08 November 2010

Castle Hunting: Pieskowa Skała

Pieskowa Skała has a strange name, like every Polish name. The "W" makes a "V" sound, the crossed-out "L" character sounds like a "W" and the rest of it just turns into gibberish, or something approximating gibberish. It is a beautiful renaissance fortress, though, that we visited outside Krakow one overcast day.
The clouds and dim light prevented us from getting good pictures, but we had a good time anyway. Polish tourist attractions are largely deserted in the more wintery months, especially as one travels further away from the main cities. Pieskowa Skała is in the Ojców National Park, not far from Krakow. There was almost nothing open around the castle, and we had to resort to eating zapiekanka (click on the link to get disgusted/hungry) because there was literally nothing else.
We hiked up to the castle from a low parking lot by the road. When we got there, we were greeted by a few policemen and their unfriendly german shepherd. We decided that we weren't very keen on sticking around for long, so I have no idea what the interior of the castle looks like. I did get a few shots of the courtyard, which is one of the more interesting parts of the building.
This is the well mechanism, which appeared to be a reconstruction and didn't seem to have all of its pieces in place. Wells are featured prominently at many of the castles that we've visited, which makes sense. It's hard to defend a place without any water.
Like many castles, the structure is an amalgamation of different styles and eras. It wasn't built all at once, but rather added onto gradually over many centuries. The initial fortification was erected in 1340, but the castle really took shape in the 1540's, two hundred years later. A century after that, the galleries and roofline were completed, and it has remained largely the same since.The day wasn't as miserable as it looks. We had a good time climbing around the castle, trying to find a vantage point that would afford us a good view. It was difficult, though, because there aren't many higher points around the outcropping on which the castle is built.
We made a valiant attempt to get a good shot, though. We descended to the valley, crossed this stream on a fortuitously-placed fallen tree and made our way up the opposite slope.
Unfortunately, the hillside was too densely forested. This is the disappointing "best shot" from that foray. It's a very pretty castle, and I wish now that we'd taken the time to poke around inside.

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