A couple years ago when I first joined this site, I asked the question, "What country would you like to visit most?" One Gagger thought it would be funny to troll my question by answering "Narnia". "I meant a REAL country!", I replied slightly annoyed. Well, it turns out my reaction wasn't entirely justified, because as it turned out, I had already been to Narnia and didn't even know it.
I was aware of both the book series and its film adaptations, but as I was never really into fairy tales, I had no interest in reading the series or researching the movies further. In the summer of 2011 I traveled through the picturesque mountains of southern Poland and northeast Bohemia, completely oblivious to their connection to the Chronicles of Narnia. After I got back to the states, and began speaking of my travels through this region, I always described its magical landscapes as "something straight out of a fairy tale". I was completely unaware that half a decade earlier, New Zealand film director Andrew Adamson, had had the same impression, and chose the region as a filming location for the first two Chronicles of Narnia films. So, how on earth did I come to discover this information nearly a decade later?
It was a boring Thursday night and I had been reminiscing about my brief visit to Bohemian Switzerland. Why this particular destination was on my mind that night is something that's too complicated to get into. Anyhow, there I was with a map and laptop researching sites in this region that I didn't get to see on my journey. Once again, I won't bother with the boring details, but it was during this particular case of the travel bug, that I discovered that this region of the Czech Republic was used as a filming location for The Chronicles of Narnia. Naturally, I wanted to find out where specifically in Bohemian Switzerland the movie was filmed. Further research lead me to discover the movie was not only filmed in a region of the Czech Republic that I had visited, but also in several regions that I had visited in Poland. Now, I'm here to share with you a brief report of my journey through the real life Narnia.
Filming Location 1: Dunajec Gorge
The first Narnia filming location my family and I visited was the Dunajec River Gorge, located in the Pieniński National Park on Poland's border with Slovakia. The region is famous for its traditional wooden rafts, which carry visitors down river through the scenic gorge. In fact, the rafting trip was the main reason we came to this gorge. The journey lasts around 2.5 hours, and you can embark from either the Polish or Slovakian side. As the river marks the official boundary between the two countries, you're constantly crossing between Poland and Slovakia throughout your journey. The raft is piloted by two Górale or "Mountain Men", dressed in traditional clothing. Byfar the highlight of this tour was when our guide gave me his hat and vest, and allowed me to pilot the raft over a stretch of the river, much to the fear of our fellow passengers. So, what's the connection to Narnia? Due to its unusual landscapes and popularity with rafting, the gorge was chosen as the location for the boating scene in the second Narnia movie, Prince Caspian. So if you're a die hard Narnia fan, this is one of the few scenes from the series that you could actually recreate in real life.
Filming Location 2: Tatra Mountains
This next one's a bit tricky. IMDB lists the Tatra Mountains as a filming location for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. However, I looked hard and was unable to find which specific scenes where shot in the Tatras, or even where specifically within the mountain range the film was shot. It's highly likely the mountains were only used as stock footage in between scenes. Without actually watching the movie, it's impossible to know.
Hala Gąsienicowa was undoubtedly my favorite spot on the entire trip, and we ended up here completely by chance. That particular day my uncle and I had planned to take the gondola up to the summit, then hike down, visiting one of the park's more popular lakes and valleys. However due to a long line at the gondola station, we ended up losing a large chunk of time, so in order to make it off the mountain before dark, we had no choice but to take another trail, through another valley. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the valley we ended up hiking through was almost entirely devoid of tourists. We basically had the entire place to ourselves, and the landscape was some of the most unspoiled and surreal I had ever seen. It really DID look like something straight from a fairy tale, and I am not the least bit surprised that Andrew Adamson chose to film a portion of the first movie here.
Filming Location 3: Błędne Skały
The third Narnia filming location we visited were the Table Mountains, located in southwestern Poland, right on the edge of the Czech border. This is only location on my itinerary, where I visited the exact spot that was shown in the movie. I instantly recognized the location in a screenshot from the film as Błędne Skały, a series of bizarre sandstone formations situated just a few yards from the Czech border. The reason I recognized it so quickly, is because I had hiked the exact trail pictured below, with my uncle and cousins. I remember us climbing the rocks and squeezing through the narrow passages. I believe this particular scene is also from Prince Caspian. Like I said, I've never actually seen the movies, so do correct me if I'm wrong.
The name "Błędne Skały" actually translates to "Misleading Rocks", and this particular section of the trail is known as The Labyrinth, and was named for a man who got lost while exploring them. In the movie, Peter Pevensie also gets his friends lost in the rock covered forest, so this location couldn't be more fitting for this scene. Unlike in the movie, the actual location has a series of very well marked trails, so you don't have to worry about getting lost, and there is even a section where you can cross over into the Czech Republic. So this is another scene from the film that you can easily recreate.
Fun bonus fact, this location was also featured in a commercial for Hepatitis C medication.
Filming Location 4- Adršpach-Teplice Rocks
And lastly we come to Bohemian Switzerland, the location that eventually lead me into writing this MyTake. We were staying just a few miles from the Czech border, and it was my first major trip abroad, so I wanted to fill in as many countries on my travel map as possible, so when I discovered that there were more spectacular rock formations of the Czech side, I knew I had to convince my uncle to take us there. Before we knew it, we found ourselves in a new country, exploring the rock city of the Adršpach-Teplice National Park. Okay, so I'm cheating on this one a little bit. We visited the Teplice Rocks, the scenes from the first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, were filmed at the Adršpach Rocks, but the two units are basically part of the same system, and aren't much different in terms of geology. Since we only had time to visit one of the units, we opted for Teplice, as they were the more impressive set. Throughout our hike, I was waiting for the moment when we would stumble onto the stone gate I had seen on Google Earth, not knowing that it was located in the other unit. It turns out this gate was featured in the first Narnia movie, but was filmed in wintertime, which must have given it an even more other worldly vibe. But simply exploring the enormous rock towers and dark slot canyons of the Teplice unit, was enough to immerse myself in a fairytale landscape. This is region is certainly a MUST SEE for any Narnia fan, or if you simply want to experience a different side of the Czech Republic beyond the tourist packed cities.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed traveling with me through the real life Narnia. I will conclude this MyTake by posting a couple images of spectacular filming locations in this region that I didn't get a chance to see.