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Permanent exhibition

Origin and development of tourism in Giant Mountains



For the inhabitants of Bohemia and Silesia the beginnings of the oldest Slavic roads were paths over the Karkonosze mountains. Already of prehistoric times they were leading to places connected with the worship of water: springs of the Elbe River beneath the Śnieżka mountain and Łabski SPLACES OF WORSHIP

For the inhabitants of Bohemia and Silesia the beginnings of the oldest Slavic roads were paths over the Karkonosze mountains. Already of prehistoric times they were leading to places connected with the worship of water: springs of the Elbe River beneath the Śnieżka mountain and Łabski Szczyt, ‘The Holy Spring’ on the Grabowiec slope.

As early as in the Middle Ages two important roads ran across the Karkonosze mountains, namely: the ‘Silesian High Road’ – from Hostinne across the springs of the Elbe River and the Karkonosze ridge to the Silesian side to Jelenia Góra and Kowary; ‘the Czech High Road’ – from Wleń across Kamienica (vicinity of the present Szklarska Poręba) and the Karkonosze ridge, over to the Czech side and Czech Lowland.

The later network of tourist trails in Karkonosze was based on this original communication scheme from Silesia to Bohemia tried out during centuries.

Bolesław III Krzywousty (The Duke of Poland from 1102 to 1138) together with his army forced his way through the Karkonosze in 1100. ‘He marked a new way out leading to Bohemia… unexplored, through dreadful surroundings …’

Gaul Anonymous, A.D. 1113

An extract from the oldest Karkonosze mountains area map by Szymon Huttel, dating from the 16th century

According to tradition, already in the second half of the twelfth century the treasure–seekers (called the Walloons for their Roman descent) started penetrating Karkonosze and Isere Mountains. They came to Silesia from the south and west.

Economic activity of a man contributed to a better knowledge of the mountains. Walloons (mostly miners), were soon placed with wood-cutters – ‘dust-raisers’ , glass-workers melting mountain glass, and herbalists – ‘laboratory workers’.

A legend of a Mountain Ghost, sometimes called Mr John, Lord of the Mountains, Rübezahl, and Rzepiór, has been told by people living in Karkonosze since the old ages. Legends of Rzepiór – an embodiment of changeability and impetuosity of the Karkonosze nature, have always been a great tourists attraction.


Starting from the ancient times, people were looking for effective ways of wounds or diseases treatment and restoring of the lost health. Living in the natural environment, people were using well-known plants to get mysterious powers from them. The most famous ways of treatment were: willows’ bark for fever and joints’ pains, some resin for painful muscles’ crams and thyme for cough and various types of infections.

It was common opinion that plants had mysterious powers which could bring both the health and the death. The same agent could both cure and kill when used in the bigger dose.

A root of mandrake was regarded as a special one. When it was uprooted, a piercing groan could be heard. Mandrake was used to produce the relieve drugs. Its spited root (so called alrauna) that looked like a human being was a powerful magic agent especially in the Middle Ages. Many legends were connected with it.

For millenniums, people were looking for the philosopher stone that could be identified with the elixir of life. Its main goal was to clear the body of diseases, make the life longer or bring the old man back to young days.

With time, a group of people who knew a lot about existing plants, emerged. They started to prepare the first medicinal concoctions.

Roots-diggers and medicinal plants-pickers started their activity in Giant Mountains long time ago. With time, they more and more gave a helping hand for local pharmacists. Folk herbalist-alchemists (also called laboratory-assistants) were developing their activity intensively in 17th-18th century, especially in Karpacz where a special guild (to protect their business) was established . At the time of the intensive development of the guild, 28 herbalists were employed. They gathered journeymen, students, plants-pickers, assistants and sellers. Sellers were promoting and selling concoctions for various ailments on every market and fairs located in Lower Silesia and even abroad. They were seen in Prague, Cracow, Vienna, Moscow and London.

Almost for two centuries, Karpacz could exist and develop due to above presented guild. In fact, it did not have anything in common with quacks and charlatans, because the entire production of drugs was controlled by governmental pharmacists and all procedures had to be strictly obeyed.

On the exhibition, there are some plants that were picked up by herbalists in Giant Mountains, the old herbal pot (were plants were brewed and taken special powers). The original boxes for drugs are presented in the showcase next to the main exhibits. On the wall there is a bas-relief from 1930, prepared by the Carver School from Cieplice, that presents scenes of herbalists’ life such as: picking-up plants, activities in the herbal kitchen as well as the guild’s patron – the ghost of the mountains. In the past the bas-relief was located next to the main railway station in Karpacz.

In the middle of 19th century, as a result of new regulations (drugs amount restrictions, prohibition of door-to-door sales, limitation of trade markets and guild employment and significant development of pharmacy based on artificial chemicals similar to some herbs) the laboratory-assistants guild started to be on the decline. Its last representatives, as great experts on mountains, did guiding for a living.

