‘S’ is for Szczawnica

Plac Dietla and Cafe Helenka

Plac Dietla and Cafe Helenka, in the upper town

Well, where else should it be?  If you saw my Monday walk this week, you’ll know that I have a new Polish love in my life.  The thermal spa town Szczawnica in the very south of Poland, where it meets Slovakia, was a rich discovery for me.

Alkali sorrel springs and a temperate climate make this an ideal base for the treatment of respiratory and digestive ailments.  In the mid 19th century a doctor, Jozef Dietl, saw the potential and began the development of  hydrotherapy treatments unique to Poland at the time, turning Szczawnica into a spa town.  An Inhalatorium equipped with pressurised rooms was built, and in the woods, Willa pod Modrzewiami (villa under the larches).

The start of World War II halted developments and in 1948 the spa was nationalised by the government and used for the treatment of miners and metalworkers.  It was not until 2005 that the ownership of the resort was returned to descendants of the Stadnicki family, the pre-war owners of the estate.  They invested hugely to restore the spa to its former glory.  Dietl Square was rebuilt to its historical design, with Cafe Helenka at its core, and, in 2oo9, 5 star Modrzewie Park hotel replaced the villa.  A museum dedicated to the project soon followed.

Fretwork shadows

Wood is everywhere- I love these delicate fretwork shadows

Cafe Helenka and its wide terrace

Cafe Helenka, in its lovely situation

Facing it, across Plac Dietl, the spa museum

Facing it, across Plac Dietl, the spa museum

Brightened for me by a flurry of Spring flowers

Down in the lower town, a flurry of Spring flowers!

the park

The park is a lush green

No shortage of water

And naturally, there’s no shortage of water!

There are pretty riverside walks

There are pretty riverside walks

And bridges by the dozen!

And bridges by the dozen!

And did you ever see a quirkier souvenir kiosk?

And did you ever see a quirkier souvenir kiosk?

Not for us the 5 star hotel!  I had chosen to stay in a lovely old dark wood chalet, ‘Willa Danusia’, in the upper town overlooking Plac Dietl.  Naturally that meant a steep climb home on an evening, but there’s always a price, isn’t there?  Inside the villa, the wood was pale, while the view from our lofty porch provided wonderful views.

One evening we dined handsomely in the ‘Willa Marta’ in the lower town.  It also was constructed from dark wood, but most of the town had a more modern appearance.

'Willa Danusia', high on the hill

‘Willa Danusia’, high on the hill

'Willa Marta', hotel and restaurant

‘Willa Marta’, hotel and restaurant

An evening stroll through the upper town gave me a chance to breathe deeply and make the most of the tranquil atmosphere. I know that I felt better, just for being there!

Nymphs in the woods

There are nymphs to admire in the woods

Looking down on the square

Playing their pipes

Stylish hotels

And 5-star Modrzewie Hotel, among the larches

The picture of health?

The picture of health?

As the light fades the fountains begin to change colour

As the light fades the fountains begin to change colour

Glimmering in the dusk

Glimmering in the dusk

Evening falls

The lights come on around the square


Looking down, we climb the hill back up to the villa

From the porch the tiniest crescent of moon is visible

From the porch the tiniest crescent of moon is just visible- can you see it?

Just visible through the trees, from our porch

While down below, the lights twinkle goodnight

‘Romantykaly’, as they say in Poland.

Willa Danusia cost almost nothing for a basic bedroom and a very fine breakfast.  Willa Marta was perhaps a little more stylish but definitely wouldn’t break the bank.

I had intended my ‘S’ post to be all about the Sukiennice in Krakow.  Maybe I’ll find time to write a second.  Meantime I’d like to thank Frizz for providing the incentive this week with Tagged ‘S’, and also Julie Dawn Fox for her Personal A-Z Challenge.  I can promise you a wonderful read at either website, and perhaps you’d like to join in with the challenges?





