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Mindat Crystal Days Meeting Lwówek Śląski 2013

Last Updated: 18th Jul 2013

By Jolyon & Katya Ralph

Mindat Crystal Days Meeting Lwówek Śląski 2013

Following on from our most successful 1st International Mindat.org Conference in Lwówek Śląski in 2011, we decided it was time to return to the town and their fabulous festival (See here, here and here)

Crystal Days is an annual festival held in the picturesque Polish town of Lwówek Śląski, with an outside mineral show, town fair, mineral exhibitions, and a stage featuring live music and entertainment.

The famous Town Hall tower, in the center of the town.

We arrived on Wednesday in time to see preparations for the event well under way.

This time we got permission to go up the tower (not normally open to public). A great place to view the preparations below.

Thursday 11th July

During the daytime, several of us went over the border to visit the Terra Mineralia mineral museum in Freiberg, near Dresden, but this was not an official part of the programme and I'll write about that in a different report.

The official part of the Mindat Crystal Days Meeting started in the evening with a reception inside the famous Town Hall.

Reception in the town hall

Friday 12th July

We moved to the Hall of Culture on Friday morning to watch four presentations:

John Veeveart talked about Benitoite from the Benitoite Gem Mine, California.

Malcolm Southwood talked about the Tsumeb mine, Namibia.

Mark Mauthner talked about Yukon's Silver Trail.

And, finally, Łukasz Kruszewski gave a presentation about minerals from burning coal dumps.

Malcolm Southwood talking about Tsumeb

After lunch, we went to the town center to wait for the official opening ceremony. Luckily the rain stopped just in time.

Some of at the opening.

Part of the ceremony involves giving bread to all the stall holders.

The special loaf.

Mineral images being projected on a new high-definition screen by the stage.

The banner for the event being brought in by the 'Valonians', who celebrate the history of the early miners and mineral explorers of the area.

On the stage for the opening ceremony with the Mayor.

The Mayor

Buglers on the tower announce the opening to the crowd.

Upstairs in the Town Hall, invited guests put on mineral displays.

John Veevaert brought an excellent selection of Benitoite and related minerals.

Part of Andrzej Korzekwa's display of minerals.

In the evening, we gathered for a coach ride for a very special party.

Boarding the coach.

Coach guide Tom explains what is going to happen, or at least a very small part of it!

We arrive. The coach drops us off here, where there are some inexplicable wooden statues. We then journey on to our final destination.

The party crowd wait by the coach for smaller vehicles to take us to our final destination.

We arrive at the home of the 'Valonians', an impressive mountain hideaway called Chata Walońska (or 'House of the Valonians). We enter and await.

Brave mindateers sit down not quite sure of what is going to happen next.

We sit while it is explained that, based on the centuries old Valonian traditions (or at least what they think they might have been), three women from the group will be selected as Valonian witches for the evening.

Rocks and minerals surround the room, including these rather impressive large artificial copper sulphate crystals.

The witches are selected, they pass their initiation, and their tasks are explained. There is one good witch (in the center) and two bad witches.

Apparently all the men have been very naughty and need to be punished by the bad witches.

The Valonians mint their own 'currency', or more specifically good luck charms. Here I am minting my own personal good luck charm.

It's apparently VERY important that no-one else is ever allowed to touch your good luck charm. Mine was touched almost immediately after it was minted by a very bad witch, so I suspect my luck is on the decline.

Some witches took things very seriously.

We went downstairs into an underground chamber. One part surrounded an open fire, another part held their museum of cheap wine.

Exhibits in the museum of cheap wine

More exhibits in the cheap wine museum.

Next to the fire someone who was a cross between a Valonian and a Cossak was preparing the main meal - roast wild boar (from the local forest).

Aleksander Hołoga performed the music for our party.

Mark Mauthner throwing some shapes on the dance floor.

Saturday 13th July

Saturday morning meant a 7am start on the coach to get to our first collecting destination - Strzegom.

An early start sometimes benefits photographers.

Łukasz Kruszewski limbering up before the collecting starts.

Wandering down into our first locality, the Andrzej Quarry

Some of the features seen on the quarry walls were not entirely natural.

An example of an exposed cavity. This is one that has been pretty much worked out.

Katya found some nice smoky quartz crystals in debris in an exposed cavity.

The nicest crystal she found.

Liam and others exploring.

Everyone left the quarry with something.

A short coach ride later and we were at our second locality, the Wekom II quarry.

Welcome to the Wekom II quarry!

Some of the pieces just left lying around on the dumps.

Mineralized cavity.

Smoky Quartz crystals - I managed to get a small specimen out of this piece.


Barb showing one of her finds.

Andrzej showing two of his finds.

Pocket with nice feldspar crystals.

Granite is lifted out of the quarry by crane.

We then explored the smaller pit next door where a similar suite of minerals was found.

We then took the coach into Strzegom town center, where a couple of local dealers were waiting for us with local specimens for sale.

Crowding around the mini-mineral-show.

Andrzej investigating a large quartz crystal.

Boxes of local specimens.

In the same building Andrzej Korzekwa had a display of some of his own Strzegom minerals.

After lunch we returned to the Crystal Days festival, and had time to look around.

The streets around the town center are transformed into a large street market selling a variety of things.

This area, and along the road to the right of the picture, is exclusively for mineral, gem and jewellery dealers.

Lots of bread

Tom Praszkier with a large smoky quartz crystal from Strzegom...

And a fine Madagascan Celestine cluster.

As well as minerals, local crafts were on sale.

Including slippers.

It slices, it dices.

The kids seemed to enjoy the funfair elements, here seen next to one of the city's preserved city wall towers.

Bubble guns

And lots of candy.

Various coloured things.

'schalenblende' slices

Buy an agate nodule and they'll cut it open for you on the spot.