At the exhibition you may see a sculpture – the triptych made by the Carver School from Cieplice Śląskie in 1930s: three scenes of herbalists’ life such as: picking-up plants, activities in the herbal kitchen as well as the guild’s patron – the ghost of the mountains called Karkonosz. Under the sculpture, in the showcase: the jar with the root of mandrake – in reality a root of a net garlic growing in the neighbourhood of the Small and Big Ponds in Karkonosze Mountains. The root was sold to the tourists as a souvenir - amulet as early as the 18th century. There are also little bottles, boxes, the herbalist’s knife, the jar, the mortar, the viper, the herbalist’s basket and the herbalist’s pot as well as the old photograph of Ernst August Zölfel – the last laboratory-assistant master located in the showcase.

Panoramas, waterfalls and palaces

Wanderers in the Giant Mountains admired exceptional beautiful panoramas looking from peaks .At the exhibition, there are reproductions of: the Massive Mountains, the Little Pond, the panorama from Miedzianka, view of Myslakowice and the following waterfalls: Łaba, Szklarka, Kamieńczyk and Podgórna. They also found palaces in Mysłakowice, Karpniki, Łomnica, Cieplice and Miłków very attractive

 History of mountain refuges

The first wooden mountain refuge at Sniezka peak, on the Silesian side, was built in 1850 by Fryderyk Sommer ,the innkeeper from Cieplice, who spent 2000 talars. He was also the last leaseholder of the refuge-chapel. The building burned on 22nd October 1857. It was rebuilt very fast but unfortunately it burned again in April 1862. Nobody knew why- maybe it was hit by a clap of thunder or somebody set it on fire. It is not a secret that the refuge brought impressive profits, so the owner decided to build it again for the third time. This last one existed for the longest time. It was well-equipped and in the good condition. After the Second World War it became a Polish mountain refuge.

When in 1868, at the Czech side of Sniezka peak, Blaške from the nearby Budy Graniczne built another mountain refuge, the competition significantly increased. F. Sommer won in this duel and in 1870 bought and took over the Czech mountain refuge. Since 1875 the Pohla family was the owner of both buildings. They managed both mountain refuges until the beginning of the Second World War. In tourist guides written at the beginning of 20th century the following info could be found: “ It is true that Pohl is the subject and the clerk of two emperors however he is a real ruler at the Sniezka peak”. He ran post offices in refuges: the German one – established in 1872 and Austrian-Hungarian. In 1873 the first postcard – regarded as one of the oldest in the world - was sent from Sniezka .

In 1960s and 1970s at the place of dismantled mountain refuge, the meteorological observatory and the restaurant – so called “flying plates” - was built.

The Chojnik castle

The reconstruction of the Piast castle Chojnik from the time of its magnificence (the first half of 17th century) is presented in the museum. Because of its attractive location, the castle played an important role in the development of the tourism in the region. Over the model, its photograph is hanging. At present, the ruins are one of the most important tourist attractions in the Jelenia Góra region.


Ryszard Kincel, an autor of a monograph on Polish hiking in Karkonosze in his book entitled ‘Polish nobility in the 17th and 18th centuries on top of the Śnieżka mountain’ wrote:

‘Poles, coming mostly from the flatlands of the Great Poland, Mazovia and Lithuania, when reaching Karkonosze discovered tourist values completely unknown to them’, remarking that ‘… they learned the love of the mountains in Karkonosze’.

Testimony of their stay are the entries in the visitors’ book laid out in Karkonosze shelter-houses. Many of these entries are of a poetic nature and their content expresses deep patriotic feelings.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries many outstanding Poles roamed Karkonosze, including: Adam Czartoryski, Izabela Czartoryska, Fryderyk Skarbek, Jan Olrych – Staniecki, Edward Dembowski, Józef Wybicki, Franciszek Dzierżykraj – Morawski, Bogusz Zygmunt Stęczyński.

There is a visitors’ book with Polish entries from a shelter on top of the Śnieżka mountain from 1800 to 1806, exhibited in the display case.


The first wooden shelter on the Silesian side of the top of the Śnieżka mountain was built in 1850 for 200 thalers by the innkeeper Fryderyk Sommer from Cieplice, who was the last leaseholder of the chapel – shelter. It burned down on 22 October, 1857. Even though it was quickly rebuilt, it burned down again in April 1862. The reason to that is unknown. Perhaps it caught fire because of a lightning or it was torched. It must have been bringing good profits, because its unlucky owner built the third shelter in a row the same year. The last one survived for the longest time. It was well-furnished and kept. A Polish shelter was located in it after the second World War.

Competition became fiercer when on the Czech side of the top of Śnieżka Czech shed-owner Blaške from the nearby Budy Graniczne (The Border Sheds) built another shelter in 1868. F. Sommer won it bought and in 1870 took over a Czech shelter. Since 1875 the Pohl family owned both shelters, which remained in their possession till the second World War. Guidebooks from the beginning of the 20th century quoted: ‘Pohl is the two emperor’s subject and clerk but he is a monocrat on Śnieżka’. In the shelters he ran a post office: German (established in 1872) and Austro-hungarian. In 1873 the first ever first-day cover from Śnieżka was sent from it, which also was one of the oldest ones in the world.

