Press release 1 - Article written by Anthony Fray

Discover the magical land of Lower Silesia  

In the South-Western corner of Poland, nestled snugly against the German and Czech borders, lies one of the best-kept secrets in Europe: Lower Silesia. For an area of roughly 20,000km2, the topographical diversity is huge; from skiable mountain ranges, through sweeping, white-water rivers, woodland valleys and into vast expanses of low-lying lake and river lands.

It’s not just the geography that’s varied but the history as well. Lower Silesia can perhaps lay claim to being the most turbulent territory in Europe! At any one time under the rule of the Piast Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdoms of Bohemia and Prussia, the Austrian Habsburgs, the Third Reich or Russian control, the region subsequently boasts a wonderfully mixed architecture and culture, which represents a vast assortment of historical epochs and hegemonies unique inside Poland. Amongst the legendary historical forces to engage in bloody conflict over Silesia include the Tatars, the Ottoman empire, the early 19th century confederates of Napoleon and the 13th century Mongol Hordes.

Lower Silesia is probably most famous for its estimated 2000-strong population of historical monuments, containing over a quarter of all Poland’s castles and palaces. Ranging from the gigantic 13th century Ksiaz Castle down to the secluded, private summer palaces built by the European aristocracy who made the region their holiday destination of choice between the 17th and 19th Centuries. Such is the spread of palaces, that many believe their quality and quantity can rival the chateaux of France and have taken to calling Lower Silesia ‘Poland’s Loire Valley’.

In fact, in the interest of protecting Lower Silesia’s rich architectural heritage, a volunteer organisation named ‘Polish Loire Valley’ was established in 2012 in order to promote palaces in dire need of restoration. Working in partnership with the regional Agricultural Property Agency and by developing a web portal featuring sale listings, legal and financial information, successful restoration stories and a database of restoration contractors, over 20 palaces have already found new owners.

It’s not all idyllic, rural scenes, however! The regional capital, Wroclaw, is Poland’s fourth largest city and has already been named a 2016 European Capital of Culture. Largely unfound by the boisterous stag parties that have headed towards Eastern and Central Europe in search of cheap beer, cheap accommodation and, well, cheap everything, Wroclaw offers all the features you’d expect from a large European city. Poland’s largest zoo, countless museums, theatres, a Japanese garden, Botanical Garden, churches, a striking 13th century cathedral and many more examples of classical gothic and baroque architecture can be found in Wroclaw. Of particular note is the Centennial Hall, a daunting arena listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006 as an early landmark of reinforced concrete architecture. Accompanying the Hall is also Wroclaw’s ‘multimedia fountain’, incorporating 300 jets to produce a screen for projected animations!

To visit just Wroclaw, though, would be to miss so much of what Lower Silesia has to offer. A trip into the countryside can be as far-reaching and active as wanted, whether you simply relax in your hotel (which will almost certainly be a lovingly restored, centuries-old palace) and enjoy the gentle rural atmosphere, or partake in any one of mountain-biking, horse riding, off road driving, hiking, fishing, hunting, climbing, even carriage-horse driving – all of which will be easily accessible from wherever you choose to stay.

A dominant attraction of many towns in the southern, mountainous part of Lower Silesia is the purported restorative, healing qualities of their water and their subsequent status as ‘spa-towns’ or ‘Zdroj’ (‘mineral spring’ in Polish). The waters of these towns have been revered and written about for hundreds of years and some have been well established since the 14th century. Perhaps the most famous of the ‘Zdroj’ is Duszniki-Zdroj, in the Klodzko Valley on the Czech border. Although the waters have been celebrated since the Middle Ages, spa facilities have been located there since 1769. The town hosts an annual International Chopin Festival in honour of a visit by the Polish pianist in 1826 and two concerts he played. The modern-day spa towns of Lower Silesia are typified by mineral water bottling plants, wellness centres and, of course, extensive spa and bathing facilities.

As befits a region with such extensive links to European aristocracy and nobility, Lower Silesia has a rich history of hunting dating all the way back to the first Piast Polish Kings. Plentiful populations of game animals like Wild Boar, Red, Roe and Fallow Deer and even the peculiar Mouflon Sheep can be found in large, unfenced expanses of their natural environment. Stalking expeditions or even driven hunts are easy to organise, with the Polish Hunting Association in charge of nearly every aspect of hunting in Poland and extremely open to groups of foreign hunters.

