Along the Skawa Trail. Master Twardowski, cream cakes (kremówki), dinosaurs and a whole lot more

Wide view of Lake Mucharskie as seen from a drone.
What do the dragon Kicek, Master Twardowski, the Wadowice cream cakes (kremówki) and the Zator carp have in common? Undoubtedly, a trip along the Skawa River. During it, we will also visit places associated with many famous people, and we can relax in amusement parks or on mountain trails. So let's go on an interesting and tasty journey.

Looking at the course of the Skawa on the map, one could say that it is a very indecisive river. First, it flows to the east, then, as if it did not like the Gorce Mountains, it turns in a wide arc to the west, flowing between the slopes of the Beskid Żywiecki and the Beskid Makowski, then runs towards Sucha Beskidzka, turns north and flows into the Vistula near Smolice.

In fact, it's good that nature did not choose a simple solution, and the Skawa does not connect with the Raba near Chabówka because, thanks to this, traveling through its valley you can get to know the southwestern part of Małopolska. Before embarking on your journey, we recommend that you delve into the unique specialties of the area through which we will travel, in order to plan well the places for rest and meals.

We invite you on an expedition along the Skawa River, which has not been very noticeable to tourists for most of its existence.

From Wisowy Potok, through the battlefield to Jordanów

The sources of the Skawa are located near the Spytkowicka Pass, and its highest section is traditionally called Wsiowy Potok. On this section, National Road No. 7 runs through the Skawa valley, leading from the border crossing in Chyżne to Rabka, where it connects to the popular ‘Zakopianka’.
In Spytkowice, it is worth visiting the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which, despite some unfortunate reconstructions from the 2nd half of the 20th century, stands out from its surroundings. In its mainly Rococo interior, attention is paid to the stone baptismal font, the Stations of the Cross and the Risen Christ statue.

Beyond Spytkowice, the journey along the Skawa River can go in two ways – through Wysoka straight to Jordanów, which will mean cutting across the bend in the river here, or going through the town of Skawa to Naprawa, i.e., almost precisely along the river.

In terms of tourism, the first option is more attractive. In Wysoka, there is a late-Renaissance fortified manor house from the 17th century, with unique architectural and historical values. You can see traces of a terraced Italian garden and a casual landscape park around the building. Let us add that Father Józef Stolarczyk, the first parish priest in Zakopane, was born in this town in 1816.

One of the largest battles of the September Campaign took place near Wysoka in 1939. The 10th Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Colonel Stanisław Maczek, held off the German troops attacking from the south. The fighting with the superior forces lasted several hours, which delayed the attack and allowed the Kraków Army to withdraw to the east, avoiding encirclement.

Entering nearby Jordanów, on the left we will pass an impressive building called PoCzekaj. It is a former inn built in the mid-19th century. The town has many buildings designed by the outstanding architect Jan Sas Zubrzycki. It is impossible not to notice the City Hall, the building of the former Municipal Court, and the Church of  the Holy Trinity, which is the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Difficult Trust. You can see the charm of the area from the height of the observation tower on Hajdówka, which offers beautiful views of the Mt Babia massif, the Beskid Makowski and, when visibility is good, of the Tatra Mountains.

From Jordanów, it is not far to Sidzina, from which there is an interesting hiking trail to the little-known but charming Police Range.

To meet Master Twardowski

From Jordanów, along the Skawa River, runs National Road No. 28, called the Carpathian Route, which crosses Małopolska latitudinally. From Osielec, where the eye is drawn to a quarry visible from a distance, the road is accompanied by railway tracks leading to Chabówka and further to Zakopane.

In Osielec, there is a neoclassical church of Sts Philip and James, built in 1838–1841. There are several interesting facts associated with the church: one of the local parish priests, Father Edward Komara, was later a bishop in Tarnów; a self-taught man from Lubień made the first organ for the church; and the parish archive contains a letter from Manchuria written in Mandarin by priest Tomasz Tsitsikara in the interwar period.

Also noteworthy is the chapel in the centre of the village, inside which there is a sandstone sculpture depicting Christ falling under the weight of the crucifix on the way to Mount Calvary. It is probably a three-hundred-year-old statue that was previously located in front of the church in Mucharz.

Then the road leads through Kojszówka, Juszczyn and Białka (here, Road No. 957 goes through Zawoja to Krowiarki Pass and further to Zubrzyca Górna in Orawa. From Zawoja there are many trails leading to Mt Diablak and Mt Mała Babia to Maków Podhalański.

In the latter town, in the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the image of Our Lady the Guardian and Queen of Families is venerated. The furnishings also include a Baroque crucifix in the side altar of the Brotherhood of the Crown of Thorns and a classicist pulpit.

It’s not far from Maków to Sucha Beskidzka, where the Devil met Master Twardowski in the Rzym Inn and kidnapped him to the Moon. Another story eagerly repeated by guides says that centuries ago, the malicious Dragon Kicek lived in the area. When it was finally driven out, the people came out to Market Square joyfully calling Sucha bez Kicka, which was supposed to give rise to the current name of the town.

Let's leave the legends aside and focus on the facts. It is true that Billy Wilder, one of the most famous film directors, winner of 6 Oscars, creator of ‘Half A Joke, Half Seriously’, is associated with Sucha Beskidzka. His parents ran a train station restaurant in Sucha in the early 20th century. The building, located on the Galician Transversal Railway route, delights with its unique atmosphere after being restored in recent years.

