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Tiny compared to the Alps, but deserving of its name (German: Riesengebirge – Giant Mountains), Karkonosze defy the laws of geography and prove that the majesty of mountains is not measured in meters.
Built of granite, the very old range on the border with the Czech Republic is the first major obstacle faced by the frigid winds from the Baltic Sea blowing south. This has contributed to the harsh climate of the Karkonosze, much colder than in other mountains of similar altitude, and the formation of unique phenomena, such as the marshy peat bogs that cover the ridges, or the amazing ice sculptures that the trees in the higher elevations turn into in winter. On the way up, the forest quickly disappears, giving way to unusual, cold-hardy plants. In two hours of hiking we can pass several floors of vegetation!
The highest peak in the Karkonosze Mountains is the lofty Śnieżka (1,602 meters above sea level).
Its top, covered with rocky debris, is crowned by a futuristic block of a mountain refuge built in the 1970s during the communist era and resembling a spaceship from the Jetsons. Śnieżka is also the highest peak in the Czech Republic.
The main ridge of the Karkonosze Mountains stretches westward from there and is rather flat, but steeply sloping to the north and south. The capricious, often windy weather makes a good jacket in your backpack a must, but everything is more than made up for by the stunning views. Along the route you will encounter fancy granite rocks with names like Pielgrzymy, Owcze Skałki, Paciorki or Kotki, as well as numerous hostels where you can eat well and inexpensively. On your way to the peaks you will encounter magnificent mountain waterfalls and glacial lakes.
It is hardly surprising that the menacing landscapes of the Karkonosze became the backdrop of the film adaptation of “The Chronicles of Narnia” – some of the scenes from “Prince Caspian” were shot in the Kamieńczyk Gorge. These mountains seduce and draw you in!