Duszniki-Zdrój is in the south-west of Kłodzko Valley. The town first appears in historical sources in 1324. A trade route between Silesia and Bohemia passed through what was then a settlement on the banks of the Bystrzyca Dusznicka. Duszniki-Zdrój was granted a town charter in 1346. The first mention of a healing spring, ‘Zimny Zdrój’ [Cold spring], dates from the fifteenth century. Cures using heated spring water began in 1793. The ‘Letni Zdrój’ [Summer spring], now known as the ‘Pieniawa Chopina’ [Chopin’s spring], opened that same year. The resort began to grow in the early nineteenth century, to cater for the ever increasing popularity of cures and treatments. Although it had been known by its Polish name ‘Duszniki’ since the fourteenth century, the German name ‘Reinerz’ was often added, as can be seen in Chopin’s letters. Chopin’s teacher, Józef Elsner, came to Duszniki-Zdrój for treatment in 1818 and 1819, and Fryderyk Adolf Roemer, one of the doctors (along with Jan Malcz) who looked after the health of the young Chopin, stayed there in 1818. Most likely at the prompting of their friends, the Chopins decided to send their son to Duszniki-Zdrój for treatment in the summer of 1826, immediately after he had graduated from the Warsaw Lyceum.
On 3 August 1826, the composer and his mother booked in at the Dom Bürgla [Bürgel house], a guest house that is no longer there. Chopin had to follow the treatment his doctors had prescribed. This mainly consisted of going for walks and drinking spring water at specified times. This proved efficacious, and the composer wrote to his family that he was ‘completely different than I was in Warsaw’. The ‘Pieniawa Chopina’ is now one of five springs in Duszniki. The water is drawn from 78 m underground and has a temperature of 18°C. The flow rate of the spring is 330 m3 / min.
Guests walked down the main avenue to the accompaniment of a brass band. Chopin described the music as ‘awful’.
While he was in Duszniki-Zdrój, Chopin gave an impromptu charity concert. This was not an easy assignment, as there were no good pianos available. He wrote to Elsner about this with some bitterness: ‘these are instruments that give me more pain than pleasure’. Despite everything, Chopin managed to perform in the Spa Theatre, and the takings were donated to an orphaned family. The International Chopin Festival has been held in that very same theatre every year since 1946. Masterclasses for young pianists are also held there.
Chopin also went on sightseeing trips around the area while he was there. He is known to have gone to a nearby hermitage, the entrance to which was via dozens of stone steps. He was really taken with the views of the surrounding hills, and it was with some reluctance that he went back down the steps.
The seventeenth-century paper mill (now the Museum of Papermaking) at ul. Kłodzka 42 is definitely worth seeing. The mill, which is on the outskirts of town, was probably visited by Chopin. In a letter to his friend Jan Białobłocki, written just after he got back to Warsaw, he stressed that ‘The paper on which I write to you is from Reinerz’.