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Just 3.6 km east of Niedzica lies Sromowce, a village on the banks of the Dunajec River and the starting point of many of the rafting trips on the Dunajec. It is a trip of a lifetime in absolutely gorgeous scenery as the river cuts across the Pieniny Mountains. It is quite safe and made even more fun by the stories and jokes told by the local raftsmen, only in Polish unfortunately.
You get off the raft in Szczawnica or Kroscienko but if you left your car at Sromowce you can go back there on the bus provided, together with the raftsmen. As Sromowce Nizne lies right across the river from Cerveny Klastor in Slovakia, more pictures of the trip can be found on my Cerveny Klastor page.
The trip is quite expensive but worth every penny. No need to make advance bookings, except for groups.
Ticket prices: Katy - Szczawnica (18 km): adult - 44 PLN; child (under 10 years of age) - 22PLN
Katy - Kroscienko (23 km): adult - 53 PLN; child (under 10 years of age) - 26.50 PLN
In case you wanted to stay in the area overnight, quite a few of the raftsmen have rooms to let in their houses in Sromowce. For details see their website.
Rafting season lasts from 1 April till 31 October every day except for two church holidays: Corpus Christi and Easter. But you'd better check the weather forecast beforehand as spring often arrives late in the mountains and in April it may still be too cold on the water.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Niedzica, aka Dunajec, Castle was erected between the years 1320 and 1325 to replace the earlier wooden watchtower. The founder was Kokos Berzeviczy, a Hungarian landlord, and the initiator - probably the king of Hungary himself. For centuries the castle served as the border-post with Hungary. It changed hands many a time, owned among others, by the Berzeviczy family, the king of Hungary Jan Zapolya and the Polish aristocrat Hieronim Laski.
In 1533 it was taken over by brigands who raided the neighbouring villages and robbed travelling merchants. Towards the end of the 16th century the castle was re-built in the Rennaissance style - that was when the portal with the date 1601 was added. Its then owners, the Horvath family of magnates, are believed to have been notorious for their cruelty, the dungeons being full and the local people starving.
After WWI Niedzica, together with 13 other villages of the Spis region, became part of Poland, but its Hungarian owners - the aristocratic Salamon family - remained there until 1943.
Luckily for her, the last owner of the castle, countess Ilona Bethlen Salamon left the castle with her children two years before the Red Army marched in. The Soviets, aided by the local people, literally ravaged the place, plundering or destroying whatever got into their hands, including even the doors, windows and floors. Most of the paintings were burnt in the courtyard together with the archives and the castle library. The Hungarian owners were persecuted in their country as 'enemies of the people'. The countess and her consumptive daughter were made to live in exile in their own country and the daughter's husband, count Laszlo Teleki was kept in jail until 1956. Their two children were placed in a children's home in Switzerland by the Red Cross. They never saw their parents again as the latter died in a train crash on their way to their never-to-be reunion in Warsaw in 1962.
The castle was nationalised and is now a museum but, obviously, its collections comprise only remnants of the original interiors. Instead, they include archaeological artifacts relating to the castle, ethnographic exhibits of the Spis region, antique clocks, old Hungarian maps and engravings and the like. But it is the building itself that is the most interesting with its original Gothic dungeons and towers, a chapel and a well in the courtyard, believed to have been dug up by the Tartar prisoners-of-war. The view from the castle is stunning. The lower castle is a hotel and is not accessible to visitors.
Only guided tours are available, so you may have to wait before you are let in. The tour takes about 30 min. No photography inside.
Opening hours: daily 9.00-19.00
Tickets: 9 zl. The ticket is valid for the coach house too.
There is a guarded car park by the castle. Free parking is available along the main road, just below the castle.
Updated Feb 11, 2009
Phone: (+48 18) 262 9489
The first time we visited Niedzica Castle, it looked much more dramatic than it does today, rising high above the Dunajec river valley. The lake did not exist then as it was formed as late as 1994 by constructing a dam across the Dunajec not far from the castle and building an electrical power station. This was connected with flooding a few villages, Maniowy being the best known of them. Yet, it saved many more from a massive flood no later than in 1997. The dam has also contributed to the development of the area by creating new jobs and attracting more tourists. The road that runs at its top commands a great view over the lake and the castles.
Niedzica Castle now stands only about 30 metres above the upper water level but the local people no longer live in constant fear of flooding and visitors to the area can enjoy the magnificent scenery and boat trips on the lake.
Updated Feb 4, 2009
Czorsztyn Castle rises on a high rock right across the lake from Niedzica. Not much more than a ruin nowadays, it used to be a Polish border fortress that had some distinguished visitors in the area's turbulent past. In 1241 the Polish king Boleslaw Wstydliwy (the Chaste) and his wife Saint Kinga, daughter of King Bela IV of Hungary, took refuge here during the Mongol onslaught. In 1370 the castle played host to King Louis the Great of Hungary, who stopped here on his way to Krakow, and in 1384 his daughter, Saint Jadwiga, the future queen of Poland stayed there too.
