Niedzica Castle, also known as Dunajec Castle, was erected between the years 1320 and 1326 by Kokos of Brezovica on the site of an ancient stronghold surrounded by earthen walls in the Pieniny mountains. The Niedzica Castle stands at an altitude of 566 m, on a hill 300 m upstream from the Dunajec River mouth. The outline of Niedzica Castle can best be viewed from the ruins of Czorsztyn Castle on the other side of the lake. It is known as one of the most picturesque castles in the country and adorns the covers of many books.
The castle was an important centre of Polish-Hungarian relations since the 14th century. It was a place where the money lent by the Polish king to the Hungarian king Sigismund had to be returned following an agreement signed in 1412. Once the loan was paid back, the Polish king returned the 16 Spiš towns given to him by Sigismund as collateral. For centuries the castle was a border-post with Hungary. At the time of the Turkish invasion five hundred years ago, a deal was struck at Niedzica to make it a Polish protectorate.
The castle was built by a Hungarian known as Kokos from Brezovica with family rights dating back to 1325. In 1470 it became the property of the aristocratic Zápolya family. However, in 1528, the entire county including the castle was given away by John Zápolya aspiring to the Hungarian throne, and became the property of Viliam Drugeth who received it as a reward for his support. Sixty years later it became the property of Hieronim Łaski and his son Olbracht. At the end of the 16th century the castle was bought by Ján Horváth from Plaveč. The fortress was renovated many times in the fifteenth, sixteenth, eighteenth and in the beginning of the 19th century by its successive owners. The last Hungarian inhabitants remained there until in 1943 when the coming of the front in World War II inspired the Salamon family to abandon it. The last countess left with her children two years before the Red Army marched in. The final reconstruction of the castle was completed in 1963 under the supervision of the Polish Ministry of Culture. It has served as a historical museum ever since.
A new artificial reservoir, the Czorsztyn Lake, was created in 1994 by damming the Dunajec River downstream of the castle. The castle now stands approx. 30 m above the upper water level. The castle hill consists of limestone rock saddled on shale and marl found much below the current bed of the Dunajec River. Studies and analyses show that rock strata forming the limestone bank are weather-resistant, and provide secure foundation for the castle in spite of visible surface deterioration. In order to secure the stability of the hill, a number of reinforcing works were effected in the strip between the high- and low-water marks. The works include concrete reinforcement of rocks, substratum (weathered shale and marl) replacement, and surface protection elements on the hill. The castle and the hill are subject to constant monitoring.
Although in large part only ruins remain of what used to be the Gothic castle in Niedzica, its dungeons and a number of rooms survived, as have some of the paintings — including the Crucifixion that once adorned the chapel — and furnishings which are not entirely as they were in the 1930s. The architectural design consists of a densely packed complex of buildings with a courtyard surrounded by residential wings with arcades, towers and fortified walls.
The museum in Niedzica holds archaeological artifacts related to the castle, remnants of the masonry that once adorned its interiors, prints and engravings with views of the castle from various periods, and historical documentation. The museum's collections include ethnographic exhibits from the Spiš region, a collection of antique clocks, 18th and 19th century pistols, hunting rifles, and taxidermied game. In 1996, a new collection was added. Because of the fortress's Hungarian origins, Ákos Engelmayer, Hungarian ambassador to Poland (1990-1995), donated his collection of Hungarian-related items of historical interest from Poland, such as maps of Hungary from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, engravings depicting various Hungarian kings and castles, as well as cities and battlegrounds; which it is hoped have become the largest collection of Hungarian-related materials outside of Hungary. The castle is a great place to visit. The views are magnificent, particularly to the south over the Pieniny mountains.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.