Intro: Hello! a few weeks back I found myself roadtripping around southern Poland again. Now that I have some spare time, I'm able to write about one of my favorite daytrips I went on then. Around 1 hr outside of Krakow, totally off the international tourist radar, are the mighty medieval castles of the Eagle' Nest Trail. A car is required but I did not spot any non-Polish tourist for the entire day, and this was in the supposed high season!
Background: The Eagle's Nest Trail, are a string of 25 medieval castles and fortresses, built by King Casimir the Great of Poland in the 14th century, as a bulwark against the encroaching Kingdom of Bohemia. The castles are located in a protected area called the Polish Jurassic Highlands, a hilly landscape of Jurassic limestone cliffs and valleys, dotted with many charming villages and dense forests.
My route: After the countless invasions of Poland, many of these Eagles' Nest Castle are now in ruins, albeit extremely picturesque ruins. Though a number are still intact or restored. I first headed west from Krakow, but was only able to make it to 3 castles by the end of the day.
Będzin Castle – located 1 hr west of Krakow, this mid sized castle was the most westward fortification of the old Kingdom of Poland. It was damaged and rebuilt over various times. Unfortunately the castle was closed for the day so I only got to see the outside, thick walls and nice cylindrical towers. There is an onsite museum I was not able to access about the local history of the area.
Ogrodzieniec Castle Ruins (my favorite) – a large very picturesque/romantic castle ruin built into a patch of prehistoric limestone formations. Originally as grand as Krakow castle, it was pillaged by the Swedes in the 17th century. Now supposedly haunted by a big black dog (Sherlock Homes anyone?). The site was open though the castle grounds were quite built up for local tourism, with many trinket shops and even rides for kids, they were having a concert there later at night. Entrance cost me 5 PLN (around 1 Euro). Inside one can take a self-guided tour of the ruins, with many narrow stairs, but the view at the top of the ruins was well worth it! Inside there was also a mini museum of the armour of the time. All the info placards were well written in English so I had no trouble understanding the history. From me, it was also interesting to see that the local Jurassic-age limestone blocks that these castles were built from actually contain many fossilized prehistoric sea creatures and shells.
Bobolice Royal Castle – also located in a crop of limestone formations, this castle was also previously destroyed by the Swedish, yet was fully rebuilt afterward. Of course, haunted by ghosts and witches. This castle was very well rebuilt, but the only way inside was with a guided tour, which was only in Polish. I did not mind, the guide dressed as a knight, showed us the various rooms of the castle as well as old suits of armour and arms. It was a nice castle, but maybe a bit too well rebuilt, looked almost new.
Food: Now the most important part! I ate at a very good traditional restaurant, built as a giant wooden chalet called Karczma Bida, they have a few locations throughout southern Poland. Huge portions of the traditional Polish food, all for very low prices, you can eat like a king (or queen) for under 8 US Dollars. With a 29 PLN (7$) plate of meat pierogi with mushroom sauce and local vegetable salads, I had enough food for lunch and later dinner too! Interestingly they also had a Vegan (wegan) Menu.