Castles of Poland
May 08, 2012 • Leave a Comment
While most of my photography revolves around wildlife and landscapes of the western United States, I have a passion for medieval castles. Since my fiance is from Poland, I've a great excuse to visit the exciting castles in that country. Over the past years, I've visited several and decided to share a few photos of them in this article. The castle above, Niedzica Castle, is easily my favorite. This is actually two castles with the older, 13th century tower in ruins while the lower walls date to the 1600s. The castle was situated on a bluff high above the Dunajec River until a dam was built a short distance down from the castle. Now Czorsztyn Lake provides a scenic backdrop to the castle. The typical view is from the dam and from here, the ruins of Czorsztyn Castle can be seen on the south side of the lake, a few kilometers away. It's easy to visit both castles in a day though Niedzica is the more photogenic at sunrise and sunset. Czorsztyn Castle can be photographed with a telephoto lens from the dam.
While searching for castles to visit on the internet, I came across a photo of Ogrodzieniec Castle. This extensive castle ruins can be found in the small village of Podzamcze and is extremely attractive. the castle can be toured for a small entrance fee and it is well worth it. The outer wall runs from a series of limestone outcrops that the original builders utilized as defensive points in the castle construction. In fact, the bluff on which the castle is situated has several large limestone outcrops such as the one seen above. The castle itself is built on and around a huge limestone outcrop. In a similiar fashion, both Niedzica and Czorsztyn Castles also utilize the local terrain and are built into rock outcrops as well. The photo above was taken at sunrise as warm light chased away the morning fog. This castle dates back to the 13th century.
Many don't realize it, but Poland is also home to the largest gothic castle in the world by surface area and is also the largest brick building in Europe. Completed in 1406, Malbork was the capital for the knights of the Teutonic Order. Malbork was also an important economic site as trade would come up the river on the way to Gdansk. Poland was rich in amber and the Teutonic Order controlled the amber trade through it's military strength. Though they claimed to spread christianity through the pagan lands of Poland and Lithuania, they plundered the northern Polish regions despite Poland having converted to Catholicism before the knights arrival. The Teutonic Knights power wained considerably after their army of over ten thousand heavily armed and armored knights and soldiers were defeated by the combined armies of Poland and Lithuania at the Battle of Grunwald in July 1410. While the knights were lined up on a hill in the hot, July sun, the Polish king kept his armies down in the trees where it was cooler. When the knights were suffering from heat exhaustion, the Polish armies attacked, winning one of the most significant battles of the medieval era.
This last castle was also built by the Teutonic Knights. Like Malbork, it is situated in northern Poland, which was the realm of the Teutonic Order. Unlike Malbork, this castle is fairly small and was turned over to a local bishop. Probably due to the ownership by the bishopric, this castle has a decidedly cathedral appearance. Reszel Castle is also unique as it now serves as a museum, gallery, and hotel. We stayed the night here when visiting Warmia. Poland is home to many castles and ruins of which these are just a few. I hope to visit many more over the coming years. Thanks for reading!
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