The Karkonosze [IPA-pl|k|a|r|k|o|'|n|o|sz|e] (Polish) or Krkonoše IPAlink|ˈkr̩konoʃɛ Audlisten|Cs-Krkonose.ogg (Czech), also known as the Giant Mountains ( _de. Riesengebirge), is a mountain range in the Sudetes, divided between Poland and the Czech Republic. Its highest peak is Sněžka ( _pl. Śnieżka), which stands on the border between the two countries at a height of convert|1602|m|ft above sea level, making it the highest peak in the Czech Republic. The mountains are famous for their skiing resorts; they also contain the source of the River Elbe. Large areas of the mountains are preserved as national parks by both countries: the Polish Karkonosze National Park and the Czech Krkonoše National Park. In 1992 Polish and Czech parts of the range were jointly designated a transboundary biosphere reserve under UNESCO's "Man and the Biosphere" program.


The Czech name "Krkonoše" is first mentioned as "Krkonoß" on a 1518 map [ [http://www.cernosice.org/mapy_a_okoli/maps/mapa_klaudianova.html cernosice ] ] by Nicholas Claudianus, [Claudianus Map (1518) - Drawn by Nicolas Claudianus (1518), published in Nürnberg, Germany. Approximate scale is 1:637 000. Oriented to south. Contains 280 towns divided according to ownership (king / nobility) and religion. The map itself occupies only the lower third of the sheet, the upper two thirds contain coats-of-arms of aristocratic families. The map was discovered in a monastery in Litomerice, Czech Republic [http://www.geogr.muni.cz/ucebnice/kartografie/obsah.php?show=55&&jazyk=en] ] ["Die modernen Namen - tschechisch Krkonoše, deutsch Riesengebirge und polnisch Karkonosze - sind eher als jung zu bezeichnen. Die deutschen Anwohner in Schlesien und Böhmen sprachen nur vom „Gebirge“ schlechthin, die höchste Erhebung nannten sie „Hrisenperg“ oder „Riesenberg“. Auf der ältesten Karte Böhmens von Nicholas Claudianus (1518) bemerkt man unauffällig, aber lagegerecht die Eintragung „Krkonoß“, in einer anderen Quelle aus dem Jahr zuvor „Krkonošské hory“ (Krkonoše-Gebirge). Bei Paul Stránský erscheint 1643 der Satz: „Krkonosse nostrum vulgus accolae Germani alterum Schneekippe, alterum ab arbusculis, quae in eo humiles sunt, Knieholz, quidam vero montes gigantum appellant“ (Schwarz, 1961, S. 95). Damit sei auch die Bedeutung des Namens angesprochen, jedenfalls wird auf altgriechisch krka = Knieholz hingewiesen, der Name würde „Knieholzberg“ bedeuten. Eine andere Worterklärung knüpft an das vorkeltische Volk der Korkonter (Кοςχουτοί) an. Etwas verwegen ist die Deutung „Halsträger-Gebirge“ nach dem Kokrháč (= Halsträger), in Anspielung auf die Gewohnheit der Einheimischen, Lasten auf dem Kopf und Nacken zu tragen." - GEOGRAPHISCHE NAMEN IN DEN BÖHMISCHEN LÄNDERN - ein Online-Wörterbuch von Walter Sperling [http://www.waltersperling.de/geonamen/index_impressum.htm] in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Collegium Carolinum [http://www.waltersperling.de/geonamen/woerterbuch/k.htm] ] and in a 1517 source as "Krkonošské hory." The origin of the name is unclear. The Czech word "krk" means "neck," while "noš" is connected to a root meaning "to carry." There may be a connection with the Old Greek dubious word "krka" (meaning "Krummholz") or with the Pre-Indo-European word "Corconti"," which is first listed by Ptolemy and refers to a pre-Celtic or Germanic people.

