The Eagles Nests
Nestled among the crooks and crannies of the hills and valleys surrounding Krakow are the remains of Poland's southern defensive border. Some 6 centuries ago, Kazimierz built a series of fortresses intended to protect his flank against the neighboring Bohemians. While all except one -- Pieskowa Skala -- are in ruins, they are ruins worth visiting. The surrounding Ojcow National Park offers more than these impressive piles of stone. Here you can get a good hike in, or visit the stupendous cave of Lokietka. To fully explore the entire trail, you'll need a car: ruins exist at Ogrodzieniec, Olsztyn, Mirow, Bobolice, and Ostreznik.
Museum and Inner Court
open 10-15.30 Tue to Sun from Oct to April; 12-17.30 Tue to Sun from May to Sept; closed Mon
open from 7-21 daily
Pieskowa Skala may have begun as a 14th century Gothic fortress, but it ended up as a Renaissance castle. Strategically perched high above the valley, the castle offers a splendid view outside and in. Inside, you'll find rooms decorated in as many styles as you can imagine (e.g., Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Biedermeier, Neoclassic, Mannerist, Renaissance), and a museum exhibiting Polish and European paintings from the 15th to the 19th century.
Nearby, two unique sights are worth a look: Hercules Club and the Chapel on the Water. The club is hard to miss; an 18 meter high chunk of limestone, it towers near the road up to the castle. The chapel, just down the road, is an innovative answer to a repressive dictate. Tsarist Russia attempted to weaken the strong Catholic hold on the Polish heart by forbidding construction of religious buildings on land. So, the ingenious residents simply took this former spa spanning a river and transformed it into a chapel, meeting the letter but circumventing the spirit.
pictures courtesy of www.krakow.pl