Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!
Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!

Because the view is beautiful from the top - the controversial observation tower on Snezhnik

04 of May '21

The fashion for building observation towers in the Sudetenland continues. There is also a peculiar race with organizations protecting nature - for them, most often lost at the start. And also with neighbors from across the Czech border, who turn out to be faster and better at building such tourist attractions. However, none of this matters in the face of the fact that our people want lookout towers, and local officials want income from visiting them.

TheSněžník tower occupies a unique place both in the landscape and in the history of the place. Because Snieznik (1,425 meters above sea level) is a unique mountain, so described in tourist publications:

The highest peak in the Eastern Sudetes, belonging to the Crown of Polish Mountains. The Śnieżnik massif towering over Kletno is the central point from which the mountain ridges spread out in all directions. The summit dome lies above the upper border of the forest and is an excellent vantage point for viewing the entire Sudetes and foothills, and even the Beskids. It is sensational to watch sunrises from here. On Śnieżnik [...], rare species of protected plants and artificially introduced dwarf pine grow. Together with parts of the spruce forest of the upper regale, they are protected in the nature reserve "Śnieżnik Kłodzki" (

first german tower

As early as 1871, Princess Marianne of Orange founded a hostel on Snieznik, and shortly afterwards, at the top of the mountain, Felix Henry, an architect from Wroclaw, designed a viewing tower, the plans for which were approved for construction in 1893. Construction of the tower took four years, actually four summer seasons, as it was impossible to continue work during the other months of the year due to very difficult weather conditions. The building blocks, i.e. stones, including gneiss and sandstone, were mined in the immediate area or brought from nearby towns (for example, Polanica). Completed in 1899, the structure was named after Kaiser-Wilhelm II - Kaiser-Wilhelm-Turm.

wieża viewing tower with shelter on Śnieżnikwieża viewing tower with shelter on Śnieżnikwieża viewing tower with shelter on Śnieżnik

viewing tower with shelter on Snieznik, 1920


The tower had the form of a double stone tower - in the lower, three-story, 17-meter high one, there was a staircase and a viewing terrace on the roof. The higher, six-story one, 33.5 meters high, had a room with a bust of the emperor-patron on the second floor, and above that a continuation of the staircase leading to the very top, to a viewing room with a telescope and a panoramic map of the mountains with their markings. The tower was extremely popular, and although it was only open in summer, it was a tourist attraction in the region until 1945.

The debris from the tower the foundation
its new version

This was also the case in the early years of the communist era, as despite appearances, the tower did not suffer any damage during the war, and with proper safeguards, conservation measures and proper use it would certainly survive to this day. Unfortunately, after the 1948 renovation by the Polish Tourist Society, its good condition was not taken care of for nearly thirty consecutive years and, as a result, it threatened to collapse. In 1973 it was blown up, repeating this maneuver several times due to the soundness of the structure. Kojelne more than forty years on the top of Snieznik lay the remains of the tower - a dumping ground for stones.

gruz and stones on the summitgruz and stones on the summitgruz and stones on the summit

debris and stones on the summit

photo: Adam Malkiewicz

In 2012, the Union of Śnieżnik Municipalities, which includes: Bystrzyca Klodzka, Stronie Slaskie and Miedzylesie, took steps to build a new structure - the "Tower of Three Cultures," subsidized by the EU fund. An architectural competition was held and the proposal of the Januszówka studio from Bielsko-Biała, which specializes in interior design and garden and landscape greenery, was selected. After a good few years of legal formalization of the project and the selection of a contractor, almost everything is ready to begin implementation. The pile of stones left over from the old tower is to be used as the foundation and underpinning of the new glass form.

we want a tower not a lighthouse

"Someone has mistaken the mountains for the sea, there was never a lighthouse here, there was a stone observation tower," "Should a tower of questionable beauty be erected again on such a distinctive, forestless dome, on top of that a glass tower?" - these are just two entries from the many online comments on the winning design of the new building.