  1. what a great post – I am coming back to soak up some more of it later. whew – you take great shots my friend – and I love seeing Poland like this – 🙂 ❤

  2. Every village needs someone like you to document its absolute beauty, although I suspect you had a bit of help in this case from the village itself. You’ve caught architecture, mood and nature beautifully. I’ll be booking into Willa Danusia on my next trip to Poland. Right now, I’m happy to be finally in my Ljubljana apartment – 48 hours from Australia, thanks to a cancelled flight in Zurich.

    1. Sounds a bit of a nightmare, Meg. I was wondering how it was going but hadn’t checked in on the Warsaw blog yet. Can only get better? I hear Ljubljana is gorgeous 🙂

    1. I was very happy with the location, Paula. 🙂 I chose it primarily so we could river raft in the Gorge but it was a lovely spot and perfect for walking. I would have liked to go up in the chair lift and do a higher level walk, but we just hadn’t time. Thank you! Still too much work? I bet you’re looking forward to your Summer break.

      1. Yes, never enough time when we are in a place as nice as this. I love chair lifts, but hubby is not a big fan 😀
        I managed to land a second job for this work – ugh .. it was quite unexpected and crazy. I translated 110 pages in three days, arranged the text to their liking. I hope they won’t find anything wrong with it, cause it could bring me some real cash 😉 Now, I am just trying to unwind and on Monday the real rush on my main job begins…. Thank you for asking Jo 😀

      2. Mick doesn’t like chair lifts either! 🙂
        Good luck with the new employer. Might this lead to something permanent and more lucrative? Fingers crossed.

      3. Oh no.. .it is not a new employer – there are agency that look for part-time translators for projects, and when this happens they usually pay peanuts and make us work impossible workload in a very short time. I would love to find some permanent and solid employer, but in current situation it does not look like it is going to happen.

  3. I’m with you Jo, I would definitely be in the dark-wood chalet at the top of the hill despite the uphill walk! What an absolutely beautiful place, just magical. Loved all your photos. What a wonderful weekend you had there. 🙂

    I’m trying this comment again, been having problems with my comments going into spam which is being sorted out hopefully. Had this problem last summer. Hope this goes through…holding my breath now…

    1. You made it, Sherri! 🙂 I do check my WP spam every couple of days because you never know what you’ll find in there. I would haul you out, never fear 🙂 It’s very frustrating, though, I can imagine!
      Yes, hon- we had a good time. Still got lots of photos to remind myself.

      1. Yay!! Aww, thanks so much Jo, you’re a star! So far today it’s been okay so let’s hope that’s the end of the problem…
        Have a lovely weekend my friend, we are in for some great weather 🙂

  4. What a lovely historic building, Jo. I’d love to stay there. I have to confess I’ve never been to Poland, but this October I’ll at least go for a day trip when I visit Frankfurt/Oder. Lovely post!
    Greetings from Norway,
    Dina xo

  5. What is amazing is that there was enough family left after all these years to take on this huge project. The descendants of the Stadnicki family have created a lovely spa town. Your moonlight walk and view was a treat, Jo. Love those stone statues and wooden fretwork.

    1. It’s an amazing period of time, isn’t it, Lynne? I would have liked to go into the museum to find out a bit more, but we had a full itinerary and I was pretty sure the information would all be in Polish. (which slows me up a lot 🙂 )

      1. I’m all for obscure, off the beaten track etc, etc! I’ve not been blogging for the last week because I’ve been in and around Fethiye, Turkey. A most interesting experience….different culture, enjoyable food, plenty of opportunity to indulge my love of piles of old stones, vibrant markets etc etc. I’m a bit weary now, but held up well on the trip. 🙂

      2. I did a gulet cruise out of Fethiye on our ‘honeymoon’ 25 years ago. It’s a beautiful area. I’ll look forward to seeing your photos 🙂

  6. Hi Jo,
    I would always choose the historic hotel over the five star! We are definitely going to Poland this summer, so this post was of particular interest! Love the way you combine historical background with your stories. Great photos–it looks just lovely!

