My girlfriend and I took advantage of a four-day weekend to take a road trip from Wrocław. Since we weren’t from here, we were eager to see the surrounding areas that otherwise would not have been on our radar screen, so we avoided the big cities and headed for the mountains.

We left Wrocław on a Saturday morning and returned on a Tuesday afternoon. The following is our itinerary along with commentary on the places we visited as well as some minor mistakes we made. If you want the 24/7 play-by-play (and you’re crazy if you do), then you’ll have to buy me a coffee in order to unlock all the information that I’ve left out.

Overall, the trip was a huge success, and we are already looking forward to the next one.

Day 1

When we planned this trip, our only goal was to see Adršpach, the rock forest in the Czech Republic near the Polish border. I learned about Adršpach when I asked for recommendations in the Wrocław Expats Facebook group. Even though I’m no stranger to Europe, I had never heard of Adršpach before. This just goes to show me how much I still don’t know about the world, and how much I still have yet to see. I don’t even know what I don’t know yet, and that’s exciting to me.

We left Wrocław on Saturday morning and headed straight to Świdnica, best known for its Church of Peace on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I’ve seen quite a few churches in Europe already, but this one simply blew me away. Although the exterior wasn’t so impressive, which made me think that it was just going to be like any other church, I was happy to be wrong. The interior shined so brightly, and impeccably. Words could hardly do it justice, so I was glad to have a camera in hand.

After leaving the church, we casually walked around the Świdnica main square and then to another (less impressive) church before getting back on the road.

Our next stop was Książ Castle, a 13th-century castle that has survived numerous wars throughout the years. The castle and its grounds were well manicured. There were massive gardens, hiking trails, and scenic viewpoints. We were pleasantly surprised to have caught a war re-enactment between the Polish and the Russians right as we walked in.

What shocked me the most about the re-enactment was the deafening sound of gunfire. The actors fired what seemed like blank bullets from real guns. Standing only a few feet away, we definitely felt the impact of every shot fired.

After the show, we chomped on a couple of Polish sausages before leaving for Krzeszów, which is a tiny town that just happened to be on our way. There wasn’t much in Krzeszów, other than this freaking gorgeous church that was hosting a wedding when we arrived. We weren’t able to go inside during the ceremony but managed to sneak around the side door to have a peek.

It sounds way more devious than it really was. Not more than a minute after we left the building because we were afraid of getting yelled at by security, another couple walked right past us and into the same side door.

We finally crossed over the Czech border in the evening, into a little town called Žacler. We had intentionally booked a guesthouse in a random spot not only because it was cheaper, but also because we wanted to get off the beaten path and see something different. What we didn’t expect was that the whole town had lost electricity from a storm the night before, which forced us out to Trutnov to find dinner. And since the lone ATM in town wasn’t working, we weren’t able to pay the guesthouse owner in Czech Crown. Luckily, the owner understood our situation and gladly took our Polish Złoty. But then again, he didn’t really have much choice, either.

As a side note, I always prefer to take money out of the ATM instead of exchanging it at a Kantor, especially since my bank reimburses 100% of all ATM fees. When I was researching Žacler and saw that there was one ATM in town, I didn’t think twice about not having to exchange money in Poland. Even though this mentality might work in bigger cities, I would definitely be a bit more diligent next time I stay in a foreign small town that mainly relies on cash transactions in local currency.

Day 2 

Giddy with anticipation, we woke up bright and early and headed to our featured destination, the park known as Adršpach-Teplice Rocks. We drove for 45 minutes through small windy roads, hardly seeing anyone else in sight. But once we arrived, we realized just how popular this place was. And that nearly everyone visiting Adršpach that day was Polish. It was a long Polish holiday weekend, after all

These special rocks have been protected as a natural reserve since 1933, and rightfully so. They came in all shapes and sizes, and only by walking amongst them did I appreciate just their majestic enormity. We stopped what felt like every two minutes to take photos because the rocks just looked so interesting. The only downside was that since there were so many people, we either couldn’t get clear shots at all or had to wait a long while to get them, especially at the iconic gate that is the first image that pops up on any Google search. We felt so tiny in this beautiful rock forest, and we loved it.

We also took a fun 20-minute boat ride along a river. Our guide was an old Czech man who told a bunch of jokes that I didn’t understand. The ride was good, but not great. Fortunately, we only waited about 30 minutes to get on it, but if the wait had been an hour, I would have happily skipped it.

We then left Adršpach and headed west to Vrchlabi, where we would spend an uneventful night in an Airbnb.

Day 3

We started the day in the Czech Republic, crossed through Poland, and ended up in Germany. This is why I love Europe.

Our goal for the day was to climb Snežka, a mountain that straddles both the Czech Republic and Poland. We drove from Vrchlabi to a place called Pec Pod Snežkou, which was basically the base of Snežka Mountain. It took us a while to figure out where to park, but once we settled in and had a nice cup of coffee, we proceeded to hike up the mountain.

What’s great about Snežka is that the peak of the mountain is literally the border between two countries. Once we reached the top, I was more than happy to take cheesy photos next to the “Welcome to the Czech Republic” sign as well as the “Welcome to Poland” sign. We spent a good hour at the peak of the mountain, soaking in all the fresh air that it had to offer. Having lived in big cities all of my life, it was nice to get cold mountain air, that’s for sure.

After we descended, we actually didn’t know where to go next. We hadn’t planned that far ahead. So we deliberated for a few minutes and decided to check out the Polish-German border towns of Zgorzelec and Görlitz.

We booked a hotel in Zgorzelec for the night (a hotel that gave us free beer upon check-in, by the way), and proceeded to walk to the other side of the border.

This is where I made another money mistake.

We stopped by a bar in Görlitz to have a well-deserved beer, only to have the bartender tell us that they didn’t take credit cards. I was very surprised upon hearing this, but I later found out that a lot of places in Germany did not take credit cards. Not having any Euro on me, I had to walk for about 20 minutes to find the nearest ATM. The whole ordeal prolonged our night by 45 minutes, but hey, lesson learned. And we weren’t in a huge rush anyway.

Day 4

Our epic weekend finally came to an end, but not before we explored Görlitz during the day. We saw the department store where The Grand Budapest Hotel movie was filmed. We deliberately got lost just wandering around the streets. We stopped at a random coffee shop and ate too much ice cream.

It was the perfect end to our weekend.

On our drive back to Wrocław, we talked about all the activities we were able to squeeze into 4 short days. We reminisced, smiled, and started to plan our next adventurous road trip, for none other than Oktoberfest in Munich.

 

Ken Liu is an American writer and photographer currently living in Wrocław. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram @kenkliu

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