Light and dark of history

Our next target after leaving Wroclow was the small town of Złoty Stok and its gold mine (Złoty means gold in Polish). On the way we decided to visit Klodzko. The main attraction there is a big fortress. The center is nice but also quite small. One market square, two churches and a few nice streets between them. Unlike the other fortresses we had seen in the past, this one was not a castle but more modern: lower brick and concrete works with earth on top and sort of star shaped. It was evolved from a castle and almost constantly modernised and upgraded by Prussians and Austrians. The last time it was used was during WW2 when Nazi Germany used it for prisoners of war. Underground there is a labyrinth of tunnels and rooms: some for storage and some designed as powder galeries. They would have been blown up with the enemy above them. Luckily this never happened and parts of them can be visited as part of a tour (available only in Polish; no audio guides). We bought tickets only for the fortress and were told that we could go in and see it on our own. The person at the gate almost did not let us in without a tour, but we persuaded her and we got in. Beside us there were only a couple of Finnish tourists and at least 3 groups of school children. Some of the kasemattes had exhibitions about the soldiers life in them and there were signs with English descriptions about the different parts and buildings and their function so we got at least some information.

View from the fortress over Klodzko

The people of Klodzko have themselves dug a network of tunnels and created a whole underground city. Today only about 600m can be visited for free, starting at one of the churches and ending near the fortress.

We left Klodzko after 3 hours and some coffee and cake and continued our scenic drive through the beautiful countryside towards Złoty Stok.

One of the special attractions of the gold mine is an underground boat ride which we very keen on. During the drive we discovered that this had to be prebooked so we rang them up to confirm the availability for the next day.

As our stop for the night we had chosen a campsite at the side of a lake with great mountain view, located about half an hours drive from the mine. There we met our Swiss friends from previous campsites again. Most of the site was taken up by permanent campers but there was still plenty of space. We paid 40 zł for one night. Overall the place was ok: it had a small shop and bar/restaurant and a small beach, but the facilities were quite dated and run down so we skipped showers that night.

The next morning we got to the mines before 8 o’clock (and breakfast) only to be told that the boat rides were suspended for a few weeks (quite the opposite to the info on the phone the day before). Frustrated we decided to bite the bullet and go on the first available tour which consisted of primary school children. We were already used to the lack of non-Polish tours. At least we got to see the place. The system of shafts and drifts is huge since gold had been mined since the early middle ages. At some point mines in this area produced 10% of all the gold in Europe.

There are four different packages to chose from (some include panning for gold and paper printing). We went for the basic deal at 32zł each which got us into the mine and a technology park where mining machinery had been reconstructed and could be tested.

The first section of the mine was roughly one kilometer in tunnels close to the surface. Our guide explained the history and processes of the mine as well as stories about alchemie and gold-hoarding gnomes. This took about 45mins. Afterwards we walked further up the valley to a different part and entrance. In that part we saw an underground waterfall (very rare) and got treated to a train ride back to the main entrance, car park and finally our breakfast. By then the place was crawling with people and the car park filled with 25 buses!

Zoë at work

The technology park is located 400m away and also has to be visited in guided tours. We were very lucky and got a private English tour and could try out some machinery. We must have hit a gap in the tourist stream as our guide told us the day before they had 1600 visitors to guide through in 8 hours!


Matthias on the hot seat

Overall we think the mine is worth a visit if you manage to get an English tour (which is more likely in the summer when students are off) and you book your tour with the boat ride in advance or if you generally visit the area. Otherwise it is not quite worth driving all the way from places like Wroclow.

After this short break from city life we continued our way east towards Krakow.

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