In 1790 the castle was struck by lightning and burnt down completely. Since then it has been a ruin not safe enough to explore. Yet, I have heard that a part of it can now be visited and you can take a boat trip on the lake from Niedzica to visit the place. If you enjoy boat trips, and who doesn't, I would definitely take it not for the sake of the castle itself, as it looks better from a distance, but for the gorgeous scenery all around.
Tickets: adult - 4 PLN one way, child - 3 PLN one way (return respectively 8 & 6 PLN)
Scenic pleasure trips on the lake - adult - 10 PLN, child - 8 PLN
Updated Feb 4, 2009
Niedzica castle, built in XIII th century on a mountain (over 500 m. high). There is an old tale concerning an oak?s stamp near the catsle. In the XVIth century the castle were owned by
The Horvats (hungarian). They were very bad for thweir people, the prison was full al the time, people were hungry. One day young Horvath met a Gipsy woman who told him that he should protect the oak which would grow near his castle. The death of this tree would mean tha end of his family. Few ages later, the oak witered, and it was the end of the Horvaths...
Written Jun 1, 2004
The road leading up to Niedzica Castle is lined up with market stalls and kiosks where you can buy souvenirs or have a snack. A proper restaurant is just on the other side of the road from the castle but it was too early for a meal when we were there so we just had an ice-cream each. The stalls can be found also along the promenade parallel to the road, on the embankment. I can't say we noticed any interesting souvenirs but my husband bought a jar of local honey, excellent and even cheaper than the honey we had bought directly from beekeepers in other regions of Poland.
What to buy: Whatever catches your fancy. I am not too fond of all kinds of knicknacks but you or your children might like them. Just make sure they haven't been made somewhere like Hong Kong if you want a locally made souvenir.
If you haven't tried it yet, get 'oscypek' - the local smoked sheep cheese, which many people are really fond of. It is sold in the form of little barrels with regional patterns for decoration.
It keeps long and could even make inexpensive gifts for your friends. Beer lovers say it goes well with beer.:)
Updated Feb 6, 2009
Favorite thing: Like any self-respecting Gothic castle, Dunajec Castle is rich in legends and tales of horror, in which counts torture and starve the village folk, priests are stabbed in the grounds and a gypsy casts a spell on the cruel landlords so that their lineage dies out.
One of the legends tells of a young married couple, prince Boguslaw and princess Brunhilda, who in spite of, or perhaps because of, their deep love for each other, wouldn't pass a day without quarrelling. Their rows were so loud that they were sent to live in the castle tower to let the others have some peace. One day, when they were quarrelling as usual Brunhilda threw a china vase at her husband and he pushed her so hard that she flew across the room and fell out of the window straight into the well beneath. Boguslaw was inconsolable. He kept haunting the castle, saying "Forgive me, Brunhilda" again and again. One day he finally heard Brunhilda's voice coming from the well saying " I forgive you, Boguslaw the bald'. He was overjoyed to hear this but didn't understand the last word - he had plenty of hair.
Yet, when he looked in the mirror the following day, all his hair had disappeared. Brunhilda had had her revenge.
Updated Feb 9, 2010
Favorite thing: Dunajec Castle is the subject of a fascinating legend which has stirred the imagination of many a treasure hunter. How much of it is true is hard to say but it certainly is a fact that one of the eighteenth century Niedzica owners, Sebastian Berzeviczy travelled to the New World where he married an Inca princess. They had a daughter, Umina, who married Andres Tupac Amaru, the nephew of an Inca insurrection leader, Tupac Amaru II, descended from the Inca kings. His uncle was executed by the Spaniards for rebelling against the colonial government but, before his death, had apparently managed to reveal some secrets of the Incas to his nephew.
Andres was able to flee to Italy with his family, but was soon killed in suspicious circumstances. Princess Umina came to live at Dunajec Castle with her father and the couple's son, Anton, but did not live there long. In 1797 she was murdered in the castle courtyard and is said to have been buried in a silver coffin under the chapel tower, but, so far, the coffin has not been found. Her will, addressed to her son, is said to have contained information about the location of the lost treasure of the Incas. Yet, Anton, adopted by a Hungarian family, was not interested. It was only his grandson who, in 1946, under the threshold of the castle gate, discovered a leaden case with some 'quipu' writings with the names of three places where maybe the treasure had been hidden. However, the case was soon lost and he himself died in a strange car accident. Soon afterwards, the media made it known that some expeditions were searching for the Incas' treasure at Lake Titicaca in Peru.
Some believe that the Inca treasure map or even part of the treasure itself may still be hidden somewhere in the castle. There are rumours that a local man once saw Umina's ghost who showed him a room full of treasures. Yet, whoever shows any interest in finding the treasure seems to be doomed to die. Some speak of the curse of the Incas' high priests. I would rather attribute it to the 'evil eye' and greed of the living.
Updated Feb 11, 2009