Bochnia and the Bochnia district invite you: on the trail of the world’s most valuable monuments

Chapel Bochnia Salt Mine.
An idea for a one-day trip? Bochnia and the Bochnia district with its most interesting attractions, two of which are priceless monuments in the world.

Traveling to Bochnia from almost any corner of the Małopolska region is no problem. The town is well connected by rail and road links and travel time to Bochnia is less than an hour and a half. However, the trip has to be well planned, so to be able to see at least three to four of the proposed attractions.

Salt mine, one of the world’s most valuable industrial sites

Salt is one of the most important raw materials of the ancient Poland – the oil of the Middle Ages, it was one of the most important factors in Poland’s economic development. Due to the natural conditions, the only large-scale deposits of this resource, which have been exploited since the Middle Ages, are only 20 kilometres away from each other. We are obviously talking about Wieliczka and Bochnia. It is Wieliczka, according to popular belief, that is the more beautiful and famous one. Indeed, it is more famous, but it is the Bochnia Salt Mine that deserves priority, as it was here that the first mine of this raw material was established, and a tour several hundred metres underground, to the place where one of the largest industrial plants in medieval Europe had operated for almost eight centuries, is an unforgettable adventure. The mine tour begins in the Sutoris shaft, where salt was mined as early as around 1250! A must-see is the August Level, i.e., the gallery where the underground railway runs today. This is the mine’s motorway, a major part of its transport system that is about a kilometre long and connects the most important sites. Let us recall that the Bochnia mine is enlisted as the UNESCO World Heritage site. For the mine in Bochnia is not only a place to visit and watch the particular mining techniques, it also includes a football pitch, a boat ride across an underground brine lake, the Saint Kinga Chapel (the only chapel in the world with a railway passing through), and rooms for health resort treatments. There are even marathons organised at the mine! The attractions do not end there: you can spend a night in the mine at a depth of 250 metres in the purest air.

Important note. It is important to remember that some routes are as long as three kilometres, so if you are going with children or elderly people, please consider whether they can cope with such an effort.

Tickets can be purchased on-line, and when choosing them, remember that there are several versions of the mine tour. There is also a special route for people with disabilities. 

Bochnia, or the Polish Gaudi’s Cat Castle

Bochnia is one of the oldest towns in the Małopolska voivodeship; it was already an important centre before 1200 and was granted a town charter in 1253, four years before Kraków. Of course, it owed its development to the salt, thanks to which trade routes passed through the town and the enriched bourgeoisie invested in material goods. The hype of Bochnia’s development came during the reign of King Casimir the Great, whose investments gave the town its capital status; it is also then, that it was surrounded by walls, a town hall was built and even a hospital for miners was established. The construction of a railway line, linking Vienna with the Galician capital of Lviv, saved the inhabitants from the 17th- and 18th-century crises, as these areas became part of Austro-Hungary during the Partitions. Much of the bourgeois housing in the Market Square, on Oracka, Bernardyńska and Kazimierza Wielkiego Streets, also dates from this time. A must-see is the Basilica of St Nicholas, originally a Gothic church, which after its destruction during the Swedish Deluge was restored in Baroque style with funds from King John II Casimir Vasa. Note the altar – it was funded for the Bochnia community by the Bar Confederates. The mosaics date back to the turn of the 20th century, when the temple once again took on a Gothic style – designed by the great master of Polish art, Jan Matejko. 

However, a walk in Bochnia cannot be complete without seeing one of the most original buildings here: a villa at the Konstytucji 3 Maja Street (from the Market Square towards the railway station). It was designed by Teodor Talowski, the most original architect of Polish Art Nouveau and Historicism, known as the Polish Gaudi, who combined in his designs elements of past eras with cultural symbols and original fantasies. His buildings impress with their originality. The villa, known as the Cat Castle or the Goat Villa, is one of Bochnia’s most original buildings. According to experts, although Talowski left behind many beautiful edifices, this particular realisation is one of the architect’s most beautiful works. It also includes décor by sculptor Wojciech Samek and stained glass from the famous Żeleński Stained Glass Workshop.

In Bochnia, as in most towns in the Małopolska region, paid parking zones were introduced and there are not many places to leave your car. So, if someone is only planning to visit the mine and the town itself, we advise them to come by train. A railway station in the style of Viennese Art Nouveau awaits for visitors.

However, if you are travelling by car, after visiting Bochnia, we suggest a trip to Wiśnicz and Lipnica Murowana along road No. 965. They are no more than 20 km from Bochnia.

Wiśnicz, or the beginnings of the career of the potato in Poland

It is just eight kilometres from Bochnia. Situated in the undulating landscape of the Wiśnicz Foothills, the town impresses from afar with the body of fantastic castle from the 14th century. This place (the villages of Nowy Wiśnicz and Stary Wiśnicz), have been developing since the 12th century and their history is connected with powerful Polish magnate families. Wiśnicz owes most to the Lubomirski family, whose representatives held the highest state and military offices in Poland. One of them was Stanisław Lubomirski, one of the most important persons in the state after the king and owner of many lands in the Małopolska region and the victorious commander of the Polish army during the Battle of Chocim (1621), in its victory over Turkey. Few people know it, but it is to Stanisław Lubomirski that we owe the castles in Łańcut, Sandomierz and the famous Villa Decius in Kraków. It was he who extended the Wiśnicz Castle, giving it its present Renaissance and Baroque appearance. He also founded the local church and monastery for the Discalced Carmelites and the parish church. 