    1. It’s a beautiful area, Naomi, and I have lots more posts to put up. It’s barely just still in Poland- right on the border with Slovakia. Not sure if you saw my Monday walk but I slipped across the border without even knowing 🙂

  7. This is all so pretty , Jo.
    I’m at the library in St. John’s wood but have to go now.
    Tomorrow for Wales (north) using B&B’s and. Rented cR from Shresbury. Train to there.

  8. What a lovely town, Jo. I know what you mean about the 5 star hotel. I always go for the local, homemade version of hotels, for some character and a more authentic feel for the culture. It looks like you made a great choice. The park is so green and serene. I’m so glad you had a marvelous time. 🙂

    1. I came looking for you this morning, Cathy, but thought you must be still ‘nose to the grindstone’ because I couldn’t find a new post (but I did see you on FB a couple of times 🙂 )

      Yes, Poland was lovely, thanks. I especially enjoyed my couple of days in the Pieninys but the wedding was fabulous too (the photos are on 6WS) Dad comes home tonight so we’ll be travelling to Leeds to pick him up and back here around midnight.

      I need to read this book. How can I give you a title otherwise? 🙂

      1. I need to catch up, Jo, to see your wedding pictures and your most recent walk. I’ll try to stop by soon! It sounds like you had a wonderful time all around.

        I know, I know, Jo, you could probably give me a good title if you read the book. I’m thinking either “The Scattering Dreams of Sky” or “In Search of a Thousand Stars.” 🙂 Who knows!!??

      1. Thanks for your feedback about the title, Jo. There are actually four main characters, Ian, Lucie, Ahmed and Audrey, but Lucie is the most important, and the one who has the most influence on the story arc. Ian is really into astronomy, and there are lots of references to the night sky throughout the story. I use a lot of metaphors about constellations, black holes, Olber’s Paradox, etc. The turning point in the story occurs when Lucie does something that irrevocably changes her life, something she horribly regrets, and there’s a paragraph about how she realizes she was a fool for chasing her dreams. The Scattering Dreams of Sky is a phrase I use in that turning point chapter, evoking her old love of Ian, who loves astronomy and who broke her heart years before, and the vision of elusive clouds scattering across the sky (and how foolish it is to chase clouds, the stars, those things in life that are always out of reach. 🙂

      1. Funny, Jo, I don’t know much about astrology other than my own Scorpio horoscope, but I did learn a lot about astronomy while researching my book. It was fun. That’s why I like writing fiction, because you can explore anything and learn about it, and teach the reader something as you go along. I also feel I can have a lot more fun with language, more than I do when writing about travel or writing memoir. 🙂

  9. I love those central European spa towns. This one is a beauty. The wooden architecture is stunning. Great selection of photos. Must be a really relaxing place to spend a few days.

  10. i just adore the “nymphs” in the woods. Fabulous! Imagine a spa with those amenities Pre-WW II. That’s quite an innovative concept. My son traveled in this general area (I don’t know precisely if he was in Szczawnica), but although this was probably five years ago, he still speaks of it with such admiration. These are gorgeous photos, Jo.

  11. Oh Jo, you live such a charmed life. The places you visit are like entering into a fairy tale. Beautiful photos…I especially love the lower town shot, so many vibrant colors! Thanks for this!

  12. What a gorgeous place you found Jo, looks right out of a fairy tale! Did you hire a car to get here or is there public transport from Krakow?

    1. My lovely nephew Lukasz insisted on driving us there, Jude (he enjoyed an extra day off work for it as he works in the family business). It took about 2 hours. We came back by public transport by a roundabout route which will be revealed as the week goes by. The bus service is impressively cheap and reliable 🙂 No ‘S’ for you this week? I’ll check tomorrow as it’s getting late.

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