Książ Castle (Zamek Książ) is located about 70km southwest of Wroclaw It is located just outside Wałbrzych (Waldenburg in German) and is the third largest castle in Poland. The original castle was built in the thirteenth century and protected the trade routes from Silesia to Bohemia. It changed hands many times and underwent two major reconstructions. The first of these was in the early 18th century and many of the rooms and facades are from this era in a magnificent baroque style. Between 1909 and 1923 a second reconstruction added rooms and a frontage that look as if they have been plucked from one of the chateaus in the Loire valley.
However it is the underground that interested us and this phase unsurprisingly dates from World War II. The castle was seized by the Germans in 1941 and adapted for use as one of several potential headquarters for Hitler. This included construction of two subterranean levels, at 15 m and 50 m below ground level. The lower level is used by Polish geologists and houses sensitive seismographic instruments. Sadly this meant it was off-limits to us but tunnels at this level total 950 m in length and are around 5 metres square with access from the castle via two lift shafts.
We were, however to explore both the original castle cellars and the higher level of the two wartime tunnels. The former included a display on the underground complex including, intriguingly, a cement bag labelled ‘Portland’ but sourced from Italy. We were also able to view the tops of two lift shafts to the lower levels. We then entered the 15 metre deep tunnels from a garden entrance and passed the usual guardroom with machine gun loophole. The tunnel led around 80 metres; we were able to see the bottom of one of the lift shafts earlier viewed from above. At the end of the tunnel was a D-shaped shaft with the half-built remains of a ‘spiral’ staircase within. A short sound and light display in the tunnels simulates their use during an air-raid.