Wieża Three CulturesWieża Three CulturesWieża Three Cultures

Tower of Three Cultures, design by Januszówka studio

© Municipal Office in Stronie Śląskie

Journalist Joanna Żabska on wrote about this topic in 2019 as follows:

The new tower [...] is to be 34 meters high, and the viewing terrace is to be at a height of 30 meters. It will be a steel, glazed structure, encased at the bottom with stone left over from the old tower. [...] The winning design has stirred up a lot of discussion among lovers of mountain hiking and the Snowbird landscape. [...] Internet users criticized the tower's design and immediately found terms for it: "blender," "lighthouse," "jackass," "space in the mountains." There were even calls to block construction and that it would have been better if the tower had not been built at all."

aerial supplies

Unfortunately, the lobby for the possible reconstruction of the historic structure has not surfaced in time, and the project chosen by the region's authorities and consistently pushed to implementation does not please either Internet users or environmentalists, including expert naturalists, who study the valuable flora and fauna of the Snieznik region. They say that the subject of the tower has been stuck for nearly 10 years at the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Wroclaw, among others, as the biggest controversy in the project is the need to bring heavy equipment into a very difficult protected area. From the beginning, the RDOŚ's condition for issuing approval for the project was that all construction materials be delivered by helicopters. This, in turn, exceeds the financial capabilities of Stronie Slaskie, which owns the land and is the main investor in the project. The initial estimated value of the investment was 12 million, then increased to 19 million PLN, how it will be in reality, I guess is still unknown.

A road on the tourist trail?

However, not wanting to give up on the (profitable) idea, the mayor of the town came up with the idea of rebuilding the historic road leading from the hostel to the dome of Snieznik before the war. Leading a wide roadway to the summit would certainly make it possible to transport structural elements and glass panes, but... that's not a good idea, according to naturalists. Last year, they conducted an inventory of local plants, birds and invertebrates and natural habitats on behalf of the investor, thinking that their work, and especially the conclusions drawn from it, would stop further bad human impacts on the area's ecosystem.

żyjący na Śnieżniku chroniony biegacz zielonozłoty paśnik włóczniak

left: the protected green-tailed godwit living on Snieznik; right: the sword-tailed godwit

left: photo: Jaroslaw Kania; right: photo: Adam Malkiewicz

This did not happen, but the authorities, aware of the problem, established long-term cooperation with them. Scientists have failed to block the subject, but they will rescue the situation with actual nature supervision over it.

securing the habitat

In the course of their inventory work, it became clear that the experts could have an impact on the channeling of foot traffic on Snezhnik, including in the summit dome party. Their study included guidelines for securing the sites of the most important, most valuable specimens, which will be bypassed by the tourist route and thus a possible route for transporting materials. Of great importance is also the ordering of traffic in the summit party, where until now there has been spontaneous entry of tourists from all sides, causing trampling of the grasslands and destruction of valuable species. Finally, there will be an end to the so-called highway leading to the summit. The RDOŚ agreed to use the tourist trail in the plans to build the tower only on condition that the naturalists' indications are followed.



Photo: Adam Malkiewicz

The Circle of the Green Party - Klodzko Land also intervened in the matter of the road by issuing an official parliamentary interpellation and presenting a plan for the protection of the reserve on the summit dome. Recent press reports indicate that the tower's design is currently being reworked for a better selection of construction materials. However, at the summit, earthwork using the backlogged rubble has been going on since last September.

Meanwhile, nearby, in neighboring Czech Republic ....

... a faithful replica of an old stone tower from Sněžník is being built on behalf of a private investor ! It is being built on Mount Vetrov, a few kilometers from the Polish-Czech border, and is scheduled to open in July 2021. The work is moving very fast, as could be seen until recently by skiers using the snow while cross-country skiing near Bielice. This, of course, does not please the Polish side, as usual "a little" late with the investment. In turn, the construction of a Polish glass tower on Snieznik has sparked Czech protests all the way up to the Prague-Warsaw ministerial level. The Czechs don't want competition nearby, believing that any more tall building of the same type with viewing terraces will draw some tourists away from their site. After all, the views from one tower and the other will be similar....

How will the history of the towers on Snieznik end? This is probably no one knows today.

Beata Stobiecka

The vote has already been cast