The Gold of Walbrzych
If you thought your childhood dream of hunting for hidden treasures Indiana Jones-style could never fit into a satisfying holiday in Europe, think about hunting for gold in Walbrzych, a major mining and industrial center in Lower Silesia. According to The Guardian, two treasure hunters now claim they’ve managed to locate a long-lost Nazi train filled with gold, gems, and weapons. As Soviet forces entered this part of Poland in 1945, the “ghost train” allegedly went missing in a tunnel cutting through a heavily wooded area between Walbrzych and Wroclaw. The two explorers recently filed a “finder’s claim” with the local authorities, demanding 10 percent of more than 300 tons (600,000 pounds) of gold supposedly carried by the 150 m (500 ft) train.
Metal detectors in hand, fortune hunters have now descended on the scenic town in southwestern Poland, hoping to uncover buried treasure. Even if you don’t believe the outrageous claim, consider adding Walbrzych to your Poland itinerary to discover a lush natural area soaked in rich history and culture.
Walbrzych’s Other Notable Treasures
Situated within a protected natural area, Książ Castle serves as the city’s main attraction, known to many as the “Pearl of Lower Silesia.” Erected on a rocky cliff and surrounded by a dense forest, the structure dates back to the final decades of the 13th century and the rule of Bolko I the Strict. Nazi Germans used the castle for their Project Riese, a code name for a construction effort that resulted in seven underground tunnels, possibly built for secret weapons factories. Take a tour of the castle’s Baroque salons and terraces, and then descend into its unfinished underground tunnel, stretching for approximately 15 m (49 ft). The castle also houses an art gallery, two restaurants, and three hotels. Other highlights include the castle tower, stables, tomb chapel, and an indoor arena built of larchwood and without using any nails.
Two of the oldest botanic gardens in Poland, the luxurious Palmiarnia once formed part of the Książ Castle estate. Founded in the first decade of the 20th century by the then-owners of the castle, this popular Walbrzych attraction features a four-story palm house filled with exhibits of trees, flowers, cacti, and shrubs from around the world. Take a tour of this lavish natural world, and then rest and snack at the on-site cafe, serving delicious treats like hot apple pie with ice cream and whipped cream.
The Churches of Peace, Jawor and Swidnica
One of the largest timber-framed religious structures in Europe, the World Heritage-listed Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica date back to the mid-17th century. These Protestant buildings serve as important reminders of the quest for religious toleration following the historic Peace of Westphalia. Though restricted to construction using only wood or clay, the region’s Protestants erected three churches in less than a year. All three structures were the responsibility of architect Albrecht von Sabisch. The two remaining churches feature rather simple exteriors and spacious interiors exquisitely decorated with hundreds of scenes from both the New and Old Testament.
First mentioned in the 1270s during the reign of Boleslaw II Rogatka, the hillside Bolkow Castle sits above a small Silesian town of the same name. Largely destroyed in the battles of the Thirty Years’ War, the castle became property of a Cistercian monastery in the early 18th century. Restored in 1905, the castle now serves as the site of a wildly popular “Gothic Party,” an annual rock festival. Hike around the castle to find a perfect vantage point for a few panoramic shots of the surrounding area, and explore the small on-site museum of medieval weapons.
The Golden Reasons for Visiting Walbrzych
Walbrzych may have only shot to fame as the location of a legendary Nazi train carrying priceless treasures, but the city and the surrounding area offer a range of attractions sure to enrich your Lower Silesia vacation. The area boasts not only one of the largest and finest castles in Poland, but also two World Heritage-listed churches representing a major achievement in medieval wood architecture.
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