The chartered van made its way up a narrow winding road. With the slow climb, its engine sputtered and seemed to momentarily stall on this heavily wooded slope.
All around us there were miles and miles of trees – many of which have stood in Karkonosze National Park for centuries. On a hike, I paused and tried to imagine the centuries of history they’ve witnessed. If only these tall, proud trees could speak.
Despite the daily shot of trekkers who come to soak in its beauty and discover the 721-year-old Chojnik Castle (built in 1292), Karkonosze is an amazingly peaceful place. It’s Poland’s slice of heaven. One of many, really. It’s about a 10 kilometer run to its neighbor, the Czech Republic.
As we ambled up and neared our hilly destination – Chojnik Hotel – the houses that dot the ondulating landscape were fewer and farther apart. When we finally arrived at the hotel and the driver shut off the 16-passenger van’s engine, the silence was so evident, so extreme, it would become the subject of conversation and much discussion among hotel guests for much of my stay.
Having spent much time in cities, perhaps made the silence even more pronounced. It was so quiet that during my 5-day lodging I was taken quite aback when I heard in the distance the footsteps and click-clack of Nordic walking poles of a lone hiker coming up the road.
At least one hotel guest complained it was so quiet she could not sleep, her frayed nerves accustomed to the racket that comes with living in a noisy city. For me, this silence was pure delight. After spending months in city after city across Europe, it was a joy to hear, gasp, heavens, absolutely nothing.
I had come to Chojnik by happenstance, invited to take part in a nearly-weeklong English immersion program. I was joined by several native English speakers and several Polish people seeking to brush up on their English. Poles were paired with native English speakers and they conversed on a variety of topics.
We had set out from Wrocław, the largest city in western Poland. It is located on the Oder River.
And now here were, housed at the Chojnik, which we all agreed was the perfect guest house. A few months ago the hotel and restaurnant reopened under new ownership and management. It has been completely remodeled, inside and out.
Mateusz Szymon, a 26-year-old interior designer and architectural student, breathed new life into the hotel when his family took it over seven months ago.
“It’s hard work,” he said recently, seated in the restaurant. “It’s not a good option when you live in a place where you work. You are always working.”
The Chojnik is a labor of love. It’s also a great getaway from everyday madness of the city. With it’s private ski slope complete with lift; fish pond, and acres of natural trails, it’s definitely a place of peace. I certainly found it there.