No, I’m not referring to an amusement park where the dinosaurs roam! What I’m referring to is The Polish Jura, also known as the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, the Polish Jurassic Highland, or Jura Highland, an area between the cities of Kraków, Częstochowa, and Wieluń. It borders Lesser Poland to the north and east, the foothills of the Western Carpathians to the south, and Silesia to the west. It’s a haunting area of stark limestone cliffs, monadocks resembling rock blobs, and the Eagles’ Nests trail, home to the famed Eagles’ Nests fortifications.
The Eagles’ Nests fortifications are a series of castles and watchtowers along Poland’s western border that King Kazimierz the Great (Kazimierz III Wielki) ordered built in the 14th century to secure Poland’s western border against aggressors like Bohemia. As time went on, the fortifications were no longer necessary, and many fell into disrepair.
The layout of the fictional Biaska Castle in The Heart of a Hussar and A Hussar’s Promise is loosely based on one of those fortifications, Ogrodzieniec Castle, though Biaska’s geographical position more closely resembles that of Bobolice Castle, also along that same trail.
I was lucky enough to visit both Ogrodzieniec and Bobolice in 2017 and found it quite a moving experience to walk among the walls and grounds where hussars might have once trod. The picture above was taken from Ogrodzieniec, and I was trying to capture another castle in the distance, to the right, barely sticking above the blue-green treed horizon. It’s impossible to pick it up in a small image like this one, but I was stunned when I first noticed it because it brought to mind a scene from The Lord of the Rings trilogy where sentries light flaming beacons to carry the message that danger is approaching. As each fortification spots the other’s signal fires, it lights its own, and so on it goes. It made me wonder if there was a similar signaling system back in the day, as many of these fortifications lay within sight of one another.
Someday I would love to tour the Eagles’ Nests trail and soak up all that history. It’s reported as being 154 km long (96 miles, according to my converter). One can walk it, bike it, and apparently explore it by horse. What a treat that would be!
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