Much like many other regions of the world with their own vibrant history and culture, Lower Silesia has large amounts of traditional  local produce. Possibly the two most prominent examples here are Borowski Glass and Manufaktura Ceramics, both located in the historic town of Boleslawiec. Borowski Glass produces completely original and hand-made sculptures using hand-blown coloured glass. Pieces can be found in galleries and private collections around the world, and even in the Corning Museum of Glass in New York City. Manufaktura produces beautiful hand-made and decorated ceramic pottery. Foreign visitors looking to take an authentic piece of Lower Silesia home with them can be safe in the knowledge they are buying authentic, traditional wares at a much better price than they’ll be found anywhere else in the world.

Lovers of religious iconography and history will find many days to fill in Lower Silesia. In particular, and especially for anyone who enjoys stunning architecture and design, are the two Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica, both of which were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2001. With huge capacities, extravagantly and meticulously decorated interiors and large collections of important Polish religious art, they stand as important reminders of the Protestant religion in a largely Catholic region. For the braver tourists, visiting the Chapel of Skulls in Czeremna is a morbidly fascinating experience as the walls are completely lined with human skulls (…and the ceiling with shin bones). It was created out of the exhumed bones of victims of plague and war between 1776 and 1794.

Military history enthusiasts can also find a point of interest in the sprawling, underground network of ‘Project Riese’. This ominously named project, meaning ‘Giant’ in German, is an unfinished military facility that represents the last attempt of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to move the production of their ‘wunderwaffe’, or ‘wonder weapons’ to a safe location. Built between 1943 and the war’s end in 1945, not much is actually known about the purpose of the complex, which had its main work started beneath Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych. There are nine installations in total, the majority of which are open for visitors to explore and wonder upon what was being built down there that the Nazis didn’t want anyone else to see!

It’s hard to find a region in Europe that offers  a more accessible, historic, cultural and unique adventure than Lower Silesia, and despite lying at the geographical heart of Europe, it is a story largely yet to be told by the contemporary Western traveller. One thing’s for certain, your first trip to Lower Silesia is unlikely to be your last.

 

For more information about this magical land contact a representative of Lower Silesia Country Life (LSCL) – www.lscl.eu – an association set up by Englishman David Ackroyd and his Polish wife Dorota. With the support of leading Lower Silesian tourist and cultural organisations ‘Lower Silesia Country Life’ is a charitable trust set up to promote tourism across Europe and North America whilst also using its expertise to set up a business support network to help tourist sector in the region.

Press release 2 - Article written by Anthony Fray

The Palaces of Lower Silesia 

The palaces and monuments of Lower Silesia are so prevalent that some have taken to calling it ‘Poland’s Loire Valley’. But, whilst the region can boast sweeping, imposing castles to rival the vast estates of the Loire, its real charm is in its plethora of more unstated private homes. It is believed that from the 16th-18th century, a time when the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest, most culturally and economically dominant power in Europe, Lower Silesia was the holiday destination of choice for the continent’s elite. Drawn by the stunning, volcanic scenery and the relaxed rural atmosphere, they raised palaces across the region to offer a summer retreat from the bustling metropolitan hubs of mainland Europe.

The 21st century finds these palaces, which number something in the vicinity of three thousand (more than a quarter of the total in Poland) in a variety of conditions. Despite being largely spared from the widespread destruction wrought on Poland during the Second World War, many have fallen into disrepair. Some have been carefully restored into beautiful hotels and resorts, such as Wiechlice Palace in Szprotawa, but the majority are in desperate need of restoration.

 Indeed, a volunteer organisation, interestingly named Polska Dolina Loary, or Polish Loire Valley, was founded in 2012 with the express intention of alerting the community to the rapidly deteriorating condition of the area’s heritage architecture and to increase the exposure of purchasable properties to potential buyers who can restore them to their former glory.

The area’s larger monuments, more accurately described as castles, are widely restored, open to visitors and can provide a fascinating tour for anyone interested in medieval history or architecture. Even the castles of which only ruins remain conjure vivid impressions of history, which is only heightened by the annual fayres and full-costume re-enactments that occur at many of them.

Even a quick tour of some of Lower Silesia’s palaces only serves to increase the tangible sense of mystery and wonder that pervades this staggering region. Whether gazing upon a lovingly, meticulously restored hotel or a crumbling, empty shell, the mind can’t help but drift to the past and muse on the centuries of rich history of this land that time has not forgotten, but neglected. Despite being the geographical heartland of Europe, Lower Silesia radiates an underlying feeling of almost secrecy; of being a story untold by the contemporary European traveller. Fortunately, it’s not too late, and this wonderful, welcoming region can still be the luxurious, inspiring and restorative escape that it once was so many years ago. And you certainly don’t have to be a member of the aristocracy to take part.

For more information about this magical land contact a representative of Lower Silesia Country Life (LSCL) – www.lscl.eu – an association set up by Englishman David Ackroyd and his Polish wife Dorota. With the support of leading Lower Silesian tourist and cultural organisations ‘Lower Silesia Country Life’ is a charitable trust set up to promote tourism across Europe and North America whilst also using its expertise to set up a business support network to help tourist sector in the region.