Mineral and gem dealers.

Mineralien Welt

Grzegorz Piątek had this lovely Pohla baryte for sale.

Cut and polished local agates.

The street markets were always busy.

Another mineral/gem dealer.

Beads and polished stones.

Amber items.

Inside the town hall, an exhibition has been put on of copper minerals. This will run for 100 days.

Visitors enjoying the displays.

Admiring the azurites

Later on I was able to get a view of the exhibition when it was quieter.

One of the most impressive venues for a mineral exhibition I have ever seen.

Introductory panels describing the exhibition.

Impressive malachite specimens.

Close up of above case.


An ore cart loaded with 1 ton of real copper ore from the Lubin mine.

>Lubin ore is usually quite low grade, but this piece shows a vein of solid bornite running through the rock.

In the evening we joined a party in the local sports hall (our conference venue in 2011) along with the exhibitors from the mineral show and others from the polish mineral collecting community.

Tom Praszkier and the Mayor addressing the audience.

Mindat.org members and supporters raise a toast.

Liam Schofield with a very Polish snack.

Sunday 14th July

Our last field trip was to a local agate collecting area.

The coach is waiting for us.

Liam Schofield and Katya Ralph compare shoe sizes.

Our destination, Góry i Pogórze Kaczawskie.

We climb up a steep hillside to the first exposure.

Preparing to collect.

A polish collector down a hole.

Small agate nodules.

A bigger agate nodule.

Examining finds.

We then walked on, following the old railway track, to the second exposure.

And another hole to climb into.

This roadside bank has produced many great agates.

Looking for nodules.

On returning to the town center, we were able to get these cut.

Our best find of the day!

A box of agates. At this point they hadn't been sorted into keepers and leavers.

The leavers ended up here, the river next to our hotel!

In the evening the dealers packed up and the town started to fill very quickly with people as the evening concert started.

Getting ready to perform

Crowds continue to gather. Wait. I recognise that advert.

By this time the whole town is packed with people and it's difficult to get a good view of the stage.

People watching the concert.

Katya does manage to get a better position to take some photos of the performance - the Polish group Fill are performing here.

Just in time to catch me and the other special international guests taking to the stage. I say a few words to thank the town for their help in hosting the Mindat Crystal Days Meeting.

This is the view I had from the stage. Slightly larger crowd than I'm normally used to talking to.

Of course, people weren't hanging around to listen to me. They were waiting for the finale, the grand laser show. Previous Crystal Days festivals have culminated in fantastic firework displays, but concerns over possible damage to buildings in the town lead to a change of plan this year - but it was still extremely impressive.

The show starts.

Lases in many colours.


More lasers.

Valonians watching the laser show.

Strange tunnels of laser light.

Even more lasers.

Handy hint - if you're at this angle at a laser show, don't use your best camera or phone to record it - a laser can destroy your camera sensor in under a second. I used an older camera for these shots, fortunately it survived unscathed.

John Veevaert took this video of the laser show:

After the show ends, at 11.30, we returned to the Town Hall for the after-show party.

Celebrating the end of a great event.

As before, the hospitality of Lwówek Śląski and everyone involved in the Crystal Days festival has been incredible. We cannot thank them enough. Special thanks must, of course, to go Tomasz Praszkier - Mindat manager, mineral dealer, show organizer, mineral article and book author, who somehow found time to arrange everything for us. Thank you, Tom! Your tremendous efforts are, as always, very appreciated!

We enjoyed this event so much that we're planning to make this an annual event! Come join us in July 2014 at the Crystal Days festival weekend for more great times!

Article has been viewed at least 27432 times.


Great report Jolyon! Thanks!

Tomasz Praszkier
18th Jul 2013 4:26pm
Hi to everybody!
I saw the photos and the video, congratulations Jolyon and Katia!

But I said you something when we were all together in Lwowek, do you remember? I said I feel the duty of writing to you about my travel back home.
It was all right but for a some-hours bloody weather I took yesterday. I got home today at 4.30 pm after having cycled to the German border in Gòrlitz and spent a couple of days in Freiberg after taking a train. Unfortunately the Krugerhaus was close because it was Monday, while it works just from Thursday to Sunday. Then I took a train to Bavaria and spent that night to a she-friend of mine on the Lake Chiem.
On Thursday I got to Schwaz in Austria and visit the silver mines and took a train to Innsbruck. In the evening I climbed the Brennero Pass and finally GOT TO ITALY! Yesterday I cycled to Peschiera on the Lake of Garda and slept there. Today I took a train to Milan. HOME SWEET HOME!

My stones got also well and safe in my collection, now I just have to work a little with my microscope (any micromount in granites? Never say never!) and register all of them.

But I always remember of you all.
I remember Jolyon and Katia being so happy together and truly in love with each other and I hope it lasts the rest of their life!
I remember Katia having care of my health ("Riccardo, you eat too much salt, it isn't right!") and of my stones ("Riccardo, you are breaking it!").
I remember Angela, Barbara and Suzanne being so kind with me, including while dancing!
I remember Tom, Andrzej and Joanna trying to explain the history and the present situation of the places we visited!
I remember Malcolm and Liam being so friendly and joyful with me, including toasting and drinking vodka at the dinners!
I apologize if I forgot somebody, but I always take all of you in my memories and in my heart. Thank you!!!

P.S. If anybody of you has (at present or in the future, it's an evergreen!) a plan of coming to Italy, just you have to let me know and therefore don't hesitate to do it by sending me a message through this wonderful site, and tell me how many days you want to spend in my country! So I can prepare a small programme of what I can show you! I'm waiting for ALL OF YOU!!!
Greetings from Italy by Riccardo.

Riccardo Modanesi
20th Jul 2013 5:35pm

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