The Polish name "Karkonosze" (which stems from the cognate terms "kark" and "nosić") is fairly new, is derived from the Czech name, and appears first in the 19th century. ["Es handelt sich um die polnische Form, die der tschechischen entlehnt ist und erst im 19. Jahrhundert aufgekommen ist." [http://www.waltersperling.de/geonamen/woerterbuch/k.htm] ]

The German inhabitants at first called it simply "das Gebirge" ("the mountains") and referred to its highest peak as "Riseberg" (Georg Agricola, 1546), "Riſenberg" (Martin Helwig, 1561), "Schneekippe" (Paul Stransky, 1643), "Riesenkoppe" (as mentioned in the 1800-01 Silesia tour letters of John Quincy Adams [John Quincy Adams: Letters on Silesia: Written During a Tour Through that Country in the Years 1800, 1801 [http://books.google.com/books?id=2sQDAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA109&dq=Schneekoppe+date:0-1900+%2Badams&as_brr=0] ] ), or "Riesenberg" ("Giant Mountain"). From the latter came the German name "Riesengebirge" ("Giant Mountains") for the entire mountain range.


The main ridge of the mountains runs in east-west direction and forms the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. Its highest peak, Sněžka-Śnieżka , is the highest peak of the Czech Republic. The Silesian northern part in Poland drops steeply to Jelenia Góra valley, whereas the southern Czech part slowly lowers to the Bohemian basin. In the north-east direction the Karkonosze continue to Rudawy Janowickie, in the south-east to the river Elbe divides the Bohemian ridge. The expansion of the Karkonosze amounts to 631 km², 454 km² on Czech and 177 km² on Polish area.
The ridges are divided by the rivers Elbe, Mumlava, Bílé Labe, Velka Úpa, Malá Úpa and Jizera, which originates in the Jizera mountains. The rivers on the Czech side often fall over steep edges into valleys formed by ice-age glaciers. The largest waterfalls on the southern side of the mountains are Labský vodopád with a height of 50 m, Pančavský vodopád (140 m, the highest waterfall in the Czech Republic), Horní Úpský vodopád, Dolní Úpský vodopád and Mumlavský vodopád (10 m). The most important rivers on the Polish side are Kamienna, Łomnica and Bóbr. They also form impressive waterfalls, such as Wodospad Kamieńczyka (27 m), Wodospad Szklarki (13,5 m), Wodospad na Łomnicy (10 m) or Wodospad Podgórnej (10 m).
The main ridge of the Karkonosze forms the water shed between North and Baltic Sea. The rivers on the southern Czech side drain into the North Sea, the rivers of the northern Polish side into the Baltic Sea.


The river valleys and lower layers form the submontane zone. The aboriginal hardwood and mixed forests are largely replaced with spruce monocultures. Only the river valleys offer remnants of hardwood forests.
The higher parts form the montane vegetation zone. Their natural coniferous forests were also in large parts replaced by spruce monocultures, which are often heavily damaged due to air pollution and soil acidification. In many places, the forest is dead. The reason is the geographic location in the Black Triangle, a region around the German-Polish-Czech border triangle in which a large number of coal-burning power plants exist. Although the sulphur dioxide emission, which are mainly responsible for acid rain, and the emission of many other concentrations are greatly reduced since the beginning of the 1990s the forest dieback, which started in the 1970s and culminated in the late 1980s, could not be stopped completely.
The clearing of forests in the surroundings of mountain huts created species-rich mountain meadows, which were maintained in alpine pasture farming. After the population exchange in 1945, this type of management largely came to a standstill and the mountain meadows were largely abandoned.
Above the timber line in about 1250-1350m follows the subalpine vegetation zone, which is marked by knee timber, mat-grass meadows and subarctic highmoors. This habitat of special importance in the Karkonosze because of a relic of Arctic tundra, which was typical during the ice age in Central Europe. At the same time, however, a connection to the alpine grasslands of the Alps existed and plant species coexist here, which are otherwise separated by several thousand kilometers, such as cloudberries. Some species evolved under the specific conditions of the Karkonosze unlike in the Alps or in the tundra. They are endemic, which means they only appear here.
The alpine vegetation zone, which is characterized by large rocky deserts, can only be found on the highest peaks (Snezka, Luční hora, Studniční hora, Kotel and Szrenica). Only grass and lichen survives here.
Especially species-rich are the cirque glaciers such as the Obří důl, Labský důl and Důl Bílého Labe on the south side and the dramatic Śnieżne Kotły, Kocioł Łomniczki and the calderas of mountain lakes Wielki Staw and Mały Staw on the north side of the main ridge. The species- richest areas are called zahrádka ("garden"). There are about 15 in the Karkonosze/Krkonoše , for example Čertova zahrádka und Krakonošova zahrádka.

