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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Trail of the Eagles' Nests - Ojców

Dearest friends,

Remember a while back when I was telling you about my recent collaboration with Discover Cracow? If you are searching for a good tourism office in Krakow, I recommend Discover Cracow. I have been their mistery shopper for the tours to Auschwitz I and II and for Wieliczka and they were wonderful to work with. Right on time and always with a smile :) Now I have to admit one thing... if something is lost in the mists of time, everyone has forgotten it because it happened such a long time ago. I want to extend a big thank you to Discover Cracow for keeping the stories alive!
On the lovely day of Tuesday 28th of October - as a gift for my bday also - my lovely husband and I went on the trip hosted by Discover Cracow to the lovely castles around Krakow. The Trail of the Eagles' Nests is one of the most beautiful tourist trails in Poland
The Trail of the Eagles' Nests (Polish: Szlak Orlich Gniazd) of south-western Poland, is a marked trail, named after a chain of 25 medieval castles which the trail passes by, between Częstochowa and Kraków. The Trail of the Eagles' Nests was first marked by Kazimierz Sosnowski. Since 1980, much of the area has been designated a protected area known as the Eagle Nests Landscape Park (Polish: Park Krajobrazowy Orlich Gniazd).
The castles date mostly to the 14th century, and were constructed by the order of King of Poland Kazimierz the Great. They have been named the "Eagles' Nests", as most of them are located on large, tall rocks of the Polish Jura Chain featuring many limestone cliffs, monadnocks and valleys below. They were built along the 14th-century border of Lesser Poland with the province of Silesia, which at that time belonged to the Kingdom of Bohemia.
The Trail of the Eagles' Nests is considered one of the best tourist trails in Poland, marked as No. 1 on the official list of most popular trails in the country. It encompasses all 25 castles and watchtowers, and is 163 kilometres (101 miles) long (the bicycle trail is 188 km (117 mi) long). Most of the sites can also be reached by bus.
The first town of the trail is Ojców, with a caste built under the reign of Kazimierz III the Great in the second half of the 14th century. According to the legend, the name of the fortress (initially "Ociec") was supposed to commemorate the king's father.
Ojców is a village in Gmina Skała, in Kraków County, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, in southern Poland. It is one of the sights of the Eagle Nests Trail (Szlak Orlich Gniazd), as there are the ruins of a gothic castle near the village. 
The village is where the authorities of the Ojców National Park (the smallest of Poland's 23 national parks) have their headquarters. It lies approximately 4 kilometres (2 mi) south-west of Skała and 18 km (11 mi) north-west of the regional capital Kraków.
Solitude @ Ojców
Early morning @ Ojców ruins
We started early in the morning. The pickup on our vouchers was listed at 9:00 am @ the headquarters of Discover Cracow in the Main Square @ Jana Street. The morning was cold and foggy so I decided to wear the winter jacket as it allowed me to have just a tshirt underneath. I hate sometimes to layer up as I feel like an onion...
Just us two and the fog :)
We had to wait a bit - for almost 10 minutes - for the mini-van to come and pick us up but I know it is still regulamentary to wait 15 minutes past the time settled. Our tour-guide and driver approached us and presented himself - his name was Jan - and he showed us to our means of transport for the day.
Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Now for you lovely expats and travellers who will want to do the same tour as we did - and I recommend it with all my heart! - let me tell you this: The Eagles Nest Trail is very popular in Poland but not so popular abroad, so only the people who researched ahead might want to try it out, hence a lower number of participants. The trips to Auschwitz I and II and for Wieliczka are on a weekly basis - or more often during the summertime - but this one is done upon demand.
A bit of frost...
My mountain lad <3
The car we went with was for 7 people + driver but it was booked just for me & my wonderful husband + a couple from Belgium (from Bruxelles). It was lovely as I usually had tours with about 10 or more participants but this one was extremely friendly and very intimate. We had time to look around, take pictures as much as we liked and we heard wonderful stories about the castles history.
The trip lasts for around 8 hours in total - it includes an hour and a bit of lunch time + the time spent on the road (around 4 hours) + the time spent visiting the 3 castles. Fear not as in this post I will share with you only Ojców. The next 2 posts will be about the other 2 lovely castles we visited: Ogrodzieniec & Bobolice.
The tour is supposed to get you to the castle in Pieskowa Skała near Ojców (the one in the picture above, taken from the car, in motion, so sorry for the bad quality). Unfortunately this year was closed for renovation for an indefinite time and cannot be visited at this point. Instead the trip takes you to the Bobolice castle, a royal castle built in the middle of the 14th century and renovated in 1999 - but more about that next week ;) 
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The trip costs around 75 Euro / person and it is available during these dates: 01.04- 31.10, due to weather conditions and calculated number of participants. As I said, this trip is based more on the request of the possible participants. But this includes pickup and drop off from your hotel + guided tour with fascinating legends and stories and pieces of history. It also includes the visitation fees at all the castles that will be visited - and you get to keep the tickets as a souvenir ;) Now I don't know about you, how much you like mountains/history/medieval stories but I am a sucker for those and I enjoyed the trip immensly! It was my first time inside a Polish Castle except Wawel Castle and I loved it! And Marek remembers them since he came with his class on field trip, when he was in 7th grade, so I believe it was lovely seeing them after so many years :)

P.S. Stay tuned for next week, for part 2 & 3 with Ogrodzieniec & Bobolice ;)

** Sponsored post but written from the heart, without any external influences**

Yours truly,
The LadyBug - A Fan Of Polish Castles