This post will cover some spectacular tourist attractions close to Krakow. This is also a page of Poland’s history that resembles, in certain ways, what happens during the last months in Ukraine. The castles on the Trail of the Eagle’s Nests are located in the Polish Jura mountains, North of Krakow, and they can be reached by car in one or two hours of driving. The Polish Jura are old mountains with maximum heights under 500m, similar to the Dobrogea Mountains in Romania. The hills are not high, but the views are beautiful.
In the XIV century, the Polish King Casimir the Great (1333-1370) built about 25 castles in these mountains between Krakow, his capital, and Czestochowa. These castles attract many tourists for the spectacular sightseeing in the present days. The area was the border between Poland and Silesia, a province of the Bohemian kingdom.
Casimir the Great did more than build castles. In 1367 he founded the University of Krakow. This University is vital for the city even in the present day. Krakow owes its current growth mainly to the University. The increasing IT sector is a good example. An investment in education pays a lot in the long term.
Let’s return to our topic. There is a good site with helpful information regarding castles in Poland. You can learn about the history of every building, and you can also see that many are entirely destroyed. This is because of an event that deeply impacted Polish history.
The 30 Years War finished in 1648. At the end of that war, Sweden remained with a powerful army and not enough money to pay its soldiers. As often happened in history, countries with mighty armies looked for opportunities to attack their neighbors. In 1655 Sweden decided to attack Poland, which was not affected after the 30 Years’ War. Poland offered plenty of things to loot for the invaders. The Swedish troops occupied almost the entire country as Poland had problems preparing its army to defend it.
The turning point of the events was the unexpected resistance of the Jasna Gora monastery. This monastery was and still is the most important religious site in Poland. In 1655 Polish people became highly emotional hearing about the fights for the sanctuary, and they gathered an army to start fighting the Swedes. The unsuccessful siege of the fortified monastery was lifted after more than one month. The Swedish forces eventually retreated with all the goods they could carry. One-third of the civil population of Poland died in that war.
These events remained in history as “The Deluge”. Henry Sienkiewicz wrote a novel on this topic. A well-known movie, “Potop”, was made based on the book in 1974.
The Swedish army destroyed all the castles part of the Trial of the Eagle’s Nest during the deluge. They tried to steal everything they found. The ruins remained in some cases since those events until recently. Because unfortunately, for every war, the impact and destructions last for generations after it ends.
Last decade, as Poland joined the European Union, they got funds from the union or other countries. They were able to renovate or rebuild some of these castles.
Many of the castles on the Trail of the Eagle’s Nest are open for tourists for small fees. In my opinion, the best time to visit them is in autumn when the trees from the surrounding hills are beautifully colored.
Maybe you wonder why these attractions were called Trail of the Eagle’s Nest? All of them are situated on high limestone cliffs or huge rocks, which suggests a resemblance to the eagle’s nests.
Besides castles in the same Jura mountains, you can see many gates created by nature by carving big stones. Examples are the Krakow gate and Twardowski gate.
These attractions combine history and nature. Maybe you’ll also find them interesting to visit someday.