In the 1960s and 1970s a new metereological observatory and restaurant building - so-called ‘flying saucers’ were built in place of the pulled down shelter on the Silesian side.

It is situated by the main road leading to Śnieżka at 885 metres above sea level. On account of its origin and architecture it is the biggest tourist attraction in Karpacz Górny, well-attended by the tourists.

At the beginning of 19th century J.K. Dahl – a painter from Norway, at that time living in Dresden, became interested in the old church situated by the Wang lake in southern Norway, in the Valdres provinces.

Thanks to the lucky coincidence he managed to buy it for 120 thalers for – at that time reigning – king Fryderyk Wilhelm IV museum’s collection. After making a quite precise inventory of the little church, in summer 1841 it was reassembled and transported to the Berlin Museum’s storehouse. It would have been still remaining there for a long time untill it could see the light of day again, if another lucky coincidence not happened. Local philanthropist Fryderyka von Reden, an owner of the large estate in Bukowiec, persuaded the king to rebuild the church in Karpacz Górny. The land, where the church was planned to be located, had been donated by the landowner count Leopold Schaffgotsch to a highland community in 1842. Today it borders on Karkonosze National Park’s woodland. Total costs of rebuilding and adding a new presbytery amounted to over 80 000 Marks, excluding money spent on the purchase of the church and its transport from Norway.

The Feast of Dedication of the church took place on 28th July 1844.

Nowadays the Wang Church belongs to the Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland and services are held every Sunday.

The Karkonosze Society (1880 – 1945)

The Karkonosze Society - Riesengebirgs-Verein (RGV) played a significant role in the development of tourism in the Giant Mountains. It was established on 1st August 1880 on initiative of Teodor Donat from Mysłakowice. The members of the society were divided into sections which were active in many places – not only in Lower Silesia. The first section was established on 3rd August 1880 in Mysłakowice. At the end of 1880, 14 sections were active in Mysłakowice, Cieplice Zdrój, Jelenia Góra, Kowary, Podgórzyn, Świeradów Zdrój, Miłków, Kamienna Góra, Zgorzelec, Szklarska Poręba, Lubawka, Mirsk, Barcinek, Sosnówka; there were 867 members registered altogether.

In the first years of activity, the society took care of building and modernizations of roads in the mountains as well as marking of tourist paths. In 1905, on the jubilee of 25 years of the society existence, “the Jubilee Road” – the road that goes from Równia pod Śnieżką to Sniezka peak was opened. Between 1881 – 1943 the society published the magazine “Der Wanderer im Riesengebirge” – The Wanderer from the Giant Mountains - that promoted the geographical and historical knowledge about the mountains and the region. At the same time, tourist news and info about the society activity were published. In 1914, the organization made the place in the new building located in Jelenia Góra available for the Giant Mountains Museum. The museum still exists. In 1927, within the confines of the Giant Mountains Society, the Mountain Guard (Bergwacht), was brought into existence. Its main goal was to protect the nature and animals as well as monuments of nature. The Giant Mountains Society was active in the Giant Mountains until the end of the Second World War..

At the exhibition there is a photograph of Teodor Donat – the founder of the Karkonosze Society as well as another one that presents the obelisk located next to Big Pond in the Giant Mountains. There are also: a membership badge of the society, the geological picture of the Western Sudety Mountains section and also some photos that present the opening ceremony of the Karkonosze Museum in 1914. In addition, a funny reproduction of a postcard that promoted fund-raising for mountain roads building in the Giant Mountains is available to see. Finally, there are magazines published by the society “The Wanderer from the Giant Mountains”.


Health resort Cieplice played one of the most important parts in the development of tourism in Karkonosze. Those who were staying at Cieplice springs usually did not neglect hiking in the mountains. Climbing the top of Śnieżka became so fashionable that it was even described by an author of the ‘Śląski labirynt historyczny’ (‘The Silesian Historical Labyrinth’) has written:

‘Silesians, as well as foreigners, who visit Jelenia Góra’s hot springs, show interest in walking in the mountains with a guide and climbing to the top of Śnieżka.’

There are numerous preserved documents describing Polish visitors to Cieplice. The oldest ones date back to the 17th century.

It would be impossible to recall all of them but one particular stay should be mentioned: stay of Michał Radziwiłł in 1677 (then the Lithuanian vice chancellor) and Teodor Billewicz (his travelling companion), who in his travel diary included the first Polish description of Cieplice springs.

The most distinguished visitor however was Maria Kazimiera ‘Marysieńka’ Sobieska, the Polish queen, who came to Cieplice with her daughter Teresa and sons Aleksander and Konstanty in the summer 1687. Other visitors were: Hugo Kołłątaj (1792 and 1808), Edward Dembowski (1846), Wincenty Pol and Kornel Ujejski (1847), Roman Zmorski (1847) and many others.

