Polish Jura is a magnificent place with very interesting but turbulent history. First settlers – or to be precise – hunter-gatherers arrived here ca. 300 000 years ago. Their remains are being discovered in numerous caves; the oldest ones in Bisnik Cave near Smolen Castle . Through the times of stone age the caves of Polish Jura were remaining shelters for hunters’ groups pursuing cave bears, mammoths or deer. If you wish to feel like our ancestors 60 – 70 thousands years ago, make sure you visit the Dark Cave (Jaskinia Ciemna) in Ojcow!
Around 5000 years ago the area of Polish Jura reached very high population density as the region was rich in flint deposits. But within the beginning of bronze Age through the times of Dark Ages the number of inhabitants was getting lower and lower as agriculture and cattle-breeding won over hunting and gathering. The soils of Polish Jurassic Highland are not really fertile ones and therefore most of the tribes that arrived here during Stone Age lured by caves, flint and plenitude of game, left the area ca. 2000 years ago.
Middle Ages brought people back to this region of Poland. From the VII century the first wooden hill forts were being built by Slavic tribes settling down in this area (like for example Oborzysko in Ojcow, Pasieka near Rzedkowice, Osiedle Waly near Zloty Potok or Mount Birow near Ogrodzieniec) . After the establishment of Polish statehood in the X century the region of Polish Jura started to flourish as one of the vital parts of the new country.
During the XIII and XIV century strategic position of Polish Jura as border area with Czech Kingdom caused its enormous growth. Many castles and fortress were built during this period to protect the border line (Please see the article about Eagles’ Nests’ Trail) . Middle Ages were also the time of mining development; mother loads of silver, lead or iron started to be utilized on massive scale. The “silver city” of Olkusz was experiencing its “golden age”.
Unfortunately the numerous wars of XVII and beginning of XVIII century destroyed this beautiful region. Five years of devastating fights during the Swedish Deluge (1660-1665) destroyed most of thriving cities, castles and fortresses. The region never came back to its previous might and power… Also the lost of independence by Poland at the end of XVIII century did not help to restore the region.
After partitions of Poland at the end of XVIII century, the region of Polish Jura was taken first by Austria and Prussia. After the Napoleon’s Era and terms agreed by Vienna Congress in 1815 the major part of the region stayed under Russian occupation; till the 1918 when Poland regained independence. Second part of XIX century brought more and more repressions to the local Polish residents from the Russian invaders but also development of local cities, trade and industries due to opening of Warsaw-Vienna Railway in the middle of XIX century.
During XX century the region of Polish Jura – like whole Polish territory- was badly effected by both World’s Wars. In the second part of XX century industry started again to play big role in region’s development; for the devastated region with poor soils and therefore not a lot of hopes for flourishing agriculture, this was the only chance to rise up again. Last few decades were the time of constant investments and developments of tourist infrastructure. New hotels were built, restaurants, museums, tourist attractions were opened but on the other side the nature is still strongly protected and taken care of. I am sure this is a perfect time to visit this beautiful piece of Poland!