This is Czocha Castle.
Here you can walk over the stone bridge and float yourself back to the 13th century. This castle is framed beautifully from every angle. The stones are a warm latte color with a clock tower, arches, walls, and gardens. This is a defensive castle located on Lake Leśna near the Czech-Polish border.
Czocha has a solid, historic mood. Taking a guided tour here will definitely help to absorb its unique character. However, the English-speaking tour must be booked in advance because the English-speaking guide is not available every day. We took the tour and found the history, legends, and tidbits of obscure information gold. Finding the secret passages was a highlight. It is said there are 40 secret passages altogether but only 14 have been found to date. They are small and narrow with deep stairs hidden behind massive doors or through cubbies located near the floor. The guide revealed them with a flourish.
Bawdy tales were revealed in the bedroom. The odd ornate bed had a gate at one end and there is a lot of speculation as to its purpose. Also included in the bed works is a lever which is able to eject a person from the bed and drop them below the castle. Don’t marry here.
As the castle goes through its renovation processes, surprises and discoveries continue to reveal an enigmatic place teeming with turbulent legends and mysteries. There are tales of bodies being flung into wells or burnt in the fireplace. It is said that an infant can be heard crying at night while his mother rises from the well to look for her crying child. When you walk by the fireplace and the well, it is rather creepy.
Confiscation, a nice word for thievery, by the Red Army was evident here as it was at Moszna Castle. The Soviets marched through as conquerors and here was booty. Books were not shown any respect as they flew out from the library windows. A few of the saved books are now treasures here and can be viewed under glass in a special section.
Art and furnishings were removed and taken abroad. There is exactly one original piece of furniture remaining here. It is a beautiful, ornate and very heavy cabinet. The Soviets cleared the library and tried to steal this cabinet as well. But, the cabinet did not disappear for long as it appeared outside the front door the next morning.
There was a special hiking tour that you can take around the outside of the castle and around the lake for views upward towards the hill where Czocha stands.
The castle complex was featured in several movies and television series including Beyond Sherwood Forest, Spellbinder, and The Secret of the Cipher Fortress. Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live-action role-playing game based on the Harry Potter series.
It was a sunny day and so the castle had a sunny disposition for us in spite of its tempestuous history. Czocha was a wonderful place for rambling through winding walks and gardens. Sometimes castles are there just for us to admire and soak up atmosphere and so, we have Czocha.
On and Up to Grodzieć!
The road from Czocha to Grodzieć was a beautiful ride through forests, fields and some lovely scenery. After about 40 minutes, we spotted one very dramatic, distant hill looming over the flat hills and dales. There were remnants of a wall visible through the trees. This castle is set way up there on that hill and so, up we went on a narrow winding road, with a hairpin turn thrown in for dramatic effect. This hill is actually an inactive volcano. It was an exciting drive and at the top, when we drove through a thick arched wall and into a courtyard, it felt like we had truly arrived back in the times of knights, ladies and the medieval.
This Gothic castle was originally built in 1155 so it is remarkable that the grounds and structure are relatively intact. The age of the stones was evident and some towers were falling away. Heraldic shields and emblems hung from the walls. It was as if we had entered Harry Potter Land as there was a lot of activity peppered with busy adolescents running to and fro. The courtyard was hosting smoky fires, forging metal, and crafting crafts. The adolescents, who we believe were a scout troop, were running about to different workshops and activities.
This castle is a ramble on your own to see what there is to be seen. No docent, no guide, no informational placards. Not a lot of organization here but the melee felt authentic. The halls and the ramparts were dark and surreal. There are chambers of terror, it is said, but I did not find them. Medieval tournaments are held here featuring jousting and sword-play.
Heck with the terror and torture, you can have a delicious dish of pierogi on an outdoor picnic table set in the cove of one of the old gray walls.
After a long history of sieges, destructions, and restorations, reconstruction on Grodzieć is on-going. The castle is still said to be partly in ruins. If you like your castles real rather than spark and polish, mysterious rather than Disney-fied, this is the perfect place for you.
“Why Poland?” is a blog written and produced by Grace Nagiecka with photos by Gregory Spring. Kraków, Poland 2018.
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