advertisement

To the south, the rolling hills of Silesia give way to a chain of low-rise mountains that run southeast and define the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. Nearly the entire area, including the Czech side of the border, is a protected national park (Karkonosze National Park in Polish; Krkonoše National Park in Czech). The origin of the word "Karkonosze" is not known, but in German and English, the range is often referred to as the "Giant" mountains. This rather overstates the case. The highest peaks are in the 1,600m (5,249-ft.) range. Nevertheless, the mountains and the national park make for a perfect low-stress stopover for hiking or biking in summer and skiing in winter. The region's major city, Jelenia Góra (pronounced ye-len'-ee-ah gu'-rah), has a beautifully preserved town square and is worth at least a few hours of poking around. With good transportation connections, as well as decent hotels and restaurants, it makes a fine base for exploring the national park. Alternatively, if you're coming specifically to ski or hike, you'll probably want to stay within the boundaries of the national park itself at one of the main resorts of Karpacz (pronounced kar'-pahch) or Szklarska Poreba (pronounced sklar'-skah por-en'-ba).