The cosmopolitan city of Kraków is a million miles away from the river gorge of the Ojców Valley in time, but just 25km in distance.
I arrived in Kraków expecting the beautiful Spring weather I had experienced in previous years, but it was not to be. Okropny- the Polish word for “terrible”- described it very well. Mizzle accompanied grey skies, followed by crashing thunderstorms and heavy rain. Still, nic nie szkodzi, as they say in Poland. It “doesn’t really matter”, when you’re with family and friends. Polish hospitality is, quite rightly, legendary.
Along with all the eating and drinking a little fresh air was called for, so out came the umbrellas. A short drive north west of the city brought us to the village of Ojców and a different world.
Looming over the village, the castle ruins keep a beady eye on the end of the Eagles Nest Trail, a line of defence once stretching north to Częstochowa. Today most of the action in the valley comes from walkers. Armed with our umbrellas, we ventured along the woodland trail.
Limestone cliffs line the narrow banks of the River Prądnik, with greenery clinging tenaciously to every crevice.
Ojców straggles through the valley. Signs for noclegi, a room for the night, or longer, adorn many of the wooden houses.
Even in the swirling mists there’s a grandeur to the scenery. We walk as far as Brama, named for the imposing rock structure which forms a “gate” through the valley.
The gorge is home to bats and caves, the best known of which is Łokieta, and is open for guided visits in Summer. The valley is rich in flora and fauna.
I, meantime, am being eyed wickedly by a horse whose temperament seems to suit the weather. Horse and traps cover the short distance from Ojców to the beginning of the trail, for those who don’t like to walk, or just enjoy a ride. To be fair, it can’t have been much fun being a horse that day.
We retrace our steps beside the gurgling river to Kaplicza na Wodzie, a small wooden chapel. It straddles the river on a platform, nicely side-stepping a 19th century Tsarist edict forbidding religious structures to be built “on solid ground”. In Poland, the Catholic Church was never easy to subdue.
On a better day you can walk the 9km from Ojców to Pieskowa Skała, but a heavy shower had us dashing for the car. Perched on a wonderful vantage point, the castle at Pieskowa Skała dates from the 14th century, but was rebuilt in the 1580s as an elegant Renaissance residence. It has a delicately arcaded courtyard, as does Wawel Castle in Kraków, and pretty gardens. There’s a history museum and the restaurant is set into the castle walls. A climb up the circular steps to the roof terrace of the restaurant will give you fine views.
Olsztyn Castle is nearer to Częstochowa, at the other end of the Eagles Nest Trail, but that’s an “O” to save for another day! I owe thanks to Julie Dawn Fox for the idea that inspired My Personal A-Z of Poland. The subjects have become very diverse so do go and have a look around.
I’m going to do something now that I wouldn’t normally do. Anyone who reads me regularly will know that a few weeks ago, I included an enquiry about Jake of Jakesprinter in a blog post. I’m delighted to find tonight that he’s back with a stunning new Sunday Post on the subject of Attractions. This post links perfectly to that and I am very pressed for time, so I’m linking the two. Welcome back, Jake! 🙂
Meantime I have 101 jobs to do since my return. I apologise for the quality of the photos, but you’ll be glad to know that after 3 days of okropny weather, we found some sunshine.