Ojcow, Poland

Ojcow National Park

The smallest Polish national park where Poland’s shortest king was saved by a tiny insect - one could say that Ojcow National Park likes things small, but make no mistake, its beauty and history is as big as they come.

Located only 16 km form Cracow, Ojcow National Park is awash with arresting rock formations, each complete with a legend to explain its fantastic shape. The Park also features architectural attractions, like the ruins of Ojcow Castle and the Pieskowa Skała Castle, as well as the famous “Chapel On The Water”, a real display of Polish ingenuity and stubbornness, erected literally over the Prądnik river to flout the tzar’s ban on “building on the land of Ojców”. The chapel is a perfect example of the unique style particular for Ojców, a charming town located in the midst of the park. A stroll among its quaint ancient villas is a must.

But if charming ancient villas are not your cup of tea, the Ojcowski National Park also has a darker side. Its hundreds of caves shelter a whole myriad of species of bats, as well as Poland’s most venomous spider – meta menardi. Spiders and caves play a huge part in the local lore – it is said that the Polish King Wladislaw Łokietek took refuge in one of the caves while he was fleeing Wenceslaus II, and he was saved by a spider who wove a net across the entrance to the cave and thus mislead the pursuit. Another pursuit was mislead by God himself who covered the entrance to Ciemna Cave, thus obscuring the locals who hid there from the view of Tatar invaders and saving them from certain death. A spectacular rock formation in the shape of a hand was left to commemorate the miracle. The Łokietek Cave and the Ciemna Cave, are now open for tourists, both compulsory stops when in the Park, not only for their legends, but also their particular subterranean beauty.

Ojcow National Park is a perfect idea for those wanting some respite after the hustle and bustle of Cracow. But rest assured, there will be no break from history, as the park’s natural beauty is only matched by its cultural and historical heritage.

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