It Was a Ghost Town, Today It’s a City of Gardens, Rafting and Bicycles

Themed gardens, view of, among others, aviaries for exotic species. Photo: UMiGU Muszyna

I told the council members that I was going to make this place a real resort that would begin competing with Polish health resorts, and then with foreign ones. They later admitted that on the inside they had a good laugh at my dreams. And now we want to build the first indoor ski slope in Poland, a unique undertaking in all of Europe – says Jan Golba, the mayor of Muszyna and president of the Association of Health Resort Communities of the Republic of Poland.

TYGODNIK TVP: You’re one of the longest-serving mayors in Poland and a “triple-mayor,” as you’ve been called in connection with the management of three health resorts in the Małopolska Region: first Krynica Zdrój, then Szczawnica, and now Muszyna. And you are known for your quite wild visions, such as the construction of a gondola lift to Jaworzyna Krynicka – in the early 1990s, ski-lifts reigned in the Polish mountains, it seemed like a utopian idea.

I started to manage the city as a 32-year-old, in 1988, so just before the political breakthrough in Poland and the economic transformation. Therefore, at the beginning, people thought more about saving Krynica than about development. The appearance of the health resort itself left much to be desired. Decrepit, shabby buildings, potholed asphalt on the promenade, collapsing footbridges, companies failing overnight, liquidation of preventive and therapeutic centers, sanatoriums, agricultural cooperatives and state farms (PGRs). In addition, almost 40% of the residents were unemployed. The situation was so dramatic that there were no resources to maintain flower beds and councilors debated how much to spend for sowing grass. You had to risk a lot to improve Krynica’s image and make it more attractive for tourists. So I took a risk.

I’ve traveled a lot around the world and observed how Western resorts were developing. I was also looking for my own, innovative solutions to attract tourists. I started by looking for investors to build a mineral water bottling plant, because we had fantastic waters of the “Kryniczanka” type, which flowed calmly down the streams, instead of curing people or quenching their thirst. When the entrepreneur, Zbigniew Jakubas, decided to build a hotel in Krynica, I convinced him to build a bottling plant instead of a hotel, because there were plenty of those in the resort already. At the beginning, I was met with great reluctance from the inhabitants. They had resentments about water being a national good, and here I was entrusting it to some privateer who wanted to earn money from it. On the other hand, they didn’t mind the lack of jobs and the fact that the water was flowing down the stream, unused for centuries. However, the investment turned out to be a bull’s eye – it created many jobs, water became widely available, and two more bottling plants were opened in Krynica.

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Translated by Nicholas Siekierski