Scenic, sleepy and not short on sights, Zamek Sarny is ideal for a slower pace of life
Life’s little glories, No. 79: watching the skies turn violet as the sun inches down whilst mooching in a castle with a glass of something fizzy.
If more avid readers are wondering why there was no column from me the other week, that’s because I was doing exactly just that – engaging in the noble pursuit of living the good life where counts used to tread. Work, I’m afraid, got forgotten along the way.
So where was I?
Call it Sarny.
Twenty clicks north-west of Klodzko, we reached Zamek Sarny with our moods playfully poised: on the one hand, burdened by the kind of toxic imbalance associated with a night spent prowling the craft bars of Wrocław, and on the other, buzzed with the natural excitement of arriving to a castle. It wouldn’t take long for the latter to prevail.
Built circa 1590, Sarny – or Scharfeneck as it was once known – was formerly a plaything of the German Counts of Götzen, and it was under this family’s charge that, during their 200-year tenure, elements were added such as a magnificent chapel and an adjoining palace.
Falling into Polish hands following the post-WWII reshuffle of borders, for decades it served as a collective farm before edging into ruin when Communism collapsed.
By no means was this Game Over. In 2010 rumours began swirling that Prince Charles was interested in its purchase, prompting lurid headlines along the lines of: “The Prince Wants Me Out Of My House!”
Though the hearsay came to nothing, it had the result of invigorating interest from other private quarters: not least Marcin Sobczyk, one of the more responsible journalists that reported on the story.
Joining with some Warsaw-based lawyers, the former Bloomberg correspondent acquired the castle at auction and set about the arduous task of its complete renovation.
Very much a work in progress (“Another fifteen years,” is the estimate), what has been thus accomplished is staggering in itself.
That much is evident on our arrival. Checking-in inside a sensitively restored gatehouse, it’s in here that lies the castle’s main perk: an elegantly appointed café whose warm brickwork is accented further by the sunlight sloping inwards. And in front: a terrace shaded by overhead sails and complete with lavish views of the steep wooded hills.
This, we immediately decide, will be our muster point for the sunsets to come. A sizeable complex, our accommodation inside the Composer’s House is, explains the receptionist, modern Italian in style: minimal, pristine, tasteful and soothing by its nature. I’ll sleep well, I think to myself.
And I do – though described earlier as a “work in progress” the scale of the complex means there’s never a moment during which noise becomes an issue. A monastic peace reigns throughout, and in this regard that’s never truer than in the parkland on its fringes.
By a gently gargling stream I spend the next few afternoons doing little more than lolling in the shade regretting only the book I’ve picked to take: “Killer Clown” simply doesn’t match the moment.
But there are moments of activity, as well: guided by a hand-drawn map, we lose ourselves in the surrounding forests, occasionally happening upon priceless snapshots of Polish village life: feral dogs, roaming geese and gardens adorned with miniature shrines and extravagant model houses.
If there’s one Achilles’ Heel, then let that be the lack of a bona fide, on-site restaurant. But in itself, this prompts more adventure: after a speeding taxi dash down dark, twisting roads, one night involves a side-trip to the Czech town of Broumov.
Here, in a misunderstanding of sorts, our request for wheat beer sees us handed weed beer instead: huge, plastic bottles of the stuff. Now whether or not this drink contains any weird active compounds is totally unlikely, but it does have the effect of getting us doolally drunk.
When we return to the castle we find ourselves trapped outside and unable to enter. Faced with the prospect of sleeping on a bench, we call Marcin and explain the situation in forthright terms.
“It’s impossible that you can’t get in,” he patiently explains. “Have you tried the gate?” Ah. Right. You mean the open thing ten metres in front. Oops.
And that’s not the only thing left open. Completed in 1720-something, the Chapel of St. John Nepomucene is doubtlessly one of the castle’s key attractions.
Adorned with magnificent reliefs, we light candles inside before staring upwards at a ceiling that lends the illusion of looking to the heavens.
Bewildering in its beauty, the impression it imparts stops us in our tracks.
It’s as impressive in daylight as it is at night, and even more so when viewed from the creaky wooden gallery positioned above the entrance.
At this point Sarny’s true lure becomes abundantly apparent: exploring further, the castle’s crooked steps lead to mysterious empty chambers or echoing, dusty halls filled with intriguing bits of art. You investigate never knowing what could lie beyond.
Scenic, sleepy but not short on sights, the rich atmosphere that envelopes the Sarny experience will resonate with anyone looking to extract themselves from life’s daily grind. Come here to re-tune, to relax and to read (anything but “Killer Clown”) while wallowing in the pleasures of a slower pace of life. I did just that and enjoyed every minute: thanks for everything, Sarny.