Remember what I said last week about going to see some gothic castle ruins? Well, here you go! I've been waiting to post this since Tuesday :P Apologies if some of you have already seen and read this on my fickr and regular blog, it's the best thing I did all week so I want to share it here.
The trip (bicycle!) came out to 104 km. I hit a serious wall at around 80 km, but at that point it was either keep going to the nearest train station, or sleep in a ditch. Well, that wouldn't have been so bad, the weather was lovely, but I really wanted to get home.
So, history time!
The village of Besiekiery itself is very small- a few houses, a small school, but it dates back to the 13th century. The name suggests that its original settlers were Scandinavian- viking mercenaries in the service of our first dynasty of kings, the Piasts. 'Besiekr' is a nordic word meaning 'man wearing a bear skin'. But in Polish, 'siekiera' means axe, and so there is also a legend about the devil Boruta (who also dipped his claws in the history of the nearby Royal Castle in Łęczyca) striking a deal with a local noble that would allow him to collect the man's soul if first he built him a castle without the use of an axe- without a siekiera. In Polish: Bez siekiery!
What the poor devil didn't know was that one of the labourers was named Siekierka...
But that's only a legend. The castle is a little younger than the settlement, having been built around the year 1500. It used to have a large tower which held the main gate and a chapel, an open courtyard and a three storey house in the back. It was modified several times over the years, but has been abandoned since the mid-19th century.
Currently, the municipality is gathering funds to revitalise the ruins and make them a safe and welcoming tourist attraction. So far they've strengthened the remainders of the main house and rebuilt the moat. There's a little beach, but swimming isn't a good idea as there is a lot of duckweed and leeches. Yuck!
Oh, another interesting thing about this castle is that it's home to a pair of storks. They come every year to build their nests on top of the ruins. Storks are very popular in Poland, we consider them to be one of our national symbols. The stork is a bird that brings luck, and it's very good to have one on your property- they say lightning will not strike where a stork has his nest. And because storks like high places, many landowners will set up a special post or build a platform on top of the barn roof, or in the branches of a dead tree, to encourage storks to make their nest there.