The influx of Polish guests was so big that a guidebook in Polish was written especially for them. It was published by W. B. Korn in 1850: ‘Cieplice and its Vicinity in 38 Pictures Gathered in 12 Hikes through Pilgrimage in Sudety…’ one of the oldest Polish guidebooks.

This part of the exhibition is devoted to Tadeusz Różewicz,

an outstanding Polish poet and playwright, since the nineties in close relationship with Karkonosze and Karpacz. His works are exhibited here: the manuscript of the poem ‘Gawęda o spóźnionej miłości’ (poemat o Wandzie Rutkiewicz)’ (‘A tale about late love’ a poem about Wanda Rutkiewicz), the poem ‘W gościnie u Henryka Tomaszewskiego w Muzeum Zabawek’ ( ‘Visiting Henryk Tomaszewski in the Toy Museum’) and the humorous sketch ‘Dziwna i nieprawdziwa historia o spotkaniu z Rübezahlem czyli Janem Liczyrzepą w Karpaczu’ (‘The strange and untrue story about meeting Rübezahl, that is John Liczyrzepa in Karpacz’.

These works have been published thanks to a joint effort of friends from Karpacz in 300 numbered copies in a luxury edition in December 1997.

When organising a temporary exhibition in the Museum of Sport and Tourism in Karpacz a notelet dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the artist’s birth was issued in 1000 copies and also a luxury edition of the ‘Jeden dzień w życiu poety’ (‘One day in poet’s life’) in 300 numbered copies.

In 2003 at the second anniversary of the opening of this exhibition

the museum published a publication ‘Tadeusz Różewicz – poeta

i dramaturg w Karkonoszach’ (‘Tadeusz Różewicz – the poet and playwright in Karkonosze’).

Moreover, poet donated his first fountain pen and glasses, which make very precious exhibits.

Nonetheless, the most precious exhibits are three Literary Award ‘Nike’ Nominations (1998, 1999, 2000) and the Literary Award ‘Nike’ 2000 itself. ‘Silver pen’ in a case – readers award in a contest under the same name, distinctions and honorable mentions, among other: Grand Cross Rebirth of Poland Order ‘Polonia Restituta’, a prize from a weekly magazine ‘Nowiny Jeleniogórskie’ – ‘Kryształ Górski’ awarded in February 1988, a diploma and a medal ‘Distinguished for Karpacz’, ‘Key to Wrocław Gateways – a merit award granted by Wrocław’, and many more.

Wanda Rutkiewicz – ”Polish woman on the peak of the world”

In 1979, Sports and Tourism Museum of Karkonosze region organised a contemporary exhibition entitled: ”Polish woman on the peak of the world” that summarized the activity of the most outstanding Polish climber Wanda Rutkiewicz. On 18th October 1978, she became the first Western and the third woman to reach the top of Mount Everest 8.848 m.
Wanda Rutkiewicz started climbing in the Sudety Mountains; more precisely in the Sokole Mountains, in the Rudawy Janowickie and in the Giant Mountains. She climbed over Snieżne Kotły and Wielki Kocioł Małego Stawu.
The following registration is a great memento after the exhibition:

”Thank you for nice honouring
of reaching the top of Mount Everest by me
by the exhibition that has been prepared
so great by the Sports and Tourism Museum”

Karpacz, 27th October.1979 Wanda Rutkiewicz
This registration become an inspiration for the great poet Tadeusz Różewicz to write a beautiful poem entitled: “The tale about late love”. Its manuscript is owned by the museum.

Development of winter sport in Giant Mountains


The development of winter sports in Karkonosze Mountains from the first half of the twentieth century

The Giant Mountains were the first place in Europe where people went on for winter sports. Former horned sleighs which were used in 18th and 19th century for economic purposes soon became popular as a way of entertainment. The first downhill drive was recorded in the first half of 19th century.
In the second half of 19th century downhill drives became very popular. The first three pairs of Norwegian skies were brought to the Giant Mountains in 1885. Five years later in winter 1890-1891 a retired captain O.Norweg from Cieplice did a first ski expedition in the Giant Mountains. On 7th March 1893, e climbed the Sniezka Peak walking on skies. The first Norwegian skies came to Karpacz in 1894. Taking them as a model, a local carpenter prepared two copies made of beech wood. Skies made of ash were made on a mass scale starting from 1903. In the same year in Upper Karpacz, a local ski club was established. The first competition for local teens was organized in 1905.
Somewhat later, Karpacz as well as regional and national championships started to be organized. German championships took place in Karpacz too. In the Olympic year 1928, European championships in Toboganning were organized in Szklarska Poręba. In 1930, in Karpacz, German championships in winter sports took place. A lot of great competitors took part in this event. One of the most famous was a toboganner Manfred Tietze from Upper Karpacz, who won five gold medals in the European championships in the time between world wars.

