Lower Silesia is a true paradise for lovers of history as well as for tourists fascinated with the idea of uncovering ancient mysteries.
The Magic of places such as the Tower of Klodzko (one of the most valuable fortification works in Poland from the 17th-18th centuries), or the underground Giant of the Sowie Mountains (Poland’s most beautiful and the world’s fifth largest network of underground military facilities), provide tourists with unforgettable experiences.
What the intention of this buried facility was, is not known to this day. Was it to be Hitler’s underground quarters? Or a subterranean weapons factory? The length of some of these corridors stretches up to 9 km. in length! Lower Silesia is without question a paradise for lovers of underground secrets. The shafts of Kowary, Zlotoryja, Walim and Gluszyca, the tourist mines in Nowa Ruda, the caves in Kletno and underground tourists trails, all attract more visitors by the year. A visit to these facilities is a truly captivating travel back through time.
Uranium mine in Kowary
The Kletno Uranium Mine lies along a deep scenic bend of the Klesnica River Valley. After stretching out over a distance of 4 km, the two ends of the river join together in the Jaskinia Niedzwiedzia (Bear’s Cave) nature reserve.The area around Kletno, at the foot of the Snieznik Massif, was penetrated by those searching for ore and precious metal, as early as the Middle Ages. In 1948, under an agreement reached between Poland and the USSR, a nation-wide search for uranium was initiated. That same year, in an old drift in Kletno called Sankt Paul, an engineer from the Soviet Geological Service discovered uranium ore – and work was begun. Many years passed before the opening of an underground tourist route, along one of the exploited drifts in Kletno, known as the Sztolni Fluorytowej (Flouride Drift). The trail is approx. 200 m in length and leads along a route located on one of the highest levels of the mine.
The underground city of Gluszyca–Osowka Complex, which can be found in Walbrzych County, is the largest and longest accessible building complex in the Sowie Mountains.
Work on this Project which began in 1943, was directed towards building a huge system of underground, concrete reinforced, corridors and chambers. The intention of these works was kept under the strictest of secrecy. In the opinion of some they were to be secret quarters for Adolf Hitler. Others state they were to be an underground arms factory, to produce secret weapons. Osówka was the final, and most fully developed, facility for Hitler in Lower Silesia.
An intriguing portion of his tunnel excavation is the T-shaped cross section. What secrets lay buried in this near two kilometre section of tunnels? Has the whole truth already been revealed? Perhaps a journey into the nearby forest will result in the discovery of a dark secret building - the remnants of Nazi construction.
Walim is located in the north-western part of the Sowie Mountains. This region bore witness to a secret project, by Adolf Hitler, whose remnants tempt history buffs to this very day.In 1943, under the direct orders of Hitler, works of a huge level and enormous scale were initiated, under the codename Riese (the giant). They were not fully realised, and the nature of their exact intention, remains shrouded in a fog of mystery. Were they to be a facility for manufacturing or experiments? Or the main quarters of an underground command post? Thanks to the establishment in Walim of underground tourist trails, we are able to see the unimaginable and impossible scale of these works. The digging of these many kilometres of tunnel - through solid rock - claimed the lives of thousands of human beings.
The fortress in Klodzko sits at the peak of Wzgorze Zamkowe (Castle Hill) at an altitude of 369 m, on the west side of Nysa Klodzka. This impressive structure, though one of the main tourist attractions in Klodzko, is only partially open to visitors. This tower, a unique and model example of defensive architecture, is the most priceless 17th-18th century fortification structure in Poland. It constitutes part of a very complicated military system. Construction of his Austrian Tower was begun in the 1680s and lasted until the beginning of the 1700s. At the end of the Silesian Wars, new works were set about, aimed at an entire line of fortification. The Tower’s size was significantly increased and it was connected to nearby towns via a system of secret, underground routes and passages. From the middle of the 19th century, to the end of World War II, the building served as a high-security prison. During the war it was under the supervision of the SS and Abwehr. The extraordinary history of one of its inmates, Father Faulhaber, is worth learning about. Awaiting history buffs are: exhibits related to the castle and its events, a memorial centre dedicated to those incarcerated during the Second World War, and a Finnish martyrological mausoleum. Likewise we can find a sculpture lapidarium, an artistic glass-work exhibit and old-fashioned fire fighting equipment. For the courageous there is a walk through the miner’s labyrinth. From Zamkowa Gora, a beautiful view of the town and it surroundings (the Klodzko Lands) spreads out before us, with the Table Mountains and the Snieznik Massif emerging in the background.
