In broad daylight, with the sun beaming down, I was not at all aware that I was approaching a haunted castle. Yet the setting for Niedzica Castle was well nigh perfect.
Perched high on a cliff above the Dunajec River, for centuries this castle was a border post with Hungary. Erected around 1325, the castle changed hands numerous times but the owners remained Hungarian right up to the middle of World War II. In 1412 it was the venue for a loan from Hungary to the Polish king, using 16 Spis (towns in the region of Slovakia) as collateral. The towns had to be returned once the loan was repaid. The last Hungarian countess left with her children in 1943, just two years before the arrival of the Red Army.
They are quite fascinating, these roofs, aren’t they, and I have been trying to establish their exact purpose. My husband insists that they are built that way to prevent snow lingering on them, and he may well be correct. His basis for thinking so is a programme we watched about Yellowstone, where roofs had to be cleared by hand to remove the weight of the snow. I haven’t been able to find evidence, so I’ll just say that he’s usually right.
Furnishings bring the castle to life
And so we come to the ghost story. One of the castle’s many owners, Sebastian Berzeviczy, travelled to the New World in the 18th century. Legend has it that he fell in love with an Inca princess. Their daughter, Umina, married one of the Incan rebels who was subsequently executed by the Spanish. Umina fled to Niedzica with her son and father, allegedly taking with them some sacred scrolls and Inca treasure. Umina was later murdered outside the castle, presumably by a treasure hunter. She now roams the castle as the “White Lady” to protect her gold. The castle has 35 suites so, if you fancy a little ghost hunting, it could be a good place to stay.
Time to get out on the battlements for a little fresh air!
In 1994 the lake was dammed downstream of the castle, creating an artificial reservoir, Lake Czorsztyn. The castle now stands approximately 30 metres above the upper water level. Stalls alongside the dam sell grilled smoked cheese for a snack, or to take away, with local honey and crafts. The smells are so appetising!
You may remember that I was across the lake at Czorsztyn Castle in my Tatry Mountains post.
The fortress was renovated almost every time it changed hands, but the final reconstruction was completed by the Polish Ministry of Culture in 1963. It has served as a historical museum ever since.
So, what did you think of Niedzica? Will you be checking in any time soon? I know that my friend Paula loves the mountain scenery and I would like to share this on her Thursday’s Special. I hope she’ll approve. I’m off there next to see what’s special about Thursday this week. Come with me, won’t you?