History of winter sports in the Jelenia Góra valley

Just one year after the Second World War, clubs and sports organizations started their activity in the region. In 1946, the first ski club in Karpacz - called the Silesian Ski Society - was established. On the initiative of Silesian activists, the Regional Ski Society in Wroclaw was founded. In January 1946, in Karpacz, 18 competitors (members of the Youth Organization of Universities for Workers) took part in the first ski tournament. In the next competition even more young people from the entire Lower Silesia were present at that event.
Establishment of the Spas’ Management in Karpacz was an important event for the development of sports in the region. Jerzy Ustupski - brown Olympic medallist in rowing from 11th Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 and well-known activist became a director of that organization. Soon, ski jump renovation works, managed by another famous Olympian – Stanisław Marusarz (a participant of the Olympic Games in 1932,1936,1948, 1952 and a runner-up od world championships of ski-jumps in 1938) were executed. The first jump of that great champion on 1st January 1947 opened a ski-jump in Karpacz. In the same year bobsleigh track was cleaned with active participation of Tadeusz Dajewski and Artur Wodzicki.
In 1947, 14 sports events were organized with over thousand participants. A lot of them were a nationwide, among others: the Ski Championships of Working Sports Societies (1947, 1948), ”Silesiady” organized by the Academic Sports Association between 1946-49, and also the National Championships.
The traditional events in our regions are: “The Karkonosze Cup” which was organized for the first time in 1947 in Szklarska Poręba and “The Samotnia Cup” that gathers skies from entire Poland. In 1947, an application the Silesian Sports Society was accepted by associations. The Karpacz Sports Club was named “Związkowiec” and Ryszard Sierbień became a president. In 1949 Karpacz organized ski and skating championships of Poland. Also the first bobsleigh and toboganning championships of Poland after the Second World War were organized in Karpacz .
After dissolution of the association “Związkowiec”, in 1950 r. a new sports club of the building federation ”Budowlani” with a new president Karol Pietryka was established. The club had the following sections: toboganning-bobsleigh, skeleton and ski.
In 1956, the club changed the name into sports club ”Sniezka”. This date is the agreed time of finishing a pioneer activity. In recognition of achievements, the Polish sports club received the medal ”100 years of the Polish sports” and “10 years of the Polish Toboganning Association” . A lot of famous and respected athletes and Olimpians came from ”Sniezka” club . The “Sniezka” sports club is very active also in present days.
At the exhibition “ From the history of winter sports”, you may follow the development of sports equipment from the oldest sledge, bobsleigh, skeletons, skibobs, skies, winter rockets (called “karple”) and skates. There are also a lot of interesting documents, trophies and souvenirs from sports events where the representatives of our region took part in.

Olympians from Karkonosze Mountains and Lower Silesia

In 1924, Winter Olympic Games took place for the first time. Some of the events were played before during summer Olympic games.
Polish athletes have been taken part in the competition since the very beginning. Competitors from the Giant Mountains went to the Winter Olympic Games in 1956 (Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy) and represented Poland in bobsleigh. From the team of four, there were three men from the Jelenia Gora region: Aleksy and Zygmunt Konieczny as well as Włodzimierz Źróbik. Aleksy Konieczny started also in double bobsleigh.
Toboganning is the youngest event of winter Olympic games which was registered in 1964. The competition combines of three events: men-single, women-single and men-double.
In 1964, on ninth Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, a toboganner from Karpacz, Barbara Gorgoń – Flontowa came fifth in the competition. Ryszard Witke from Karpacz and Andrzej Sztolf from Szklarska Poręba – both ski jumpers – also took part in that Olympic Games. Janusz Darasz was a reserve in the Toboganning team.
Eight years later in 1972, in Sapporo, Japan Mirosław Więckowski took part in the competition (together with W. Kubik) came in fifth-sixth place and Halina Kanasz – Woźny came in sixth-seventh place. Although toboganners did know win the Olympic medal, they were one of the best in the world. Four years later, in 1976, again in Innsbruck, Austria twelfth Winter Olympic Games took place. This time the biggest group of representatives took part in the competition: altogether seven toboggans: Teresa Bugajczyk, Halina Kanasz, Jan Kasielski, Andrzej Kozik, Andrzej Piekoszewski, Mirosław Więckowski and Andrzej Żyła. After a long break, in 1992 during 16th Winter Olympic Games in Albertville and in 1996 on the next 17th Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer a toboganner Adrian Przechewka took part in the competition
During the 18th Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan in 1998 the following bobsleigh team represented Poland: Tomasz Gatka, Norbert Foltin, Dawid Kupczyk, Krzysztof Sieńko and Tomasz Żyła and in Toboganning : Piotr Orsłowski and Robert Mieszała. In the following Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 a bobsleigh team: Adrian Przechewka, Tomasz Gatka, Dawid Kupczyk, Krzysztof Sieńko, Grzegorz Gryczka and Tomasz Żyła took part in the competition.
In two showcases on the first floor, there are pictures of participants of winter Olympic Games, their Olympic medals, badges, start numbers and Olympic passports. Precious exhibits are: Olympic medals from Albertville (1992) , Nagano (1998) which were given as a present by Antoni Okniański – a coach of the Polish toboggans national team. There are also:, the Olympic medal from Salt Lake City 2002 given as a present by a coach of the Polish bobsleigh national Andrzej Żyła, the commemorative book of the Urban Department in Karpacz with the registration of solemn farewell of Olympians – toboggans on 27th January 1976.