Nature protection

On both the Czech and Polish side, large parts of the mountain range are protected as national parks and nature reserves.

Poland's Karkonosze National Park ("Karkonoski Park Narodowy", KPN) was created in 1959 and covers an area of convert|55.8|km2|sqmi. It covers the highly sensitive higher parts of the mountain range from an altitude of about 900–1000m and some special nature reserves below this zone.

The Czech Krkonoše National Park ("Krkonošský národní park", KRNAP) was created in 1963 as the second national park in Czechoslovakia, making it the oldest national park in the Czech Republic. Its area is approximately convert|370|km2|sqmi, including not only the subalpine zone but also large parts down to the foot of the mountains.

The strict conservation regulations of the Polish national park prohibit reforestation of damaged and dead forests. On the Czech side, however, large-scale reforestation projects are common.


The climate of the Karkonosze is marked by frequent weather changes. The winters are cold and snow heights above 3 meters are not uncommon. Many parts of the mountains are covered with snow for 5 or 6 month. Higher altitudes are often wrapped into dense fog. On average mount Sněžka-Śnieżka is at least partly hidden in fog and/or clouds on 296 days. The average temperature on mount Sněžka-Śnieżka amounts to approx. 0,2 °C, which is similar to much more northern climates like in Iceland. The main ridge belongs to the most wind-exposed areas of Europe. On the northern side Foehn wind is a frequent meteorological phenomenon. The annual precipitation ranges from approx. 700 mm at the foot of the mountains up to 1230 mm on mount Sněžka-Śnieżka. However, the highest precipitation with 1512 mm are reached in the snow pits in the valleys at the foot of the main ridge.


Until the Middle Ages the mountain range and it's foothills were a unpopulated place of deep, impenetrable forrests. The first traces of human settlements probably appear near two provincial paths between Bohemia and Silesia in the 12th century.

The first wave of colonization by Slavonic settlers goes back to the 13th century, but only includes the foothills, whereas the ridges of the mountain range are still unaffected. The second wave of colonization (Ostsiedlung) during the later 13th century to the foothills was carried out mostly by German settlers, which first colonized the Silesian northern part, where farming conditions were better, and later the southern Bohemian part along the Elbe and Upa river. Many agriculture settlements, market and handcraft communities and cities were founded during this time, which formed a base for the further colonization of the mountain range.
The first people who explored the inner parts of the Karkonosze were treasure hunters and miners looking for gold, silver, ores and valuable stones, mainly on the Silesian side. In the 14th and 15th centuries foreigners who spoke a different language then German came to the mountains. These foreigners were called "Wallen" (see Walha), and their journeys to the "treasure" deposits were recorded in so called "Wallenbüchern" (Wallen books). Mysterious orientation signs from these "Wallen" are visible to this day, especially on the northern side of the mountains.

