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Niedzica – Dunajec Castle

Niedzica – Dunajec Castle

Dunajec Castle in Niedzica is one of the most marvellous buildings of its kind in Poland. It is famous for a secret hiding place discovered there in 1946, which contained a document “written” in talking knots, i.e. the quipus, which had once been used in the Indian Inca Empire in Peru! It is believed that this document contained information about the location of the hidden Inca gold. Quipu was probably brought to Niedzica by Sebastian – one of the castle’s owners from the Berzeviczy family, who travelled around Peru at the end of the 18th century. He allegedly married a local Indian woman, and their daughter Umina became the wife of Tupac Amaru – the last descendant of the Inka family. The idea of the Inca treasure being hidden in Niedzica might therefore not be as far-fetched as it seems.

What undoubtedly is a treasure of architecture is the castle itself. Its oldest part is the devastated, 14th century Gothic upper castle, built at the former location of a wooden ground fortress of Kokosz Berzeviczy. This part of the edifice occupies the very top of the rocky hill over Dunajec. In the 15th century, the then owner of Niedzica, Emeryk Zapolya from the famous Hungarian family, added the middle castle. For some time at the beginning of the following century, Niedzica belonged to Hieronim Łaski – the nephew of Jan, who was a Polish Chancellor of the Crown. However, the biggest extension took place at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. The ruler of Niedzica, Jerzy Horvath, extended the stronghold in Renaissance style. A new yard with cloisters was surrounded by a wall with half-round towers crowned with a stylish attic. Subsequent owners (Giovanell, Horvath and Salomon families, the last of which lived in the castle until 1943) did not introduce any significant changes.

The castle was rebuilt after it had been plundered at the end of World War II. Some chambers were turned into a small museum, and visitors can access the viewing terraces of the middle and upper castles. They provide a view of almost the entire Czorsztyńskie lakes, together with the picturesque ruins of the castle in Czorsztyn on the opposite shore, as well as the step and rocky slopes of the Pieniny mountain range.

Museum of the Castle Complex in Niedzica, phone: +48 18 262 9489; opening hours: May-Sep, daily 9am–7pm; Oct-Nov, Tue–Sun 9am–4pm; admission: PLN 9, concessions: PLN 7; Visits only with a guide; ticket price includes a visit to the tower and the coach house.

Other local attractions

The Dunajec River Gorge in the Pieniny Mountains can be seen best during a rafting trip with the experienced mountain raftsmen, who adroitly slip their wooden rafts between the boulders and precipitous, rocky cliffs of the Three Crowns Massif, or Sokolica. The water trail begins in Sromowce Wyżne-Kąty and winds up in either Szczawnica or Krościenko. 

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