Małopolska monadnocks and rock reserves, or how the devil messed up nature

A club-shaped rock called ‘Hercules’ Mace’ [Maczuga Herkulesa] surrounded by greenery
They are millions of years old, they remember ice ages, oceans, drastic climate changes, medieval battles, floods, droughts, and climate changes. They are the guardians of memory. They stand firm as guardians of many secrets, romances and dramatic loves. If they could talk, they would create the most beautiful and truest existing stories about our land and the people who were born and died on it. Today, the rocks of Małopolska are a tourist attraction and a place for relaxation, learning about the Earth and getting to know rock formations. This is an expedition to coarse-grained sandstones, limestones, beautiful rock formations, and sculptures with their own legends, as well as to nature, birds and mammals that have chosen rock reserves as places for their nesting, hunting and living. Remember, however, that according to legends, most of these rocks have devilish origins.

So, if you are looking for a unique space to hear echoes from centuries ago, visit the rock reserves in Małopolska, created by the best artist in the world –nature. A foretaste may be Zimny Dół, a nature reserve near Kraków, a place created to draw the most beautiful from nature. It is also a place for little explorers who like to get lost, look for new paths, and hide in natural hiding places. To find the Zimny Dół Nature Reserve, you need to get to Wieluń. It is a village located in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, included in the Tenczyński Landscape Park. You can choose it to reach the group of rocks and boulders that create mysterious labyrinths among trees, caves and shelters here. But this is not the only place worth visiting. In the Wiśnicko-Lipnicki Landscape Park you will find nine rocks beautifully shaped by nature, which amaze with their shapes and sizes. They are named after Kazimierz Brodziński, who sought inspiration from the rocks and pine trees to write his sentimental works. Today, he is a somewhat forgotten figure who lived during the partitions. He was a writer of the forces of nature, submission to the elements, and humility in the face of its forces.  You can experience it, too.

Ciężkowice. Skamieniałe Miasto (Petrified City)

Reportedly, witches used to meet here when flocking for Sabbaths from all over the area. How did they get here? We can only guess at that, as well as at what was happening there. Fear is apparently still present in the mouths of local residents. To this day, in the Petrified City you will find a mysterious ring that was made by fire and a rock called Czarownica. You can reach it from the parking lot via a footbridge. But this is not the only legend associated with this unique complex, because each of the more giant rock formations has its own story, full of curses and fights between the forces of light and darkness. You may not know yet that the Grunwald Rock, shaped like a tower rising 17 metres into the sky, was once called Piekło. If you look closely at it, you will notice it has a crack, which, according to tradition, widens once a year, revealing treasures. It is said that many daredevils tried to take them. None of those people survived. Those were fairy tales, but here are some facts. The inanimate nature reserve can be visited in the Ciężkowickie Foothills, on the right bank of the Biała River, which flows into the Dunajec River. A group of sandstones and conglomerates form unique shapes of mushrooms, clubs, and platforms, which imaginative humans named Orzeł, Piramidy, Grzybek, Cyganka, Czarownica and Ratusz, and then added some secret stories about them, too. They were created from sandstone millions of years ago to become a perfect place for relaxation and study. The name ‘Petrified City’ is also related to the legend of the sinful people living there whose houses  along, unfortunately, with their owners –were turned into rocks as punishment for their sinful lives. It doesn't matter whether you believe it or not, but when choosing this place as your trip destination, you will not regret it, because Petrified City is a magical natural enclave. You will find beautiful butterflies flying here among rare plant species, such as common ivy, heath spotted orchid and northern firmoss. It is also a paradise for lichens, such as the geographical pattern or the rock tripe, and a place where the greater mouse-eared bats and lesser horseshoe bats – the princes of the night – have their colonies.  The blue tourist trail running through the reserve leads to all the attractions of this unique place.

See also:

The urban layout of Ciężkowice

The Ciężkowice Spa Park 

The Sanctuary of the Merciful Lord Jesus Ciężkowice

Krystyna and Włodzimierz Tomek Natural History Museum Ciężkowice

Ojców Landscape Park. Hercules’ Mace

Some believe that the devil himself brought it to this place. When looking at Hercules’ Mace from the walls of the nearby Pieskowa Skała Castle, you may genuinely believe it and feel a thrill or a cold sweat, especially if you go there at dusk. If you don't know this story, listen. It is related to the pact concluded between Mr Twardowski and the devil, according to which the master was to sell his soul if he fulfilled three wishes. One of these wishes was to move the massive rock to the area of the Ojców National Park, but so that it stood with the thinner end down. The devil complied with the request, and the rock has not moved since that moment. We know how Mr Twardowski ended up, and thanks to this satanic intrigue, we have one of the most beautiful places in Poland, quite close to Kraków. Romantics today see the rock as a fighting tool abandoned here by a mythical giant, while rationalists see it as a 25-metre-high rock carved by wind and frost. A two-metre-high iron cross was placed on it to commemorate the daring feat of Leon Witek, who dared to climb Hercules’ Mace. If you go to the area of the Pieskowa Skała Castle, you will find there not only picturesque landscapes, a wonderful climate and places for walks, but also other rock formations, such as Deotyma's Needle, Panieńskie Rocks and Rękawica.