The fortress in Silver Mountain is the tallest mountain structure of this type in Europe.
In the second half of the 18th century, fortresses guarding the Srebrnej Przeleczy (Silver Pass) were erected by order of the Prussian king, Frederick II. A central point in these defences is the Donzon (Bastion) fortress whose battlements and batteries were erected along the ridge of the Sowie Mountains. While on the other side of the pass, along the Bardski range, stands Ostrog (Spur). In their entirety they form a powerful stronghold which even Napoleon himself could not take. This fortification is fully self-sufficient and can withstand a siege for around 9 – 12 months, without external re-supply.
The majestic tower still overlooks the encircling mountains. A decision by the President of Poland had the facility included on a list of historical monuments. The Fortress Cultural Park is located on the premises of the tower. Srebrna Gora is not without its curiosities either. There is a narrow-gauge railway from the early 20th century, with an interesting portion that passes between two huge viaducts.
The gold mine
Zloty Stok is a Silesian town lying at the foot of the Zloty (Gold) Mountains, on the Czech border. Although it is not the largest or richest of towns, it possesses its own unique wealth – an intriguing past.
The first evidence of mining in Zloty Stok dates from the first millennium AD. At the beginning of the 16th century the town, called Reichenstein (Richstone) by the Germans, began to flower thanks to the mining and working of gold. The search for this precious ore continued until the closing of the mine in the late 1960s, this, even though it had not fully rendered all its wealth.
Today you can take an underground trip and be enthralled by the cascade of a beautiful, 10 metre high waterfall. The only one in Poland and unique in all of Europe. But keep your eyes open! There is still some gold in these mines.
Experience the art of mining. “The successful, yet still unfinished struggle, of man against the elements. A struggle exceedingly tiresome and full of dramatic tension. A struggle which has demanded the knowledge, intelligence and desire of every generation from the stone age to our times.
After your underground excursion, take a stroll among the town’s many historic tenements. It is they, led by the famous Fugger Mouse, that form the Zloty Stok’s unique climate.
The Bear’s Cave is located at the Snieznik Massif (Kletno). It is 2230 m in length.
The opening to the cave was discovered in October 1966, as a result of marble extraction. The first team to penetrate the cave was led by Pulina and Ciezkowski. By the end of 1966, over 220 m of corridors had been discovered. Later explorations revealed that the total length of the corridors exceeded 2.5 km, with the height between the highest and lowest point approximately 60 m. The Bear’s Cave is the most beautiful, most interesting and largest Polish cave open to tourists. The interior temperature is around 6°C. The corridors have a horizontal configuration, with three levels connected by so called chimneys. The middle and lower layers are the best developed. Thanks to a film released in 2003, the lower part was presented to the public at large, for the first time. The central part, which is open to viewing, is accessed by foot on a tourist trail. Specially built walkways and lighting, not only ease viewing, but also protect the beautiful and unique natural attributes of this cave – its wonderful calcium dripstones. These underground corridors were formed over millions of years by the flow of water penetrating the marble deposits. Within the high open spaces, which can reach several metres in height, we find some fantastic formations of various shape. There are stalactites hanging from above and stalagmites protruding from below, cascades emanating from walls, draperies and many other forms, some of which can be several metres in length. The water flowing from them creates impressive calcium forms such as the cascades (the Deep Cascade and stone milk) over the entrance to the Corridor of Water. The variety and wealth of these calcium formations, together with the “cavelike” nature of the location, allows the Bear’s Cave to boldly compete with other facilities abroad. The trail is about 360 m in length and takes around 40 minutes to cover.