19th-century tourism in Karkonosze had its characteristic features, including carrying tourists in sedan chairs or sliding on horned sleigh, which were a great attraction. There are several items exhibited here: an old wooden rucksack, a 19th-century sedan chair, Karkonosze horned sleigh with a special droshky part. Moreover, there are some depictions: a mountain guide, a tourist in a sedan chair and a run down the hill on a horned sleigh.
First information about mountain guides comes from the 2nd half of the 18th century. They appeared occasionally at this time though. It was only at the end of the next century when a sudden development of tourism came about. Karkonosze were one of the first places where government office took the control over mountain guiding. Karkonosze guides are depicted on the 17th- and 18th-century drawings with characteristic wooden rucksacks called ‘nosiłki’.
Among all guides there were also Poles who lived in Karkonosze.
Jerzy Fryderyk Suchodolski, Jan Gruszczewski and Walenty Grzała were those who - among others - guided tourists in Karkonosze.
The interest in Karkonosze began to spread to the western parts of the mountains and the subject of sightseeing started to appear in graphic works more frequently.
In the 19th century tourist base was still growing and so were production of tourist equipment and souvenirs, expert guiding was organised and guidebooks for tourists were published.
The history of carrying tourists in sedan chairs beneath Śnieżka is about 300 years old. In 1697 (on 31st August to be precise) Count Krzysztof Leopold Schaffgotsch with twenty people, including foresters, a butler, a cook, two soldiers and even a Franciscan priest Eustachiusz - whose role was to fight the Mountain Ghost - as well as subjects carrying His Excellency himself and useful items all climbed to the top of Śnieżka.
Korpus Przewodników i Tragarzy Lektyk Bagażu (Guides and Sedan-Chair Luggage Carriers Association) started its activity in 1817 and most probably it was the first such organisation in Europe.
To confirm that there is a document dating from 15th August 1838 from the Internal Affairs Department for Royal Court Clerks in Legnica to Kameralny Office in Sobieszów.
‘In 1817 under royal supervision a guides and sedan-chair carriers organisation was founded in Jelenia Góra district. Its aim was to allow only appropriate people with an official permit to serve visitors among all guides and carriers working for tourists.
… Present guides and sedan-chair carriers organisation in Jelenia Gora district is correct both from the law and statutory points of view, because it is based on the §21 of 2nd November 1810 concerning common industrial tax introduction and on the §131 law of 7th September 1811 concerning police craft conditions’.
In 1844 tourists climbing the top of Śnieżka could make use of five guides, eight sedan-chair carriers and seven sedan-chair carriers helpers’ services. They were people of different professions: twelve of them were daily workers and two were carpenters. There were also a country judge, a tailor, a weaver, a stallholder, a shoemaker and even a herbalist.
Sedan-chair carriers activity in Karkonosze ended at the beginning of the 20th century.

At first, sleigh had mostly functional role – they served as a means of transport. Karkonosze highlanders used the so-called ‘horned’ sleigh for transport of hay and timber. The custom of bringing tourists down the mountains on horned sleigh became widespread only in 1815.
Immediately after the liberation sport clubs and organisations started operating in the Lower Silesia. The oldest ones are sport club ‘Śnieżka’ in Karpacz and sport club ‘Julia’ in Szklarska Poręba.
A number of mass events and championship competitions were organised. The credit for it goes primarily to many most cooperative activists and organisers.

After the end of the second Word War the sledging in Poland was quickest organised as a sport at this time in Karkonosze.
Many national and international sport events took place on the sledge-bob-sleigh run in Karpacz.
Snowshoes (to walk on snow) and skis (to slide on snow) were invented in the process of developing snow transport devices. Skiing became popular in Central Europe in the 2nd half of the 19th century. In 1894 people climbed the top of Śnieżka on skis for the first time ever. Right after the war many national ski competitions were held in Karkonosze: Ski Championship (1947 – 1948); ‘Silezjady’ of Academic Sport Association (1946 – 1949); Polish Championship (1948).
‘Puchar Karkonoszy’ (‘The Karkonosze Cup’) is a traditional event that has been organised every year since 1947.
A skier – Stanisław Marusarz an Olympian; a Sport Devices Officer of the Health resorts Administration; he was in charge of construction of two ski jumps and ski runs in Karpacz.

