Boleslawiec: Polish town offers much to do beyond shopping for ceramic treasures
Stripes Travel reader
Think Boleslawiec, Poland. Think pottery. Think again.
Though pottery put this charming town on the map, it is everything else the area has to offer that has visitors returning to do more than shop.
John and Barbara Alaszewski are a good example. The British couple first traveled to Boleslawiec, just across the German border, in the early 1990s to buy pottery for Barbara’s London antique store. Several visits over the years left such an impression that that they decided to retire on the outskirts of Boleslawiec. In 2005, they opened a little boutique hotel in an old barn built before 1800. They named it the Blue Beetroot Hotel.
“When I walked inside, it was such a beautiful old antique that needed restoration and I just thought it’s within our grasp to perhaps … completely rebuild it,” Barbara recalled. There are many such buildings in the area begging for salvation before time and what some call progress wear them down completely and erase them from memory.
The Alaszewskis are fascinated with Boleslawiec’s history and with helping the town look to the future. They consider it their passion to spread the word about what Barbara calls “the undiscovered gem of Europe.”
“Boleslawiec is a wonderful place actually,” Barbara says. “It has great potential as a tourist town because it is so cute.”
She also points to the thick forests, sparkling lakes, numerous castles and friendly neighbors to bolster her argument.
Lovers of the outdoors can stay busy from dawn until dark.
Fishing is available off the piers surrounding the small lakes nestled among wooded sand dunes at Stara Oleszna. Anglers pay a daily fee that authorizes them to keep about 4½ pounds of fish, with an extra charge for anything caught over that. Take your own fishing tackle and a picnic.
And take your own gun if you are interested in hunting wild boar or deer. The Alaszewskis will assist with the necessary paperwork.
If you would rather hunt with binoculars or a camera, local reserves offer great opportunities to see deer, beavers, foxes, hedgehogs, red squirrels and wild boars. Birdlife includes white eagles, hawfinches, woodpeckers, nuthatches and other rare migrating birds. Storks can often be observed catching frogs in the fields. There are also many rare and protected plant species in the area.
There are several options for horseback riding, including lessons or a gallop through the woods. About an hour’s drive away is Karpacz, where you can begin a western-style horse trek through the Sudety Mountains.
Also nearby is Kliczkow Castle. This palace was completely renovated and is now a luxurious resort. Wander around the beautiful grounds, admire the local artwork and have a drink in the courtyard under ancient trees.
Czocha Castle, an 800-year- old Gothic castle with a minstrel’s gallery, towers and ramparts, is about one hour from Boleslawiec. The hotel castle is haunted by the past. Climb the towers, descend to the dungeon, circle the ramparts and finish up in the restaurant with a cup of coffee.
If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, try the local brewery, Browar Slaski, in the town of Lwowek. Browar Slaski claims to be the oldest private brewery in Europe. It has been brewing since the 12th century and uses original recipes. The unique-tasting beer contains no chemicals or preservatives. Tours and beer tastings can be arranged.
Lwowek and the surrounding area is also well-known for its minerals. Gold and silver are rarely found, but agates are very common. After digging for agates and panning for precious metals, take your raw stones back to the workshop run by Robert Zawadzki and have them cut and polished.
The mountains offer scores of beautiful trails to be hiked any time of the year. A chairlift will take you up to the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. Karpacz has a toy museum, an interesting wooden church transferred from Norway and re-erected in 1842, and a year-round toboggan ride.
The town of Boleslawiec, more than 750 years old, deserves a little attention of its own.
Choose a pretty day to walk around the town starting at the town square. There you will find the Ratusz — town hall— and the Church of our Lady’s Assumption.
In front of the 13th-century church there is an original archway and part of the old town walls. Though the walls survived the Napoleonic wars, they were mostly demolished in the 19th century and have since been turned into several parks that encircle the town. Walk through these parks, called Planty Miejskie, and stop at the Ceramics Museum or Town History Museum on the way. English-speaking guides are available.
Pay attention to the 1,500- foot-long stone viaduct near the downtown. The 1840s structure is considered one of Poland’s most important technical highlights.
Great antiques can be found in town. Every Sunday there is a market in one of the surrounding towns. Bargains are easy to find if you go early. There is also a daily flea market in Boleslawiec where treasures, fresh flowers and produce are abundant.
Hairdressing, manicures and massages are as inexpensive as everything else in Poland. All services cost about $5, and the professionally trained massage therapists will go to your hotel room. A day of beauty might even include a trip to a Polish dentist. All denistry, including cosmetic work, is priced at about one-fourth of what is found in the rest of Europe.
But even if you don’t see a dentist, you are sure to remember the people and the sights of Boleslawiec with a smile.
Susanna Hickman Bartee is founder/ editor of www.militarymama.net. She and her husband, Shane Bartee, recently returned to the States from Germany following an assignment with the Army. While in Europe, Susanna developed a fascination with Poland, its pottery and its people. E-mail her at email@example.com.