The weather was good last weekend so I decided to go with a friend on a hiking daytrip on Mount Ślęża about 35 km southwest of Wroclaw, Poland. Here is how it went.
In order to get out of bed early (7:45 am on a saturday, eeek!) and be fit enough for a day of hiking in the mountains I skipped the usual friday party night. Punctual as I naturally am, I met my friend near the Galeria Dominikanska Shopping Center in the center of Wroclaw at 9:00 am. According to the information I have found on the internet there was supposed to be a bus from there to Sobótka at 9:20 am, but there was none! So we switched to Plan B and took the tram to the central bus station. I knew before that from there are regular busses to Sobótka and I hoped that our bus would also depart from there. Well, it was not the case, so we waited for the next bus at 10 am. We were not the only ones waiting for it and were a bit lucky to have seats, because a few other passengers had to stand during the whole 50 minute-journey.
Mount Ślęża – an ancient holy site of prehistoric religious cults
One reason for the popularity of this mountain next to its modest height is that it has been the holy site for pagan cults from pre-christian times and after christianization became a pilgrimage destination for devout christians. Even now you can still see mysterious stone sculptures which are ascribed to a celtic culture which existed in the region probably more than 2000 years ago. Apparently all subsequent tribes and cultures (germanic and then slavic) used Mount Ślęża as a sacred place as well. In other words, we were not only hiking up a beginner-friendly mountain, but also one with big cultural and religious significance.
The ascend to Mount Ślęża
After arrival in Sobótka we quickly found the route to the mountain as there are signs along the streets which give you directions and estimated time to reach the indicated destination on foot. Sobótka lies directly at the foot of the small mountain range and so our ascend begun just after we passed the last house. There are several hiking trails to choose from. The ones which start in Sobotka are the yellow and the red one. The latter would have been the more direct route and I suspected that one to be steeper. So we chose the yellow trail which according to the signs would take us to the peak in 1 hour 50 minutes. The ascend to the first mountain hut was a bit exhausting simply because we were not used to hiking and there was no shadow at the beginning – we speak of a mere height difference of 100 meters (328 feet). But the hardest part was just ahead of us – at least it felt like the hardest part in retrospect. The next 700 meters included an ascend of 110 meters and made our hearts pumping.
The reward: a short rest next to a masonric observation tower from 1907 at 400 meters above sea level. Climbing the tower would have cost 2 Zloty (0.50 USD) per person but we decided to save the small fee for the other viewing point on the peak of Mount Ślęża.
Now that we got used to the hiking experience the next ascend didn’t feel as hard, although this time an almost continuous ascend of 340 meters height difference on 3 km was ahead of us. The yellow trail is relatively easy because of the stairs which have been hammered out roughly from the granite rock. Still you need to watch your steps and I almost tripped a few times. After a total of 3 hours and a few short breaks since we got out of the bus we reached the top of Mount Ślęża. As expected we were not the only ones. Many daytrippers relaxed on the meadow, enjoyed the views or visited the church or the mountain hut. We too lied down on the grass and enjoyed the good weather. And now that we were here, we climbed the church tower for a 5 Zloty (1.25 USD) fee.
And what a view!
As I was talking about owls in a previous post: Here was also one, albeit a slightly different style and material. 😉
Back to Sobótka
After about half an hour it was time for the return because we were hungry and wanted to have lunch in the town. This time we chose the red trail, not exactly knowing where it would lead us. And it turned out we were going in the wrong direction (to the east and not north). Luckily I had a very good map of Poland with GPS tracking installed on my smartphone which helped us navigate on random trails through the forest. We passed a few wells and found some edible berries and as we descended the mount on the eastern side already, or hike back to the town was as easy as a walk in the park.
Back in Sobótka we headed straight to the town center called “Rynek” and quickly decided to check out the only real restaurant we could find there: the “Restauracja pod Jeleniem”. A view onto the menu looked promising: it was not overloaded with tons of options. Instead you had a small selection of main dishes with often times similar ingredients. A sign that the kitchen only uses fresh produce, which is of course good and means high quality! We took a table outside the restaurant from where we had a nice view onto the town hall and the church while enjoying a fresh beer.
It was all quaint and quiet until a convoy of trucks arrived, honking their horns. It was a trucker wedding!
Shortly afterwards our ordered food arrived. My friend had potato pancakes with goulash and some raw salad as a side dish. I opted for the wild boar rumpsteak with fried potatoes and raw salad. I never tried wild boar before so I was curious. This is how it looked like:
Honestly I was a bit disappointed with the rumpsteak as it was actually a burger patty and not a cut slice of meat. It tasted different than any other meat I ate before. It definitely tasted “wild” so I assume that it was really wild boar. As my friend told me this kind of meat is difficult to prepare and it is just much easier and faster to shred it and form burger patties. The potato pancakes of my friend were very good and so I assume that my dish was also the way how it should be when prepared well. But I know now that wild boar is not exactly my favourite meat.
After the meal we strolled around a bit in the town before we took the next bus back. Basically you just need 10-15 minutes to have the feeling that you have seen everything, including this abandoned hotel.
Update February 2018: The abandoned hotel pictured above has been renovated and will open soon as a modern sports hotel.
Cost of the daytrip to Sobótka and Mount Ślęża
Bus tickets: 7 Zloty (1.75 USD) per person and direction, to be bought directly from the bus driver.
Viewpoint on Mount Ślęża: 5 Zloty (1.25 USD)
Meals in Restauracja “Pod Jeleniem”:
Potato pancakes with goulash and salad: 22 Zloty (5.50 USD)
Wild boar rumpsteak with fried potatos and salad: 35 Zloty (8.80 USD)
0.5 Liter draft beer: 6 Zloty (1.50 USD)
And some drinks and snacks bought before the trip in the supermarket.
That means we only spent 47 Zloty (11.80 USD) and 60 Zloty (15.00 USD) each for a day of fun, discovery, exercise and good meals.
All in all it was a nice daytrip which I can recommend. We spent 9 hours outside Wroclaw and were hiking about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) for about 5.5 hours.