Once You Know Where To Look . . .

We were trying to find six castles. In Poland. On a scenic castle route road. We saw one from a distance, found the last one, but spent frustrating hours hunting for all the others. That night, I discovered that I had a German-language guide book with GPS coordinates and village names. We found two the next day, in ten minutes.

SIGH. It’s easy to find castles once you know exactly where to look.

We were traveling the Eagles’ Nest Trail, which follows an old trade route and royal road between Krakow and Czestochowa. There are 25 castles in varying states of repair and disrepair. The point of the castles was both to provide stopping places when the kings went on pilgrimage, and to guard trade and gold caravans as they traveled through a very rugged little mountainous stretch of southern Poland. It was also very close to the Polish – Silesian/Bohemian border, so having a defensive line also made good sense.

The one I really wanted to see was Mirow. Which was almost impossible to find, as were all but two of the castles on the list. One is now a major museum and restaurant complex, which I’d visited with the group. The other is a craggy ruin just south of Czestochowa, and is literally impossible to miss. The signs start several kilometers away, on all approaches, and it looms. That one requires a very steep climb to get to, and has no amenities, as they say. But it is cool, and you really do get a good sense of how the defenses worked and why it was sited there.

But for a good, open to the public, castle, you need Mirow (and it’s better restored partner, Bobolice). Which . . . are not easy to find on the tourist map or other easily available road maps. The DK Guide was less than helpful. As I said at the beginning, you have to know where the castle is in order to find it. We spent, oh, six hours or so hunting, and then gave up and went on to Czestochowa. The hotel was lovely, and cool, and had food, and the world seemed better, if still frustrating. Then I moved some things in my suitcase.

There lay a small guidebook to castles of central Poland. I thought it had been something else when I bought it. No, it had lat-long data, village names, and open to the public or not info. Arrrrrrgh! The third page had exactly what I could have used the. Entire. Blessed. Day. Grrrrrrrr. 

The next day, after very early mass at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (I was one of the ones kneeling in the very back, out of the way), then breakfast and a visit to the rest of the monastery complex, we got on the road. It took all of, oh 25 minutes to get to Mirow and Bobolice, once I knew exactly where to find them. They are paired castles in the Polish Jura, a region where the earth’s bones show through as white Jurassic limestone outcrops and caverns. Mirow and Bobolice stand at ends of a ridge. You can climb up to one castle and hike the ridge to the other (about 30 minutes over sometimes rough ground) or you can drive.

There’s not really parking at Mirow, although there is a very good restaurant with a parking area (and ice cream). Bobolice has been restored and can be toured. It has a castle hotel and restaurant, and according to tradition, a ghost. I took the hard way to get to Bobolice, including a bit of a scramble over slick rock, while everyone else took a more dignified path that wound around the castle hill. Mirow is a work in progress, and is still not open to casual visitors, although it is worth climbing the hill to reach and wander around. As is true with most of Central and Eastern Europe, the owners of the castles assume that you are a responsible adult person and won’t lean over the edge of cliffs or do other stupid things (and will keep small humans from doing similar.)

Another view of Mirow, giving you a sense of the topography. Bobolice is on the horizon at eleven o-clock. Creative Commons Fair use: d24734e6f6f5531c0a72e1ccbd9f5ab5.jpg (JPEG Image, 1920 × 1080 pixels) — Scaled (67%) 

As you can see, it is easy to find, once you know where it is. Which . . . sort of describes a lot of things in my world.


12 thoughts on “Once You Know Where To Look . . .

  1. I had the same problem in Ireland and Scotland. Knowing where and in relation to what geological landmarks helped, when all the roads are narrow and twisty. The Ireland trip was the year before we bought a GPS, and that experience was a part of the decision.

  2. the owners of the castles assume that you are a responsible adult person

    I suspect what’s more important is that the Laws assume that.

    Sadly, it doesn’t matter what the “owners” assume, it’s what the judges, juries, lawyers think. 😦

  3. About “you really do get a good sense of how the defenses worked and why it was sited there” — yes, so very much. I got the same feeling when I visited Stirling Castle in Scotland. If you know anything at all about military strategy, it’s drop-dead obvious why the castle was built there. Likewise Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye — it commands the entrance to Loch Dunvegan, a large, very useful bay and harbor.

    • I saw both; key family holdings. Wife looked at me oddly because I was visualizing arcs of fire. Stirling Castle controls the neck
      between the water transit routes on the Firths of Clyde and Forth, and controls the main north-south passage through the mountains. Also why the Antonine Wall was built just south of there – Romans attempting to collect some taxes on trade and goods.

      The Lord of the Isle’s domain was on the Isle of Islay, an unfortified house on a small lake island. After breaking the Norse power and taking or burning their ships, he had the only oceangoing fleet of large ships. There was a tremendous water barrier to cross, and the King and Clan Campbell had trouble dealing with a highly mobile foe with complete control of the sea and key terrain for many of the lochs.

  4. The question that always comes to mind is what did they do for water. Cisterns and water collection were probably the ONLY viable means of water for these types on the tops of ridgelines. And that had to be cold/uncomfortable duty! I wonder if it was by rotation and how long the ‘duty’ period was.

    • Not necessarily. You could have wells, even artesian wells, atop a hill, if the local geology allowed it.

    • Yes. And without several hundred castles appearing on the landscape after you find and “fix” the one you were looking for. [I’ve heard that song, and may have hummed a version once in computer class, lo these many years ago.]

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