Protection of nature

The park established in 1959. It spans over an area of 5,5 thousand hectares, stretching as a 25 –kilometre long strip of land along the Polish – Czech border from Kowary to Szklarska Poręba. Its foundation was dictated by a necessity to protect the elements of mountain natural environment which kept their original - similar to natural - character.
The main purpose was to create a possibility to restore nature to its original condition, even in places where human hand wreaked havoc. Human interference in the reservation protected area comes down to carrying out sanitary treatment and redevelopment of tree stands, in the aim of erasing the tracks of former, improper forest economy.
A limited amount of tourist devices, which have been installed, are designed to enable people to have a direct contact with nature and at the same time taking into consideration its greatest possible respect for it and its protection.
The most precious elements of the Karkonosze National Park are under the reservation protection. These are mainly areas situated above the upper tree line. The park’s natural and tourist attractions appeal to numerous visitors. Maintaining these values, respecting nature, its beauty and majesty depend on tourists good manners, their understanding and willingness to obey rules of tourism as well as KPN regulations.
The Karkonosze mountains were formed at the time of caledonian orogenic moves, i.e. about 450 million years ago. They are built of very
diversified rocks in terms of their forming and age. In these mountains we can find mainly granites and accompanying rocks. The highly situated plateau areas, northern mountain slopes and Jelenia Góra valley are built of granites. On Śnieżka and to the north-east there are not many considerably older rocks, i.e. precambrian, which provide casing for the warysycyjski granite. The Karkonosze granite divides into a few characteristic variants, out of which two appear in the territories of the Karkonosze National Park: an average- and equal-grainy granite as well as an average- and coarsely-grainy granite. There are also gneisses and crystalline schists in smaller amounts. The only basalt vein can be found in Śnieżne Kotły (The Snow Pots). The postglacial pots in Karkonosze owe their harsh alpine shape to the movements of local mountain glaciers. All of the island mountains (monadnoks, inselbergs) in Karkonosze are natural features of historic importance.
The exhibited rocks come from the western Sudety area.
The flora of Karkonosze, its existing conditions and history, are closely related the habitat which was formed during very long geological periods. The formation of plant habitats was influenced by landform features, their shape, geological structure and individual types of rocks, out of which waste and soil were formed, as a result of growing flora. Water conditions were also important: rainfall levels, ways of rainfall accumulation in the rocks. The worldwide prohibition of gathering plants in national parks and nature reserves, as well as the rules of plant species protection remain valid also in this park. Among all the plants growing in Sudety there are some under complete protection: the lycopodium (club-mosses), yew-trees, dwarf mountain pine, aconites, alpine pasque-flower, anemone, ciliate gentian, arnica (mountain tobacco) and orchids.
Moreover, some plants are under partial protection: the green hellebore and gentian.
All flora growing in the wild should be left unspoilt for other people to admire. It is worth noticing that an appropriate attitude towards plants and nature in general gives testimony to one’s good manners.
A characteristic feature of the Karkonosze fauna is the richness of mountain different origin. Some part of them came here during the Ice Age and survived to our times thanks to the favourable environment conditions. Most of the animals are similar to those who live in the whole area of Central Europe, mainly in the mountains, but also found in lowlands. On account of the fact that majority of the park’s area is populated with coniferous (spruce) forests, different bird species living in this environment are the most commonly met. These are among others: chaffinches, goldcrests (reguluses), robins, titmice, black woodpeckers, green-grey woodpeckers and kestrels.
Karkonosze mammals include: red deers, roe-deers, moufflons, martens, foxes, badgers, ermines, voles, squirrels and hedgehogs.
A typical feature of the flora in Karkonosze is its differentiation depending on climatic conditions at different heights. The following strata of flora are represented in the area of the Karkonosze National Park:
lower subalpine forest 500 – 1000 metres above sea level
upper subalpine forest 1000 – 1250 metres above sea level
subalpine stage (dwarf mountain pine) 1250 – 1450 metres above sea level
alpine stage 1450 – 1603 metres above sea level
The higher the given area is raised above sea level, the lower the average annual temperature and the higher the average rainfall level are.
The annual rainfall level in Karkonosze fluctuates between 900 mm to over 1400 mm.
First mountain guiding course, which was finished with an exam, took place in 1947 and 30 trainee guides completed it then. Afterwards they were guiding tourists from different parts of Poland.
Tadeusz Steć (1925-1993), a tutor for numerous guides, an author of many sightseeing studies and guidebooks to Western Sudety, immensely contributed to the development of Polish mountain guiding in Sudety after the second World War. A sightseeing monograph ‘Karkonosze' (ed. 1954 and 1962) written with W. Walczak and guidebook ‘Western Sudety’ (ed. 1965) were his most important works. T. Steć was also an author of texts accompanying many tourist maps of Karkonosze, Isere, Kaczawskie and Wałbrzyskie Mountains. He is remembered in the history of Sudety guiding as the ‘guides guide’ who was sharing his vast knowledge in a masterly way.
Koło Przewodników Sudeckich (Sudety Guides Association) with its headquarters in Jelenia Góra was established in 1953. Its rules state: ‘Guides Association is a form of a guide council, whose members carry out their basic tasks in a range of programme hike services, they undergo trainings and improve their professional qualifications, initiate and carry out social tasks in tourism’.
Currently there are 230 guides in Koło Przewodników Sudeckich (the Sudety Guides Association) in Jelenia Góra, including approximately 60 permanent guides. This association is considered one of the best nationwide.
First attempts at organising mountain rescue were made by the members of Jelenia Góra department of Polish Tourist Association at the turn of 1946 and 1947.
Completing Zarząd Główny Polskiego Towarzystwa Turystyczno-Krajoznawczego (the Main Board Polish Tourist Association) resolution of 15th September 1952, a mountain rescue section was established in Sudety with its headquarters in Jelenia Góra. First mountain rescue course was organised between 10th and 14th December 1952. It took place in ‘Samotnia’ shelter. According to sources, there were 17 guide candidates who participated in it: Marian Biskupski, Roman Brodacki, Janusz Gruszewski, Stanisław Januszko, Mieczysław Kłapa, Jerzy Królak, Wiesław Marcinkowski, Stanisław Misior, Tadeusz Mucha, Franciszek Niepsuj, Zbigniew Skoczylas, Bronisław Staroń, Stanisław Staroń, Tadeusz Steć, Zbigniew Pawłowski, Bogdan Piotrowicz and Mieczysław Radoń.
The Sudety Voluntary Mountain Rescue founding meeting took place on 14th December 1952, during which board was elected – it included: Tadeusz Steć (the chairman), Wiesław Marcinkowski, Stanisław Misior, Roman Brodacki and Tadeusz Mucha.

