Krzyżtopór Castle

Ruins in Sandomierz

The minute village of Ujazd (oo-yahst), some 35km west of Sandomierz, is home to arguably Poland’s most bizarre ruin. Krzyżtopór Castle was commissioned in the 1600s by eccentric governor Krzysztof Ossoliński and built according to his fantastic imagination, incorporating his love of magic and astrology, among other things. These days visitors are free to walk the grounds, climb the turrets, and marvel at what must have been one enormous manor.

The architect commissioned to create Ossoliński’s dream was Italian Lorenzo Muretto (known in Poland as Wawrzyniec Senes), who worked on the mammoth project between 1631 and 1644.

History and legend offer zany accounts of the castle. It was designed to embody a calendar, with four towers representing the four seasons, 12 halls for the 12 months of the year, 52 rooms for the 52 weeks, and 365 windows for 365 days – plus one to be used only during leap years. Some cellars were used as stables for Ossoliński’s 370 white stallions, and are adorned with mirrors and black marble. The crystal ceiling of the great dining hall is believed to have been the base of an enormous aquarium.

Perhaps the most enchanting – and far-fetched – tale is the claim that a tunnel ran under the manor, linking it to the castle of Ossoliński’s brother. The 15km tunnel was believed to have been covered with sugar so the two brothers could visit each other on horse-drawn sledges, pretending they were travelling on snow.

Sadly, Ossoliński was barely able to enjoy his playground; he died in 1645, only a year after the castle was completed.

After damage done by the Swedes in the 1650s and the abandonment of the castle by its subsequent owners in 1770, this dreamland fell to ruin. Since WWII, talk of converting the castle into a hotel has petered out, leaving Krzyżtopór Castle as a landscape for the fantasies of its visitors.

To reach Uzad by bus from Sandomierz, change at Opatów (8zł, 45 minutes, hourly, 30km) or Klimontów. Having your own wheels is preferable.