At the beginning of the 16th century (1511) German miners from the region around Meissen in Saxony started their work in Obri Dul directly below mount Snìežka, and at the same time many other mines were opened in other central parts of the mountains too, like Svatý Petr (Saint Peter), now a part of Špindlerův Mlýn.In the 1530th Christopher von Gendorf, a Carinthian aristocrat and royal senior captain of King Ferdinand I, appeared in the Karkonosze and obtained the entire dominion of Vrchlabí. His enterprising spirit became crucial for the further development of the area. For the supplement of the miners he founded many smaller towns in higher parts of the mountains. Further down in the valleys iron work furnaces were built and water wheels provided the needed energy. Due to the intensive economic activity the first deforested enclaves on hillsides and on the peaks appeared during this period.By the orders of Christopher von Gendorf widespread timber cutting for the silver mine in Kuttna Hora started in many places, which caused irreparable damages. These orders led to the third wave of colonization, which fully affected the mountain ridges. In 1566 he invited lumberjacks from alpine countries to settle in his domain. These people from Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria changed the character of the mountains and shaped the cultural landscape significantly. Hunderts of families especially from Tyrol created another group of inhabitants which spoke a different German dialect and brought another domestic culture to the Karkonosze. On the mountain hillsides they founded new settlements, laid down the basis for later farming by breeding cattle and built wooden dams to retain the water. The entire mountain range was already in the 17th century a densely populated region with meadow enclaves and cottages (called Bauden), which were used during the cattle pasturage in the summer and sometimes even through the winter. Around the same time Albrecht von Wallenstein acquired parts of the mountains and the town Vrchlabí served as a base for armament of his army. During that time non-Catholics found refuge in remote places in the mountains. Later entire village communities of non- Catholics from Austrian countries found asylum on the now Prussian northern side, where they settled in Marysin, Michalovice, Jagnietkow or Karpacz.During the 17th century the mountain range on the Bohemian side was divided among new landowners, most of them of Catholic faith and foreign to the region. This included the families of Harrach, Morzin and de Waggi. Disputes about the borders of each domain followed soon, which were settled between 1790 and 1810. The court decision from 1790, which set the border between the Bohemian dominions and the Silesian Schaffgotsch dominions (which owned this region since the Middle Ages), defines the border between Bohemia and Silesia to this day.

In 1918 the Republic of Czechoslovakia was founded, and the coming years were characterized by an influx of Czechs on the Bohemian side of the mountains. Usually these people worked for the government (opposed to the German inhabitants they spoke both Czech and German, which was required), but some of them also worked in the tourism industry and managed mountain huts like Labská bouda (German: Elbfallbaude) or Vosecká bouda (German: Wosseckerbaude). This influx was stopped when the Czechoslovakian side of the mountains was occupied by Germany in 1938, and many of these Czechs left the region or were expelled.After World War II almost the entire German population was expelled and replaced by Poles on the northern Silesian side and by Czechs on the southern Bohemian side of the mountain range. Today the population density is 2/3 lower then before World War II as the resettlement was only partly successfulFact|date=May 2008 and many houses are only used for recreational purposes at weekends.


Typical for the Karkonosze are it's numerous mountain huts, which are called "bouda" in Czech and "Baude" in German. Both names are derived from the Middle High German word "Buode", which means booth or building. The Polish name is "Schronisko". Most of the time they were either called after it's constructor and first occupant or after the location. Entire colonies of mountain huts were called after the families who lived there. They are located in the higher parts or the ridge of the Karkonosze and were used by shepherds as wooden refuges in the summer. After 1800, some of the mountain huts became interesting for the first hikers, and towards the end of the 19th Century many were converted into hostels. Later, these huts were often expanded to host a larger number of guests. Known historical mountain huts include Luční bouda (Wiesenbaude ), Marti Nová bouda (Martinsbaude) and Vosecká bouda(Wosseckerbaude) in the Czech Republic and Schronisko Strzecha Akademicka (Hampelbaude), Schronisko Samotnia (Teichbaude) and Schronisko na Hali Szrenickiej (Neue Schlesische Baude) in Poland. In other places, the old mountain huts were replaced by newer buildings which were specially built for tourism purposes. Those huts from the 20th Century include Petrova bouda (Peterbaude) or the hut on top of mount Sněžka-Śnieżka.

The Karkonosze also offer numerous very impressive rock formations, such as Dívčí kameny-Śląskie Kamienie and Mužské kameny-Czeskie Kamienie above 1400 m on the main ridge, Harrachovy kameny on the Czech side or Pielgrzymy and Słonecznik in Poland. These weathered blocks of granite form high towers which often resemble on humans or animals and reach heights up to 30 meters. Similar formations can be found in other parts of the Sudetes.


