I suggest that we go for a drive today instead of skiing. As much as I love skiing, I know Paul hasn’t seen any castles yet and that we will have a nice time doing something together. Besides, I want to see more of this region than only the ski slopes.
We set off through rural Poland. Niedzica Castle is only about 40km away, making it the perfect destination. Even just the scenery on the way to the castle is wonderful to see. The whiteness is something we’re still getting excited about.
We take some random byways on our drive to the castle. Brown tourist signs point to villages and churches. We follow the signs. It seems that every little local church has a brown sign pointing to it off the main roads. They are cute to look at.
Pope John Paul II is a popular figure in Poland and I cannot help but wonder whether Catholicism is popular due to his popularity or whether he is popular due to the heavy influence of Catholicism here. And what is it about Catholicism in Poland that keeps it strong when the religion is definitely dying a slow and painful death in other countries, such as Australia and Holland? I am Catholic. I was baptised as a baby and confirmed as a child. I’ve sporadically attended mass throughout my life have also explored other religious practices and beliefs. Recently had cause to attend a mass in Australia and I was disappointed to find the church at home has returned to fire and brimstone sermons with a deep message of “I am a sinner and the priest is above me”. For example, we now have to beat our breasts at the beginning of mass and repeat three times “In my fault, in my fault, in my most grievous fault” (or words to that effect). The mass in Australia is no longer about an all loving and forgiving god but about we humans as sinners who need to repent. I wonder whether it is the same in Poland or whether there is a more uplifting message taught that keeps people feeling positive about the Catholic church (note I say the church as opposed to the belief because they are two different things). I won’t bore you with my views on religion and I do not intend to offend those who attend church regularly. I merely am commenting on the fact that Catholic churches in Poland are open and well attended by people of all ages while those at home are increasingly empty. I don’t think it’s a lack of faith … because I know many faithful people who simply do not see the relevance of the church as an institution as it is conducted by it’s leaders.
Anyway, we turn a corner along a quiet road and come to a vista of mountains. They are captivating and we cannot help by drive towards them like the negative pole of a magnet being drawn to the positive. Onwards we drive, past some fun looking ski fields until we reach the Slovakian border. Here we must stop because our car may not leave Poland. Our mouths water as we look longingly into the distance. Alas, we cannot reach our goal and must make do with the view.
Niedzica Castle is gorgeous and well-preserved. It was built by the Magyars (Hungarians) in 1320-1326. It was the center of Polish-Hungarian relationships for many years with money and ideas changing hands here. It was held in Hungarian hands until WW2 when the last Hungarian family fled (who could blame them). We arrived on a Monday when the museum was closed. We knew this already but still decided it was worth the drive and we were correct.
Niedzica Castle overlooks a large lake. On the other side are the ruins of Czorstyn Castle. This castle was also closed but we could take some photos. I took this one by climbing up an icy slope near the old castle walls. It was treacherous but others had done it before me. The barbed wire the rangers have placed everywhere was what made it a bit dangerous.
And I managed to take this photo under the sheet metal gate that was across the castle driveway.
We had a fabulous day driving around. Rural Poland is gorgeous and well worth exploring. We both were left with a desire to see more of this country after today’s drive.