Owl Mountains and Project Riese

written by Maciek Bogdanski

The Owl Mountains in Poland are located about 75 km south of Wroclaw. It is a popular destination for day trips or longer hikes. The highest peak of this range, the Great Owl, is 1 015 meters high. Although the mountains are very picturesque, they seem more known for the mysterious Project Riese that was set up in this area.

Getting from Wroclaw to the Owl Mountains

There is no obvious way to get to the Owl Mountains from Wroclaw, as there is no one big town that you might consider to be the set-off point for most of the trails.

Wroclaw to Srebrna Gora.

If you plan to start your trip from Srebrna Gora Fort, the best way to get there is to take the bus from Wroclaw to Zabkowice Slaskie first. Until 11 am, buses leave more or less every hour. The ticket costs about 16 PLN and the journey lasts about 1 hour 20 minutes. Then, from Zabkowice Slaskie there are three buses per day to Srebrna Gora: at 9, 11.30 and 14.45.

Wroclaw to Bardo and then walk through Bardzkie Mountains

Another way, which is quite popular, is to take the bus or train from Wroclaw to Bardo and walk through the Bardzkie Mountains to Srebrna Gora. The journey to Bardo takes about 1 hour 20 minutes, and then a 6-7 hour hike through Wilcza Pass to Srebrna Gora.

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Wroclaw to Bielawa (Bielawa Zachodnia train station)

Another option to get to Owl Mountains from Wroclaw is to take a train to Bielawa Zachodnia. There are frequent trains during the day. The journey lasts about an hour and a half, and the ticket costs about 20 PLN. From Bielawa Zachodnia just walk towards the valley to enter the Owl Mountains. From here you need about 4 hours to climb the Great Owl, the highest peak here.

Getting from Wroclaw to Project Riese complex

If you are not really interested in hiking in the mountains, but only want to visit one or some parts of Project Riese, you need to get to Walim. From Walim you may visit all three parts of the complex Riese as they are within walking distance.

To get from Wroclaw to Walim, it’s best to go to Walbrzych Centrum first. Remember to get off the train at Walbrzych Centrum station, other stations in Walbrzych are far away from the bus. Trains leave from Wroclaw every hour, the journey takes about 1h 30 minutes, and the tickets cost about 20 PLN. From Walbrzych Centrum train station you need to walk to place Grunwaldzki. Bus nr 5 leaves from here to Walim (4-5 buses/day). You may check the schedule here.

Places to see in the Owl Mountains

Now, that you know how to get to the Owl Mountains, it’s time to write about why you should come here.

Owl Mountains

As we write about the mountainous area, we will start with the mountains first. The most interesting summit in the Owl Mountains is “The Great Owl”, with an observation tower constructed in 1906 (now undergoing renovation). As the Owl Mountains lay on the edge of Sudety, the view differs significantly depending on whether you look to the east or west. To the west, you’ll see other mountains, to the east – a flat area with a lonely Sleza mountain standing out far away. To hike the whole Owl Mountains, you’ll need 3–4 days.

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Owl mountains - the Great Owl
Owl mountains, Poland – the Great Owl

Srebrna Gora

Srebrna Gora is a small village between the Bardzkie Mountains and Owl Mountains. Poland regained this territory after World War II. It is most renowned for the Srebrna Gora Stronghold, which was constructed here in the years 1765-1777.

Srebrna Gora Fortress

Srebrna Gora Fortress is a large complex towering over what now is a small village, but in the past was a town set up below in the valley.

The fortress has about 150 casemates on three levels. It had everything that was needed to be self-dependent: an armoury, wells, a chapel, a brewery, a prison, a hospital, a bakery, workshops, and a powder magazine. Its capacity was about 4 000 soldiers.

It was first attacked in 1807 by Hieronymus Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother, but he failed to conquer the stronghold. In 1867, the Prussian army left the fortress, and it never again served as a military complex. Now it serves as a tourist attraction and may be visited. Have a look at the Fortress website for information on ticket prices and opening hours.

Srebrna Gora Cog Railway

In 1909, a railway was constructed, that connected Srebrna Gora with Nowa Wies Klodzka. The route led through the Srebrna Pass, where the Srebrna Gora Fortress station was located. The railway was liquidated after the Second World War, but you may still see some remains: 3 picturesque bridges that cut the valleys.

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Srebrna gora - Railway
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Silver Mine “Amalia” in Srebrna Gora

Srebrna Gora means “Silver Mountain” in English, so no wonder that a silver mine was found here. In 2015 explorers discovered an XVIth century silver mine. It is yet not possible to visit the mine, but preparation works are in progress. Unfortunately, it may take years to adapt and secure the mine.

Project Riese in Poland

Undoubtedly, Project Riese is the biggest attraction of Owl Mountains. It was a code name for the Nazi project that they started here in 1943 and carried on until the end of the war with the use of forced labour, mainly from Gross Rosen concentration camp. It consisted of seven underground constructions in the Owl Mountains and Ksiaz Castle near Walbrzych. None of them were even close to being finished.

There are no documents (or at least none have been discovered until today) that would reveal the purpose of this project. Some historians claim it was meant to be a complex of military factories that would produce modern arms, which would be a turning point in the war. Others suggest that it was designed to be Hitler’s headquarters, underground, contrary to Wolf’s Lair in Gierloz. It is believed, that not all Project Riese constructions have been found, but further discoveries are difficult as the Nazis blew up the corridors and killed people (prisoners of war, and prisoners of concentration camps) who worked on the Project.

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Three are three parts of Project Riese in the Owl Mountains that may be visited.

Complex Rzeczka

The Complex Rzeczka is easily accessible from Walim, as it is located a few hundred meters south of Walim’s centre. Visiting the underground with the guide takes about one hour. The ticket costs 24 PLN (children, students 20 PLN). Audio guide in English, French and German is available (14 PLN/audio guide). More details on Compex Rzeczka website.

Complex Wlodarz

Complex Wlodarz is located about 40 minutes on foot from Walim. If you decide to walk, you’ll see the remains of materials used to build the Riese Project, as well as the ruins of a prisoner’s camp. Walim is the most developed part of the complex – you’ll go through two levels and use a boat to visit part of the tunnel. A ticket to the Wlodarz Complex costs 35 PLN.

Project Riese - Wlodarz complex
Project Riese – Wlodarz complex

Complex Osowka

Complex Osowka is located about one hour’s walk from Walim’s centre. If you travel by car, there is a car park near the complex. However, it’s worth having a stroll around Osowka, as some parts of the complex are visible only on the surface. It’s definitely worth going to Kasyno, Silownia and the ventilation shaft. Just like in Complex Rzeczka, you need about one hour to visit the underground with a guide. A ticket with an audioguide costs 30 PLN. More details on Complex Osowka website.

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