Krakow is undoubtedly a charming and unusual place, which is due not only to its special place in the history of Poland and this part of Europe, a great number of monuments and interesting tradition, but also due to its geographical position, which make also the surroundings of the town very attractive – both for the visitors and the Cracovians themselves.When we already get into the atmosphere of the city, and enjoy Krakow’s monuments to the full, we can look for some interesting places around the town, which are, as a matter of fact, simpler than the metropoly itself, yet also very charming, and connected with Krakow historically and legendary.
Such places are placed, for example, in the area of Ojców National Park, where history intermingles with nature of Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska. Here, there is something both for lovers of discovering secrets of the past, and the enthusiasts of climbing or bicycle excursions. Here, you can successfully go roaming alone, go for a romantic trip with your partner, or go together with your family.
Let’s start with historical attractions. Certainly, Pieskowa Skała cannot be disregarded. It is a place appealing to tourists with its Renaissance castle, called “Little Wawel”, which is important not only because of its historical connections with Krakow, but also as it is now a branch of the Museum of the Wawel Royal Castle). Everyone can enter the court of the castle and admire from the hill the views of the National Park, but if you want to visit the Museum, you neet to have a little cash (10 zl - adults, and 5 zl – a discount ticket) unless you come on Friday when the Museum does not charge any fee.
Another interesting place is Ojców, which used to be a strategic point in the history of Medieval Malopolska (Southern Poland) region. Later it became forgotten and neglected. The 19th century revival of its splendour was due to the fashion for the Middle Ages, which influenced also Polish Romantics, who redecorated the remnants of the castle of the times of King Kasimir the Great and made Ojców a spa. Today, Ojców offers a network of accommodation and many interesting forms of sightseeing the surroundings (bicycle rental, hansom rides and sleigh rides in winter).
The neighbourhood of Ojców is full of places of natural beauty, especially due to land forms. On the area of Ojców National Park there are many picturesque valleys (Prądnicka, Zachwytu, Będkowska, and others), ravines, hills and rocks waiting to be climbed at. Maczuga Herkulesa (Hercules’ Club) is probably the most unusual rock form. If anybody wonders where does the name come from, they should just see it, and it will become clear. The enthusiasts of climbing who have a sense of humour are recommended to climb a group of rocks in Będkowska Valley charmingly called Elephant’s Ass, which really reflects the way the rock looks like.
Ojców National Park is also rich in other rock forms, such as caves and dens, which are numerous there. Almost each of them has its own mysterious legend, and it is said that some conceal treasures of brigands prawling in these areas in the old days. Even if the existance of legendary riches seems unbelievable, still it must be said that Jurassic caves conceal different type of treasure – they are a paradise for the enthusiasts of prehistoric times and archeologists. The most famous caves are: Grota Łokietks, Jaskinia Nietoperzowa, Jaskinia Ciemna, but there are of course many, many others.
Areas north of Krakow are apparently really interesting, and an excursion there can be complementary to sightseeing of the old Krakow, both in summer (walking and bicycle trips, climbing), and in winter (e.g. sleigh rides).