Press release 3 - Article written by Anthony Fray

Escape to the country - in the heart of Europe 

Less than two hours flights time from over eight UK airports lies Lower Silesia, a beautiful region of Poland roughly the size of England’s South-West Peninsula, and one of the best kept secrets in Europe. Nestled snugly against the Czech and German borders, Lower Silesia is scattered with remnants of Poland’s rich cultural past; namely the palaces raised by the European aristocracy who would flock here in the summer and the castles erected as symbols of power by this turbulent area’s long line of Dukes and rulers. To find them, tour them and explore them and to dive into everything else that this fascinating region has to offer, is to be taken back to a simpler time, when relaxing and restorative country life was much more accessible than in today’s globalised, metropolitan world.

The country life on offer in Lower Silesia is as varied as it is accessible and can be as exciting as it can be relaxing. The off-road driving, for example, can be enjoyed purely for the thrill of thrashing Land Rovers around the superb volcanic topography, or used as a way of accessing hard-to-reach religious, cultural and historical sites. The same can be said for horse-riding, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing or hiking; the method of exploring Lower Silesia can be as exciting or relaxing as wanted, and can be just as good as the scenery and history that will be covered.

More traditional country pursuits are also readily available, particularly hunting and fishing. The network of dam lakes covering the region provide peaceful, scenic locations and plenty of fish! The two dam lakes along the Kwisa River in particular, are famous for their abundant supply of Sander, or ‘pike-perch’. Equipment is cheap to hire and organised excursions can be modestly arranged either impromptu or well in advance. The history of hunting in Poland stretches all the way back through its long history of princes and dukes, and contemporary Lower Silesia offers a wide variety. Game from wild boar, through multiple species of deer and even the peculiar mouflon sheep can be stalked in large, unfenced expanses of their natural environment. The Polish Hunting Association, who maintain the vast majority of Poland’s specified hunting areas, are very welcoming to foreigners and always keen to lift the lid on one of Europe’s most idyllic hunting locations.

Examples of religious history are also prevalent, with Lower Silesia’s churches rivalling the historic abbeys, chapels and cathedrals of even the British countryside. The UNESCO-listed Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica and Wroclaw Cathedral are notable and popular examples, but even the smallest, local churches offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. Only the brave will want to visit the chapel in Czermna, however, as the walls and ceiling are lined with three thousand human skulls!

The search for the next great location for a unique, rural holiday may well be over. Largely untouched by the stag and hen parties that have headed towards Eastern and Central Europe in droves in search of cheap accommodation and cheap beer, Lower Silesia remains a hidden gem that once visited will soon be returned to. Don’t miss out on the chance to follow in the footsteps of Europe’s historical elite, and escape to the country, right in the heart of Europe. 

For more information about this magical land contact a representative of Lower Silesia Country Life (LSCL) – www.lscl.eu – an association set up by Englishman David Ackroyd and his Polish wife Dorota. With the support of leading Lower Silesian tourist and cultural organisations ‘Lower Silesia Country Life’ is a charitable trust set up to promote tourism across Europe and North America whilst also using its expertise to set up a business support network to help tourist sector in the region.

Press release support - written by Anthony Fray

Lower Silesia Country Life - background info library

History of Lower Silesia

Ancient History

7000 years ago (5000 BC), in the Mesolithic era, the first nomadic people settled in Lower Silesia. In the Neolithic era (4000-1700 BC), a settled way of life was developed with mining, pottery, weaving and farming dated back this far.


Early History

Moving into 1000 BC, the region was inhabited by the Celts, whose stony statues would later be worshipped by the Slavic tribes that would populate the area from 600 BC. In between the Celts and the Slavic tribes, Magna Germania records show that Lower Silesia was inhabited by a number of Germanic tribes. West Slavic ‘Slezanie’ tribe (possible source of the region’s Slask and later Silesia name) were the first people to populate the modern-shaped Lower Silesia. By the 9th Century the territory was encompassed in the Great Monravian realm of Prince Svatopluk I, and from 906 came under rule of Duke Spytihnev I of Bohemia and his successors Vratislaus I (the alleged founder of Wroclaw) and Boleslav the Cruel.

 

Formation of Piast Kingdom of Poland

In 990 AD Silesia was conquered and incorporated in 1st Polsh State by Piast duke Mieszko I.

In 1172 there was the first split between Upper and Lower Silesia, with the capitals of Wroclaw and Raciborz respectively. Lower Silesia becomes an integral part of the Polish state until it was disbanded in favour of the Bohemian kingdom in 1348.

