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The Pieniny Mountains

The Pieniny Mountains have been attracting visitors since the 18th century. Originally, the Dunajec River Gorge was an attraction reserved for the local and visiting aristocracy, but today this scenic river and the surrounding mountain range is visited by over half a million tourists every year.
 
Part of the Western Carpathians, the Pieniny is a relatively small range with dramatic views and a rich wildlife. Its limestone peaks, upthrusted millions of years ago, are lower than the Tatras, but equally lofty, their vertical faces towering above steep, wooded slopes and the spectacular Dunajec Gorge.
 
The Pieniny National Park which covers parts of the Poland-Slovakia border area was established in 1932. Its small size is easily compensated by the wealth of attractions it offers. The exciting hiking routes, used in the 17th century by the legendary robber Janosik, also known as the Polish Robin Hood, reward hikers with numerous vantage points which allow to see the main sights even during a short outing. Their relatively small altitudes (the highest peak, Wysoka, is 1050 m) make these mountains accessible for everyone, even the novices.

One of the main attractions in the Pieniny National Park is the white-water rafting trip through the Dunajec River Gorge. The narrow wooden boats, roped in fives into small platforms, and steered by raftsmen in folk costumes, have been ferrying visitors for well over a hundred years. The 15 kilometers stretch of the Dunajec river (which was the shooting location for the recent movie "The Chronicles of Narnia") has three enormous bends snaking down a scenic narrow gorge dominated by monumental cliffs and surrounded by the abundant wildlife.
 
Niedzica is a fairy-tale castle that rises dramatically from the deep forests of tall pines, cool streams, and velvety mosses. This fortress and retreat worthy of a king was built between the years 1320 and 1326 by Koko of Brezovica on foundations of a prehistoric roost. The castle was an important fortress protecting the Polish-Hungarian border and the center of County Dunajec.

Over the centuries, the castle changed hands several times but it always remained inhabited. It has always been known for the elaborate balls, banquets and feasts organized here. There are many tales and legends associated with the Niedzica Castle. One of the stories talks about Sebastián Berzeviczy, one of the castle owners from the 1700s and his wife, the daughter of the last king of the Incas. The story names the castle grounds as a place which hides information about the great Inca treasure. In the 1960s "kipu" writings have been found in the castle, but then they mysteriously vanished, along with the museum curator who was working on deciphering them. There are other stories connecting the castle with the fantastic treasuries at the lake Titicaca in Peru.

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