Visit The Eagles Nests Of Poland
If you want to experience a true taste of Poland’s medieval history, then pay a visit to the Eagles’ Nests. Situated on the beautiful, undulating Kraków-Czestochowa Upland, this is a chain of 25 medieval castles built to protect Poland’s western frontier during the 14th century. Many of them are located in a protected area known as Eagles’ Nests Landscape Park, one of more than 120 landscape parks throughout Poland.
The castles were constructed at the command of Casimir III the Great, who ruled Poland from 1333 to 1370. At that time, Kraków was the capital of Poland, and lay perilously close to the border with Silesia. Casimir is credited for rebuilding Poland after decades of war that had devastated the country – in fact, when he came to the throne, Casimir’s neighbors simply referred to him as the King of Kraków, refusing to acknowledge his title as King of Poland. By the time Casimir died in 1370, he had built a country that had doubled in size and had returned to prosperity. Not only was Casimir a great builder, he also established a code of laws for the country that led to him being called the Polish Justinian, and also founded the University of Kraków – now the oldest university in Poland.
The reason that the castles are referred to as the Eagles’ Nests is that they are mostly situated on tall rocks and cliffs in the Polish Jura that forms part of the Kraków-Czestochowa Upland. Many of the castles are ruined today – after Casimir’s death, they passed into the hands of various aristocratic families, and then gradually fell into a state of decay. Nonetheless, they remain spectacular landmarks, and one in particular – Pieskowa Skala Castle – is one of Poland’s national treasures. While little remains of the original medieval castle at Pieskowa Skala, the site was refurbished in the 16th century in the fashion of the northern Italian Renaissance. Today, the castle is known as one of the pearls of the Polish Renaissance, and is home to a European fine art museum.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, one of the best ways to visit the Eagles’ Nests is to hike along the 164 km – about 100 mile – Eagles’ Nest Trail that starts in Kraków and ends in Czestochowa. Not only does the trail visit many of the historic castles, it also happens to be the best national hiking trail in Poland. The Polish Jura landscapes are beautiful and spectacular, with many stunning rock formations and limestone caves to visit.
It is also possible to visit some of the castles if you rent a car, although you will not experience the same full majesty of the Eagles’ Nests as you would if you were to hike. The best route to take is to drive 15 miles from Kraków to the Ojcow National Park, where you can see both Pieskowa Skala Castle and the ruins of Ojcow Castle. From there, continue on to visit the castles at Rabsztyn, Pilica, Ogrodzieniec, Mirow, Bobolice, and Olsztyn.