Wiśnicz Castle is the second largest palace complex in the Małopolska region after Wawel, and it takes two to three hours to visit it. There are no rich furnishings here to bedazzle you, but we will be amazed by the spaces and genuine historic details, the exhibition of instruments of torture and the display of works by the well-known sculptor from Wiśnicz, Professor Czesław Dźwigaj. Surrounding the castle is a perfectly preserved five-sided fortification.

Another story needs to be recalled here. This is where the Polish cuisine and the career of potatoes in Poland began. The Lubomirskis hired for their court cook Stanisław Czerniecki, first a soldier, then a master cook, and finally a royal secretary, landowner and pantler. It was he, in Wiśnicz in 1682, who compiled Compendium, the first Polish cookbook with more than three hundred dishes, among which potatoes, then known as tertofellas, appeared for the first time. Czerniecki’s work was the kitchen bible for Poles for almost 200 years, certainly up to the time of the famous 365 Dinners for 5 Złoty by Lucyna Ćwierczakiewiczowa from the end of the 19th century. The impact of Compendium is demonstrated by the fact that it was according to the author’s instructions that the Judge in Mickiewicz’s Master Thaddeus held his famous feast.

As we drive away from Wiśnicz towards Lipnica Murowana, be sure to look back. Wiśnicz Castle towering over the town is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Małopolska region.

Lipnica Murowana, or how  space technology can be applied in a medieval church

Lipnica Murowana is located about 20 kilometres from Bochnia, and it’s where you can see one of the most valuable monuments in the world: the wooden St Leonard’s Church. According to tradition, it was built on the site of a Slavic temple in 1141, rebuilt in its present form in the 15th century, then consecrated again in 1610; the altar triptychs and polychrome decoration bear witness to the faith and centuries-long care of the Lipnica community for the temple.  St Leonard’s Church is now one of the most valuable medieval wooden buildings in Poland and the world. And let us remember that Lipnica Murowana is known throughout Poland for its tradition of the tallest Easter palms. The largest of them are as long as 35 m.

There were three people associated with Lipnica who were elevated to the altars in the Catholic Church. For the history of this part of the Małopolska region, but also for the history of Kraków, an important figure connected with Lipnica Murowana is Saint Simon,  born here in the 1430s. He joined the Bernardine Order in the 15th century, became associated with Kraków and died there, and has a shrine dedicated to him in Lipnica, which was built on the site of his family home. At the turn of the 20th century, the Ledóchowski sisters began their work on behalf of their neighbours and the Church from their home in Lipnica (Description of the Shrine of St Simon and the Ledóchowski Sisters): Ursula was later canonised and became Saint Ursula, her sister was the later beatified and became blessed Maria Teresa.

Currently, Lipnica Murowana has a new attraction. A Pilgrim and Tourist Centre was established by the Lipnica parish. We can learn here about the history of the village with the help of holographic space image technology. You can display the three-dimensional body of St Leonard’s church and break it down into its individual elements. The history of Lipnica and its temple is presented by audio guides in as many as seven languages. The Centre is a true treasury of knowledge about Lipnica and its monuments.

And at the end of your stay at the Centre, you can nourish yourself with a unique linden tea, the ‘lipnicka lipina’, present on the List of Regional Products since 2014.

From Lipnica Murowana, let us head west to some of the strangest rock formations that nature has bequeathed to us.

The Wiśnicz-Lipnica Landscape Park, or what did Brodziński need these stones for?

Driving through the region, we cross the landscape park covering an area of over 14,000 hectares. It is important to realise that the park was not created just to protect the nature, but the whole complex of monuments, architectural layouts, their location in the landscape and the qualities of nature. It is simply an enormous garden made up of forest complexes and small, charming towns, including:

Let us begin, however, with the person of Kazimierz Brodziński, who is now completely unknown. He lived at a time when Poland was still fighting for its existence after the Partitions and the world was ruled by Napoleon. Arms echoed over Europe, and Brodziński, born in the local Królówka (to which he always claimed to belong, even when he was already famous), he received his first education in Lipnica Murowana. He became one of the most popular artists of the Sentimentalist period, which referred to nature, coming to terms with the forces of nature and drawing inner strength from the beauty of what surrounds us. And there is no doubt that the literary programme was also his genuine need. He often returned in his memories to Królówka and to the place we were going to: a complex of rocky outcroppings.  These are nine extraordinary rocks that were formed by the forces of nature. They look like a city from a fantasy film, astonishing with their shape and size. The largest formation is 10 metres high and 16 metres long.  It was here that Kazimierz Brodziński came and where he sought inspiration for his sentimental works. And that is why it was named after him. It is all set in a pine forest, and a marked nature trail takes you around the individual rocks.

See you on the trail!

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