The Trail of Historical Parks and Gardens of the Lower Silesian Wilderness – historical background
The trail runs through the hilly ground of Pogórze Zachodniosudeckie (the Western Sudety Foothills), and through the less diverse and more woody terrain of the the Silesian-Lusatian Lowlands. In historical terms, the trail occupies the eastern part of Upper Lusatia and the western regions of Lower Silesia (the former princedom of Jawor and Legnica). From the 14th century the histories of both regions ran in parallel within the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. A period of dynamic development was interrupted by the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). In 1635 the Bohemian king Ferdinand II gave Upper Lusatia in pledge to the Saxon princes of the House of Wettin, and as a result the region integrated more and more closely with Saxony. Neighbouring Silesia remained a part of the Bohemian state until the end of the first Silesian war in 1742, and later passed under the rule of the House of Hohenzollern. The oldest preserved palace parks in the area, established on a regular geometrical pattern, date back to that particular period, along with the representative vegetable gardens and orangeries.
For supporting Napoleon in 1815, Saxony suffered territorial losses to Prussia – the eastern part of Upper Lusatia with Lubań and Zgorzelec was annexed to the Province of Silesia as a part of the kingdom of Prussia (from 1871: the German Empire). In that period, on the wave of Romanticism and a fashion brought from England, small landscaped parks established by manors were very popular. With time (in the 19th century) they were expanded by adapting meadows and forests, and creating clearings and central axes. As a result, the parks became more and more integrated with the much appreciated landscape. The country manors were reconstructed in the spirit of classicism and historicism, and surrounded by landscaped parks. Parks were also established in cities by either demolishing old fortifications or adapting formerly undeveloped lands. The green areas functioned as “living rooms” for the urban centers; they were filled with statues, representative monuments, and recreational facilities. Since the city parks were situated alongside examples of fascinating industrial architecture, they further enhanced the aesthetic values of the latter. Since early 20th century the concept of “garden cities” (residential estates immersed in greenery) and the intersecting of populated areas with green belts have been very popular.
After 1945, one of the areas in question formed part of the Polish estate dependent on the Soviet Union, the Lower Silesian Wilderness (with a significant part of it located actually in the area of Lusatia) became primarily a massive military training ground used mostly by the Soviet army. Most of the monuments, especially the palaces and their parks, were severely neglected. Having been privatized in recent years, they are beginning to reclaim some of their former splendor. Local authorities now attach more and more importance to the conservation of city parks. Nevertheless, the cultural landscape of the region was to a large extent irretrievably lost after 1945.