· First Sudety Voluntary Mountain Rescue base was situated in PTTK hostel’s porch in Jelenia Góra
· First rescue operation was carried out on 26th December 1952; Wiesław Marcinkowski and Stanisław Misior transported an injured skier from the Biały Jar (The White Ravine) hillside
· Wiesław Marcinkowski and Tadeusz Mucha were the first part-time guides. They were on duty in ‘Samotnia’ and ‘Hala Szrenicka’ shelters in winter 1952/1953.
The next mountain rescue course was organised in ‘Hala Szrenicka’ in May 1954. As a result, the circle of guides expanded. First professional guides were: Tomasz Gorayski, Stanisław Kieżuń, Wiesław Marcinkowski, Tadeusz Mucha and Waldemar Siemaszko.
The group received their first ambulance in 1956. This army surplus Dodge was in a bad technical condition and it had to be withdrawn from use right after. Their first off-road car was GAZ-69. At present the group has three off-road cars, four snow scooters and Honda TRX vehicles.
In 1967 Sudety Group organised an exhibition depicting its history and achievements in mountain rescue on its 15th anniversary.
In March 1968 a great tragedy took place in the Polish mountains. An avalanche’s descent in Biały Jar (The White Ravine) carried away
a group of tourists from the Soviet Union and NRD. 19 people lost their lives. The rescue was organised by Sudety Voluntary Mountain Rescue lifeguards, WOP soldiers and Horska Służba lifeguards. Additionally, rescue dogs turned out to be helpful in the proceedings. Stanisław Kieżuń, governor at that time, supervised the whole operation.
An administrative reform in Poland divided the Sudety Voluntary Mountain Rescue into two groups: Karkonosze and Wałbrzych-Kłodzko. This happened in 1976, during the Guide Day celebration at the Książ Castle near Wałbrzych, with the GOPR chief Jan Komornicki participating.
Ryszard Jaśko was appointed the leader of the GOPR Karkonosze Group and Stanisław Ządek was appointed the leader of the GOPR Wałbrzych-Kłodzko Group.
The grand opening of GOPR central station in Jelenia Góra was held in September 1978.
Rescue operations involve many people as well as very expensive specialist equipment. Proper rescue demands high qualifications from our crew which they develop during numerous trainings. We also widen our experience by participating in lectures, mountain rescue demonstrations and supporting many publications.
In the 50 years of our existence there were 534 guides in the Group.
Lifeguards worked voluntarily for 814.687 hours.
There were 31.369 operations undertaken in years 1952 – 2001, including:
- 9 220 rescue operations
- 1 075 rescue expeditions
- 7 rescue expeditions with a helicopter
There were 96 fatalities in total.
Now GOPR Karkonosze Group consists of five operating sections in Jelenia Góra, Lubawka, Karpacz, Szklarska Poręba and Świeradów Zdrój.
Lifeguards work in six all-year rescue stations and five temporary ones.
The area of Group’s activity covers 3025 km2 in Western Sudety.
In 2002 GOPR Karkonosze Group consisted of:
144 voluntary guides
18 guide candidates
9 professional guides