The Karkonosze are one of the most traditional touristic areas in Central Europe. Already in the 18th und 19th century ascents to the Schneekoppe were common, such as by Theodor Körner or Johann Wolfgang Goethe. At the end of the 19th century two mountains clubs were founded, the German "Riesengebirgsverein" (Giant Mountains Club) on the Silesian side and the Austrian "Riesengebirgsverein" on the Bohemian side. Both set, among other things, the touristic development of the Karkonosze as their goal, which primarily meant the construction of hiking trails. In the next years they created a network of 3000km, with 500km on the Silesian (main) and Bohemian ridge alone. As a result the mountains became one of the most popular vacation areas in Germany. )((Hirschberg) guaranteed a convenient and speedy arrival.
After 1945 and the population transfer of the German inhabitants an expansion of ski resorts with new lifts and slopes took place on both sides of the mountains, while the traditional mountain huts were neglected. Many were victims of fires, such as "Elbfallbaude", "Riesenbaude", or "Prinz-Heinrich-Baude". Similarly many hiking trails, ski jumps and luge tracks fell into disrepair due to lack of care. The cross-border hiking trail on the main ridge called "Friendship trail" was closed in the 1980s for all but Polish and Czechoslovak citizens.
Today, theKarkonosze are a popular holiday destination in summer and winter especially for visitors from Germany and the Netherlands. Large ski resorts are located on the Czech side in Špindlerův Mlýn and Harrachov and on the Polish side in Szklarska Poręba and Karpacz.

Highest Peaks

*Sněžka-Śnieżka ( _de. Schneekoppe), convert|1602|m|ft, highest peak, summit station of chair lift from Pec pod Sněžkou
*Luční hora ( _de. Hochwiesenberg), convert|1555|m|ft, highest peak of the Bohemian crest
*Studniční hora ( _de. Brunnberg), convert|1554|m|ft
*Vysoké Kolo-Wielki Szyszak ( _de. Hohes Rad), convert|1509|m|ft, highest peak in the western part of the Karkonosze
*Smogornia ( _de. Mittagsberg), convert|1489|m|ft
*Malý Šišák-Mały Szyszak ( _de. Kleine Sturmhaube), convert|1440|m|ft
*Kotel ( _de. Kesselkoppe) convert|1435|m|ft
*Velký Šišák-Śmielec ( _de. Große Sturmhaube), convert|1424|m|ft
*Mužské kameny-Czeskie Kamienie ( _de. Mannsteine), convert|1416|m|ft
*Dívčí kameny-Śląskie Kamienie ( _de. Mädelsteine), convert|1414|m|ft
*Tępy Syczyt ( _de. Kleines Rad), convert|1388|m|ft
*Kopa ( _de. Kleine Koppe), convert|1377|m|ft
*Liščí hora convert|1363|m|ft
*Szrenica ( _de. Reifträger), convert|1362|m|ft, summit station of chair lift from Szklarska Poręba
*Lysá hora ( _de. Kahler Berg), convert|1344|m|ft
*Stoh ( _de. Heuschober), convert|1315|m|ft
*Černá hora ( _de. Schwarzenberg), convert|1299|m|ft
*Medvědín ( _de. Schüsselberg), convert|1235|m|ft, summit station of chair lift from Špindlerův Mlýn
*Čertová hora ( _de. Teufelsberg), convert|1020|m|ft, summit station of chair lift from Harrachov
*Chojnik, convert|627|m|ft, medieval castle ruins

Important towns

*Karpacz ski resort in Poland
*Szklarska Poręba ski resort in Poland
*Špindlerův Mlýn mountain resort in the Czech Republic
*Harrachov in the Czech Republic
*Pec pod Sněžkou mountain resort in the Czech Republic
*Przesieka in Poland
*Kowary in Poland


External links

* [http://english.krnap.cz/ Official Krkonoše Mts. National Park website]
* [http://www.kpnmab.pl/ Official Karkonoski Park Narodowy website] pl icon
* [http://www.wkarkonosze.net/ Karkonosze - information, history] pl icon
* [http://www.veselyvylet.cz/index.html/ Veselý výlet] cs icon pl icon de icon

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