Air as cool as a rock hanging over a mountain stream, permeated with the smell of moss and spruce needles, transparent, with a tart taste. It is marked up with the outline of the Gigantic Mountains, drowned in the vivid pink of the setting sun. And maybe this jagged cloud above them is the long-bearded Mountain Spirit, once called Rzepiór, the unquestioned lord of the land, a spiritual guide, as grey as the land is old?
I am standing now on Szklarska Road - an old route, joining glassworks in Szklarska Poręba with glassworks in Harrachov, at the edge of the White Valley, and I wonder whether to get on a bicycle and go down to the centre, passing by 19th and 20th century boarding houses, half-timbered cottages scattered near Ściernisko (839 m), or to stay here and allow myself to be enchanted until the evening. I decide to stay. Time passes by slowly, extending as the ribbon of fog that is currently floating in the valley of Bieleń and Szlifierska Struga streams.
The very charm of Szklarska Poręba, a tourist centre of the western part of the Karkonosze and eastern part of the Izerskie Mountains, was discovered as late as at the end of the 19th century. An artistic colony was established there, co-created by the Hauptmann brothers, Gerhard (the playwright) and Carl (poet, philosopher and naturalist), and Hermann Hendrich (painter and lithographer). After WWII, artistic traditions in the town were continued mainly by the painter Wlastimil Hofman, who settled there in 1947, and today they are carried out, among others, by the graphic artist Krzysztof Figielski or the sculptor Zbigniew Frąckiewicz. The artistic splendour of the town, and - first of all - its location, attractive in terms of landscape, coupled with the fact that winters are long and very snowy, have contributed to its development as a mass tourist centre for hiking and winter sports.
Yet it was neither artists nor tourists who visit Szklarska Poręba, but miners excavating quartz and pyrite in the mountains required for production of glass in local glassworks, woodcutters, and charcoal burners who gave origin to the contemporary town, traditionally divided into three parts: Lower Szklarska Poręba, Middle Szklarska Poręba, and Upper Szklarska Poręba, whose very centre is located in the latter, with its characteristic housing estates - Marysin, Szklarka, Biała Dolina, Huta, and Jakuszce, constituting the most extensive part of the town.
Though the first glassworks was established there before 1366, the most famous glassworks in Szklarska Poręba is "Julia", founded in 1842. The Wallonians, mediaeval searchers for gold and precious stones, who had arrived in the area as early as in mid 18th century, proved to be invaluable helpers of the first glassworkers. Since they knew the land very well, they could show the glassworkers places of rich quartz deposits in the Izerskie Mountains. The traces of the existence of these strange people, who believed in enchanted treasures, include not only mysterious signs left here and there on rocks in the labyrinths of thousands of paths, but also topographic names, such as Złoty Potok, Płóczka, or Waloński Kamień.
I was caught by nightfall. I set off ahead, because in my imagination I am being chased by the Mountain Spirit from Hermann Hendrich's painting, hidden in a dark cloud, and the noises of the forest are sending shivers down my spine, perhaps ... composing now an incantation capable of opening the legendary Evening Castle in the nearby Zwalisko range?