Tucked at the foot of the Karkonosze Mountains, close to Jelenia Gora, Podgorzyn is a quieter alternative to the bigger and better known resorts in the region such as Karpacz. The village owes much of its popularity to its advantageous location near the mountains; however it is in itself a place interesting to visitors, with attractions like the Podgorzynskie Ponds and Oak Avenues.
Podgorzyn is a summer and winter resort consisting of two parts – Lower Podgorzyn, concentrated along the Podgorna stream, and Upper Podgorzyn bordering with the village of Przesieka. The layout of the village is interesting in that many winding paths cross the main street, and together they form quite a labyrinth.
Two churches stand out against the panorama of Podgorzyn, both well worth a visit. One is the late-baroque Church of the Holy Trinity, and the other is the Church of the Virgin Mary, which was built later in 1780.
The Jeleniogorska Valley, to the north of Podgorzyn but very near the village, is the site of the medieval Podgorzynskie Ponds, the highest such complex of such kind in this part of Europe. Even though these bodies of water were artificially created, they are a haven for lots of water birds. Probably the best way to enjoy the view of the ponds and of Karkonosze is over a delicious fried fish in one of the local eating places.
Everyone is recommended to hike to nearby Cieplice and Sobieszewo, as the field roads leading there are lined with beautiful oaks, some of them measuring 4.5 m in circumference. The Oak Avenue from Lower Podgorzyn to Cieplice is the fastest way to walk or cycle from Podgorzyn to Jelenia Gora.
A large village of about 1,700 inhabitants, Podgorzyn is located in the Lower Silesian Voivodship, in south-western Poland and some 8 km from the resorts of Karpacz and Szklarska Poreba. The nearest large city is Jelenia Gora, connected with Podgorzyn by public transport, although no longer by the former tram. Also, road no. 366 from Kowary to Piechowice runs through Podgorzyn, and passes round Jelenia Gora.
Geographically, Podgorzyn lies in the Jeleniogorska Valley at an elevation of 350-480 m above sea level. The climate of the Karkonosze is one of the harshest in Poland, with frequent mists, winds and rains. March and September are the brightest months.
One of the oldest villages in the area of Jelenia Gora, Podgorzyn was established around the year 1305 as a settlement of shepherds and foresters. The first mention of the village can be found in a document called “Liber fundationis”. In its early days Podgorzyn was known as ‘Gerardi villa’, later as ‘Gersdorff’ and ‘Giersdorf’.
Until 1409 Podgorzyn was divided into three parts, which belonged to the families of von Liebenthal, von Gersdorf and von Gerstenberg. In the centuries to come, the village passed from hand to hand many times.
Throughout its history, Podgorzyn flourished as a centre of the local economy. In the 17th century there were foundries casting bells and cannons, the former used to be sold not only to nearby churches but were exported as far away as Spain. A paper-mill was established in 1581 and then a sawmill in 1797, followed by another in 1801. The production of crystals and precious stones started in the first half of the 19th century and the first wood pulping factory in Lower Silesia for the needs of the paper industry commenced operation in 1852. By 1845 the village already had 11 looms, a sawmill, a glass grinders, 7 bakers, 8 tailors, 3 joiners, 2 blacksmiths, 3 coopers, a glazier, 3 wheel-wrights and as many grave-diggers.
Podgorzyn was twice ravaged by floods. While the first one in 1872 caused little damage, the next, in 1897, turned out to be much more destructive. In December of the same year the German emperor Wilhelm II himself paid a visit to Podgorzyn to see the damage firsthand. A commemorative plaque was later placed on the wall of the house where he stayed.
The spring in nearby Cieplice was popular as early as the 17th century. From the 1880s onwards a dynamic development of summer resorts occurred, with Podgorzyn quickly becoming one of the most popular resorts in the Karkonosze. As mountain tourism grew in importance to the region, the localities within the present-day Podgorzyn community received even more guests than Karpacz or Szklarska Poreba.
In 1911 a tramline from Jelenia Gora to Podgorzyn was opened, often used by tourists, both in summer and winter because the last stop was the beginning of a good route into the mountains.
Right after the Second World War the village was renamed Poplawy, and since 1946 its name has been Podgorzyn.