See also:
The Dolinki Bicycle Route, Castles, and Rocks 

Route: Ojców, Pieskowa Skała – Through the Prądnik and Sąspówka Valleys 

The Hermitage of Blessed Salome in Grodzisk Skała 

The Beskid Wyspowy Mountains – Szczyrzyc. The Devil's Stone 

The peak of Mt Grodzisko in the Beskid Wyspowy can be seen from afar, although it is only 618 metres high. It is included in the picturesque Cietnia Range, which is distinguished by the form of a promontory and a rather steep peak. It was at the foot of Grodzisk that the town of Szczyrzyce developed. And right here, at the eastern foot of the mountain, stands the Devil's Stone. You won't have a problem finding it, because the rock is 65 metres long and 12 metres wide, and you can also see traces of devil's claws on it. Of course, those unfamiliar with the legends will only see dark hollows, recesses and crevices, but this does not diminish its beauty. Go to these picturesque areas of the Beskid Wyspowy to spend time amidst wild nature, take a break from the beaten tourist trails and catch your holiday breath. The stone is formed of beautiful Ciężkowice sandstone and is surrounded on all sides by trees with magnificent spreading limbs, and overhangs have been formed on one of its walls. A cross was installed at the top, and nearby is the Hermitage of St. Benedict, where the hermit Benedict lived until 1992.  Reportedly, he slept in an open coffin and went every day to mass at the monastery
in Szczyrzyc. Near the hermitage is a wooden chapel and the Stations of the Cross. Fear not, there is a legend, or even several, associated with this place, too. One of them has it that the stone was dropped by the Devil who wanted to destroy the Cistercian Monastery in Szczyrzyc. The strong sound of church bells, or maybe the singing of the village rooster, scared the Devil, and the stone fell at the foot of Mt Grodzisko instead of on top of the temple.

See also:
The Museum of the Cistercian Monastery in Szczyrzyc 

The Indian Village in Szczyrzyc

The Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. Jerzmanowice monadnocks

You will find them in the Krakowsko-Częstochowa Upland  between the Będkowska Valley and the Szklarka Valley, picturesque valleys of the village of Jerzmanowice near Kraków. They loom above the surface for about 20 metres, climbing up to the sky, which happens to be delicate and intense here. Children's imagination will find animals from fairy tales, characters from comics, poems and bedtime stories in these shapes. The adults named these limestone monadnocks their way; among them, you will find Ostry Kamień, also called Kapucyn, that can be climbed up, or Łyse Skały in the upper section of the Szklarka Valley with Łysa Skała towering over the surrounding forest. These monadnocks are beloved by rock climbers who struggle with gravity and sometimes fear of heights on their walls. You can admire them from below, picnic on them or walk about on them, and enjoy nature and the idyllic landscape. Monadnocks sometimes have touching names like Dziewczynka, Fijołkowa Skała, Sikorka and Śpiewacza Skała, but you can name them your own way, whatever your heart tells you.

See also:

The Jurassic Landscape Parks

Rożnowskie Foothills Bukowiec. Diable Skały Nature Reserve

If you can't get enough devilish stories, we invite you to Bukowiec in the Rożnowskie Foothills. These are not only beautiful areas east of Gródek nad Dunajcem (which can also be visited), but places where you can immerse yourself, bask in nature, as well as learn about the processes that accompanied the creation of unusual rock formations made of sandstones and conglomerates from Ciężkowice. This is the Diable Skały Nature Reserve. There is a rock tower here called The Devil (Diabeł) which attracts not only with its fanciful shape, but also with its legend. It says that the Devil himself brought them to this place from Hungary. The rocks were formed millions of years ago in a prehistoric sea, the bottom of which was later brought to the surface due to orogenic movements. This miracle of nature created a magical place among a forest of pine and oak, and huge stands of sour beech and the characteristic Carpathian beech. Many mammals, including protected species of bats that live in the nearby caves, have found their place here.

See also: Lake Czchowskie and Lake Rożnowskie – charming lakes in Małopolska 

The Beskid Niski Mountains. The Kornuty Nature Reserve

A long time ago, stonemasons from Bartne carved Lemko crosses from this sandstone. Today, this wild scattering of stone, which can be found in the Beskid Niski Mountains, in the buffer zone of the Magura National Park, attracts not only lovers of geological curiosities but also explorers of unique places shrouded in mystery. Because, what can be said, the devil has also stirred with his tail here. The Skalny Forest, which you will find on the southern slope of the Magura Wątkowska Ridge, is a place full of stories about robbers, hidden treasures and devils hurling boulders. The name Kornuty comes from the Romanian language cornutti, meaning horns, because in the past, when there was no forest here, only fields cultivated by local farmers, the rocks resembled devil's horns sticking out from a distance. But it's not just these stories that attract people here. This place is a paradise where you will find the northern firmoss, golden-capped lily and willow gentian. Rare butterflies, such as the scarce swallowtail and the swallowtail butterfly and rare snakes, such as the smooth snake, live here. You can rest among old beeches, sycamore and fir trees, and visit the MARKA cave, where packs of wolves are said to like to visit. Or maybe this is just another legend.

See also:The Spa Wapienne

The hiking trail around Bartne 

Through Magura Wątkowska



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