Silesia - named for two isolated peaks used as a worshipping ground by the Celts - has exchanged hands over the centuries: initially part of the first Polish nation, it then slowly merged with Bohemia to its south (as Sleszko), then became part of Austria and eventually part of Prussia to its west (as Schlesien). Given its many masters over the years, the inhabitants are commonly bilingual and tend to think of themselves as Silesians first. As in northern Poland, the German influence and interest in the region is apparent today: Karkonosze was and is becoming again a popular holiday spot, and the former home of the Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann is in Silesia (Jagniatkow).
After passing back into Polish hands at the end of WWII to compensate for losses to the east, Silesia now offers a typical Polish mix of the industrial Katowice contrasted with the cosmopolitan Wroclaw. Like other regions in Poland, it has its castles (in Ksiaz or Brzeg), monasteries (Krzeszow, Trzebnica, Lubiaz, or Henrykow), and health resorts (in Polanice Zdroj, Duszniki Zdroj, or Kudowa Zdroj). For pure recreation, the 300 km long Sudety Mountains offer a popular alternative to the Tatry to the east. Here you can hike, ski, bike, or simply relax in the health spas.