Daytime temperatures were spiralling up into the 30s and high pressure was set to squat across Central Europe for the next few days.
We decided to forego a return westward to Germany to see Dresden and set upon bathing in some Silesian sunshine in the south west corner of Poland for a few days.
Travelling across the winding hillsides of the Lower Silesia region felt like being in a different country altogether. For the first time we were climbing up altitudes through rolling open farmland bordered by dark forests and bounded by the Sudeten Mountains in the south west, the border with the Czech Republic.
Farmsteads and rural hamlets lined the route, not all of them picturesque and we commented on the attractiveness of old wooden barns over the many breeze blocked and concrete rendered homes.
High blues skies and hot sunshine gave a clear light through which to see the many small tractors and harvesters at work in the fields. The average size of a Polish farm is only 6 hectares, so the size of farm vehicle is small and often vintage, compared to the large industrial size machinery we are used to seeing at home.
We took the Spa Towns road towards the border. The area is rich in mineral springs and has many underground labyrinths and extraordinary rock formations for the pleasure of the potholer-minded. That isn’t us so instead we headed into Polanica-Zdrój for some mineral water to bathe in.
Suitably dressed up for a day in the elegant spa resort we enjoyed a stroll the long way round into its tree-lined centre of hotels, clinics and eateries. Like our experience of German towns based on health resorts the people around us were variously luxuriating in a pampering leisure break or visibly ill and needing rest and recuperative treatment.
The town’s spa turned out to be available only with a prior booking, which we hadn’t made, so instead we ventured off in the direction of an advertised spa hotel.
Walking the length of a simply lovely tree-lined park, which wound steeply up hill to the top of the town’s valley, it wasn’t hard to imagine the gentle meanderings of Edwardian men suited in high collars and bowler hats and women in layers of floating muslin strolling beneath the shade of fabric parasols as they ‘took the waters’ and listened to the music of spa fan, Chopin, who gave concerts for charity when in the area.
Regrettably our climb took us only to the hospital, somewhat ironically, which called a halt to the day’s quest for a mineral water inspired dip. Instead we headed back to Bertha to cool down aching feet. The late afternoon heat was in the high 20s.
The next day we moved on to nearby Kudowa-Zdrój, just 3kms from the Czech Republic border.
The small and pretty town is thriving still on its eight mineral springs that provide drinking water and prescribed medical treatments. We went to the baroque pump house to sample the sulphuric warm and cold drinking water that is sold by the half litre (with the compulsory purchase of a plastic cup).
The water is highly mineral in its content and perfect for ‘all common weariness and conditions of fatigue’. It’s also quite sickening to taste but when in Rome… let’s have a couple!
Trying not to let the sulphuric gassiness repeat for fear of devilish bad breath, it was time to enjoy the town’s parklands, set out as an ‘English landscape’. It was a delight to stroll through a long avenue lined with topiary, tea roses and masses of pretty pink cosmos.
On either side wide grassy lawns were shaded by perfect weeping willow trees. The warm sunshine caused late summer seed pods to drift and float in the air. At its end a lake formed a natural boundary with the open rural farmland that led up to shadowy blue hills. It was idyllic.
Taking a train the next day through the hillsides, we enjoyed spectacular views across the high pastures towards the Sudeten Mountains.
The single track line used to run across the border with the Czech Republic to Germany, but now stops short at Kudowa-Zdrój. It has been rebuilt very recently with funding from the EU and provides a local service that connects tiny Silesian hamlets to a Wrocław bound service.
The sleek modern train with picture windows (and leg room!) gave two hours of twisting travel past the sunlight-dappled and emerald moss-covered floors of towering pine forests, across sudden open expanses of high pasture with peacefully grazing cattle, and alongside small holdings of fruit trees, vegetable patches and chickens, dotted along the length of its line.
Road, or track crossings, were announced by a short blast of the train’s horn as we crawled passed the occasional waiting car. It meant a forced slow pace but time to enjoy the journey, a return to Polinica and back, to blow our last handful of zloty on lunch. We feasted on freshly grilled trout and salad and stuffed cabbage rolls in mushroom sauce. The bikes were close-by having cost just 50 pence for their safe travel each way.
This small local train service has a lot to teach those managing the Southern rail network at home!