 

Bohemian Crown, Austria and Prussia

Silesian duchies ruled by Silesian Piast dukes under feudal oversight of Bohemian Kings

Until 1526: All of Silesia is acquired by Austria’s Habsburg Monarchy after the death of King Louis II of Bohemia.1742: After the First Silesian War, Lower Silesia becomes part of the Kingdom of Prussia


Modern History

In 1815 it became part of the Prussian Silesia Province, which was divided into two: Lower Silesian administrative regions and Upper Silesian Oppeln. By the beginning of the 20th century Lower Silesia had an almost entirely German-speaking and ethnic German population, with the exception of a small Polish-speaking area in the north-eastern part of the district of Namslau, Syców and Milicz and a 9% Czech-speaking minority.

After the First World War, Upper Silesia was divided between the German Weimar Republic, the Second Polish Republic, and the state of Czechoslovakia. However, the Prussian Lower Silesia remained in Germany and was re-organized into the Lower Silesia Province of the Free State of Prussia.

Nazi invasion into Poland in 1939, occupying Lower Silesia. After 1945, all territories east of the Oder-Neisse line were placed under Polish administration according to the Potsdam Agreement.

Under those terms almost all of historic Lower Silesia became part of Poland as part of the “recovered territories”.

The territory’s German populations fled or were expelled and replaced with Poles, many of whom had themselves been expelled from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union. The Red Army’s Northern Group of Forces occupied part of the region till 1991, including much of the city of Legnica.


The ‘Polish Loire Valley’

One of the most angles for highlighting the appeal of Lower Silesia is to refer to it as, or even consider it the ‘Polish Loire Valley’. The plethora of castles and palaces does indeed bear much resemblance to the sprawling Chateaux of the French Loire Valley.

Even the official travel website of Poland can’t help but make the comparison: “Mysterious tunnels, castles on high hills and manor houses hidden in romantic parks. When it comes to the amount and beauty of the buildings, the Dolnoslaskie  Voivodship (Lower Silesian Province) can compete with many places in Europe. Even with the Loire Valley in France.” www.poland.travel/en-gb/regions/the-dolnoslaskie-voivodship-a-land-of-treasure

There is a movement named ‘Polish Loire Valley’ (Polska Dolina Loary or PDR), which consists of volunteer campaigners focused on working with the regional Agricultural Property Agency (Agencja Nieruchomosci Rolnych – ANR) to raise awareness of historic properties and palaces that are for sale, in the interests of having them restored to their original state. Since its inception in 2012, the movement has helped 20 country houses find new owners, many of which have gone for relatively small prices.

They have also developed a ‘Residence Navigator’, an online resource providing listings of properties for sale, legal and funding information, interviews with current owners and a database of post-purchase services such as contractors specialising in renovation.


About Lower Silesia Country Life – the association
The Lower Silesian region of Poland is one of central Europe’s best-kept secrets and a vibrant hub of culture and history that is ready and waiting, once more, for the influx of tourists. Lower Silesia Country Life (LSCL) is an association set up by Englishman David Ackroyd and his Polish wife Dorota. With the support of leading Lower Silesian tourism and cultural organisations ‘Lower Silesia Country Life’ has two ‘key’ objectives:


1 – With direct campaigns and through a network of associates throughout Europe and the rest of the world LSCL will promote tourism in Polish Lower Silesia.  Target markets to include:

Poland, Continental Europe, Scandinavia, United Kingdom and Ireland, the Americas and Australasia

Proposed promotional activity should include:

Regional advertising in each market

Presence at all major tourism and travel exhibitions

Bespoke marketing to niche travel agents

Press ‘editorial’ campaigns

Social media campaign strategy and deployment

Tourism and tourist support in Lower Silesia – offices/helplines/online


2 – To provide business strategy and sales and marketing support to any tourism related business in Polish Lower Silesia. Services should include:

Joint/partner marketing through the LSCL website

One-to-one mentoring - business strategy/marketing

Forums and group meetings with sales and marketing experts

Support programmes accessed via web site

 

The author
The author of the LSCL articles is Anthony Fray. Born in Cambridge, Anthony has travelled extensive-ly in Europe and Africa and recently completed a degree in Geography at Newcastle University. As a freelance writer Anthony has published several articles and scripted two award-winning plays for the University Theatre Society; ’How Things Were’ and ‘Duality’. At the bequest of LSCL Anthony recently travelled through Lower Silesia with Caesar and, combined with research into the history and culture of the region, has worked with the LSCL team to give a ‘real life’ account of Lower Silesia today.

All articles are copy right free. Anthony is available to work with any publisher as a researcher or to create bespoke press packs or articles to suit their readership.