stone cult circles still visible at summits of Radunia, Sleza and Wiezyca origin from that time. Saint springs were also discovered in the close vicinity to the stone circles. The Sleza Massif cult centre was very active especially in the Hallstadt period (700-400 BC) and preserved here up to X-XI c. AD. A very strong influence on the development of this area was made by Celtic tribes which inhabited the massif since 400 BC to the beginning AD. The production of querns made from a local granite started here during the VI-Vc. BC. These querns were exported very far, one specimen is found in a Viking settlement in Haithabu, Germany. Up to XIII c. AD ca 10,000 querns were made. Under the Celtic activity the Silesian province increased culturally and economically very quickly. Well known stone sculptures from the massif origin probably from this period. These sculptures made from the local granite are the most interesting monuments of the massif and they are: a girl with fish, several ones in form of a bear, a pilgrim, a monk and a boar. On these sculptures and in several places of the massif on stones we can see a solar sign in the form of a letter “X”. Old settlements dated from the VI-VIIc. AD were excavated by archaeologists in the Chwalków village, Janówek near Jordanów Slaski, on the summit of Sleza Mt., and in Sobótka. The most valuable archaeological discovery was made in the Bedkowice village on the eastern slope of Sleza. It contains a settlement and barrows. In Bêdkowice an archaeological reserve is made to preserve these early mediaeval findings. A written document called “the Bavarian Geographer” mentioned “Sleenzane civitates XV” that means probably fifteen Silesian defense settlements noted from this period. Another monument, the XIVth c. castle on the summit of Sleza Mt. is preserved at present only in the form of remnants of walls. Tourists can also visit here the St. Mary’s Church which was erected in XVIII c. On the summit of Wiezyca Mt. there is a view tower built in 1907 and devoted to the memory of chancellor Bismarck.
Many trails cross the massif in different directions. They are easy for anyone but most of them have really rocky surface. Any hiking outside of the trails is difficult because almost all the slopes are covered by boulders. In some parts of the massif such slopes are naked but most of them is overgrown by a mixed forest. Winters in Lower Silesia are very mild now but a winter hiking needs more attention like in other mountains. In spring and summer one should be careful during frequent thunderstorms. Any excursion to the massif consumes almost one summer day. Mountain bicycling is possible here on special trails, in groups limited to 10 persons. Hiking is possible around all the year.
The massif is very easy accessible from the main city of the province, Wroclaw. Now there are no connections by a train but we have many ones by a bus. We can start from the bus station located southward nearby the main railway station, Wroclaw Glówny. People living in Wroc³aw reach Œlê¿a by cars. I am doing my visits in the massif by bicycle. From a western suburb of Wroc³aw, Kozanów, I am going through several villages, Jerzmanowo, Samotwór, Skalka, Malkowice, Sadkowice, Katy Wroclawskie, Krobielowice, Gniechowice, Miroslawice, Rogów Sobócki, and finally after 3-hours of bicycling I reach small city Sobótka lying at the northern bottom of the massif. When I would like to hike there I go to Sobótka by a bus. On a bike we can go round the whole massif and see from a distance its mild surroundings, fields penetrated by carnivorous birds, small streams flowing from springs situated on slopes, picturesque forests and quarries with interesting rocky flora. By a bus we can reach additional several villages lying around the massif as Bêdkowice with very close to it an archaeological reserve, Sulistrowice with a camping at small artificial lake on Sulistrowicki Stream, Sulistrowiczki, and Tapadla Pass which separates the Sleza’s and Radunia’s massifs. Others smaller cities of Lower Silesia which can also be starting points to go to the massif are Swidnica situated westward from Sleza and Dzierzoniów lying directly southward from the massif. Wroclaw can be reached quickly from an airport in Frankfurt am Main in Germany or from Warsaw. Timetable of the bus connections are accessible on pages: www.wroclaw.pl and www.dla.com.pl.
Everybody can go into the massif. In three strict reserves on the summits of Radunia and Sleza as well as in Laka Sulistrowicka all the components of nature are protected. All the massif plus a separated part on the Janska Mt. is included into the Slezanski Landscape Park. The rules in such a park are not so keen as in the national parks. Free camping is not possible here. The best behaviour is to leave the massif in the same status as before your visit. The access here is free. If you like more quiet mountains do not visit the massif during weekends and free days in Poland, at the time this place is overcrowded.
Tourists have at disposal two hostels. One is near Sobótka, at the bottom of Wiezyca Mt., the second is on the summit of Sleza Mt. However, in the vicinity, just in Sobótka and Swidnica, are some hotels. In Sulistrowice village there is a camping near a lake on the Sulistrowicki Stream. The other camping is located at the Tapadla Pass. In different places prices per night range from 15 to 80 PLN (4 to 20 Euro). There is also an opportunity to stay in Wroclaw because of the easy access to the massif from this city.
More information we can get from the following internet pages: www.naszesudety.pl – also on the Sudetes Mts. www.sobotka.pl – an official page of the Sobótka city www.dzpk.pl – a page on the Slezanski Landscape Park www.plan.pl – information on the maps of the massif and other mountains in Poland.