When in Sucha, you must undoubtedly visit the mentioned inn to try the Old Polish specialties served here or just breathe in the atmosphere of this place. A must-see during your stay is the Sucha Castle, built by Gaspar Castiglione, a goldsmith of Italian origin from Kraków. The Renaissance building, called Little Wawel due to its appearance, is today the seat of, among others, the Municipal Museum and an art gallery.

Sucha Beskidzka is a perfect starting point for hiking trails. Directly from the town, the blue trail will lead us through the observation tower in Mioduszyn to Maków Podhalański, and on the way back to Carhla we will encounter red signs that will take us back to Sucha. From nearby Krzeszów you can set off to Leskowiec in the Beskid Mały, and from Stryszawa to Jałowiec in the Beskid Żywiecki.

Who wants some papal cream cakes (kremówki)?

From Sucha Beskidzka, the Skawa heads north. It is constantly accompanied by National Road No. 28 running between the slopes of the Beskid Mały (on the left) and the Beskid Makowski (on the right). This is part of the car route from Stryszawa with the extremely interesting Beskid Wooden Toy Centre to Lanckorona, called the City of Angels, because the Festival of Angels takes place here.

In several places, the route follows a completely new trail, which was marked out in connection with the construction of the dam in Świnna Poręba. The investment resulted in a new water reservoir appearing on the map of Małopolska – Lake Mucharskie. Its tourist development is progressing very quickly, and we can now take advantage of, among others, boat cruises,  and we can walk along crest of the dam.

Another city in the Skawa valley is Wadowice, the birthplace of Karol Wojtyła, better known as Pope John Paul II. Getting to know the town requires moving a little away from the river and entering the centre. Where Road No. 28 turns right, go straight along the avenue of Our Lady of Fatima, pass the cemetery and at the next roundabout turn right, and after a few dozen metres, at the next roundabout, turn left and go along Lwowska Street to reach Jana Pawła II Square, i.e., the Market Square in Wadowice.

After reaching its end, we turn left and after a while find ourselves in a small paid parking lot. An alternative is to leave your car on one of the nearby access streets.

The most significant buildings in the town are the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Museum of the Holy Father John Paul II Family Home and the Municipal Museum, all of which are located in the immediate vicinity of John Paul II Square. Nearby we will also find numerous cafes serving the famous ‘papal cream cakes’ (kremówki), which the Polish Pope mentioned during his last visit to Wadowice in 1999.

An interesting idea to learn about the history and other monuments of the town is to walk the Galician Wadowice Trail.

Through the Carp Valley to meet dinosaurs

Further travel along the Skawa River leads along National Road No. 28. From the centre, take Lwowska Street towards the east. After reaching the roundabout, where the mentioned route meets Road No. 52, turn left. The street goes around the centre, passes the railway station and at the next roundabout the roads diverge. We’ll want to follow Road No. 28, heading north.

In nearby Graboszyce, we find the Church of St Andrew, which draws a good deal of interest, not least because it is the easternmost wooden church of the Silesian type. Inside,  the eyes are drawn to the multi-storey sacristy and paintings donated by Queen Anna Jagiellon to her lady-in-waiting Małgorzata, the wife of the then-owner of the town, the founder of the church and the builder standing opposite the fortified manor house.

Nearby, the Świętego Andrzeja Apostoła Park was created to familiarise guests with the figure of the Apostle and his companions. In its first part are sculptures depicting biblical scenes, and in the other one are figures of people who have St Andrew for their patron. A pond with a waterfall, a stone arch and a small observation tower create the unique atmosphere of this place, encouraging the visitor to relax and enjoy a moment of reflection.

The route leads through Carp Valley, also called the Masuria of Małopolska. Both names are fully justified, because there are many water reservoirs in the area where Zator carp have been bred for centuries, also known as royal carp due to its delicate taste, fragrance and original colour.

You can see the advantages of this corner of Małopolska on the Carp Valley Cycling Trail running through 7 communes throughout the Vistula and Skawa valleys. The route leads through Natura 2000 protected areas, the Przeciszów Nature Reserve and the Rudnia Landscape Park, where there is a manor from the 18th century (in Brzeźnica), a castle from the 16th century (in Spytkowice), the Regional Chamber of Carp Valley (in Osiek) and the Church of St Nicholas (in Polanka Wielka).

Another way to discover the charm of the area is to go for a brisk walk with Nordic walking poles. Marked routes for lovers of this form of recreation exist in the communes of Osiek, Przeciszów, Spytkowice and Zator.

The latter town is nowadays associated mainly with amusement parks – Energylandia offers various experiences, and Zatorland focuses more on the past, where we will meet the world's largest moving dinosaur replica as well as Greek gods and mythical creatures. There is also the Western Camp here, a village like straight from the American Wild West. You need to spend a whole day in each of these places to see all its attractions.

The Vistula on the horizon

From Zator it is very close (about 5 kilometres) to the mouth of the Skawa River and the Vistula River in Smolice. To get there, use the local roads running between the numerous ponds in the area. The most interesting is the one running through Palczowice and the hamlet of Rabusiowice.

In Palczowice is a 19th-century wooden church built on the site of an earlier one that was erected in 1498 as a Calvinist church during the Reformation. Near the church there are preserved farm buildings with a garden, farmhouses and a gardener's house. In Rabusiowice is the Grunwald Mound. The first one was built in 1910 by the villagers on the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. During World War II, the Germans blew it up and levelled the area. The local population heaped the mound up again in 1966, on the 1000th anniversary of the Polish State.

After reaching the mouth of the Skawa and the Vistula, we suggest driving between the river and the ponds through Lipowa to reach Spytkowice from the north, take a look around the above-mentioned castle, and discover the charms of the area.

This is how the journey along the Skawa River ends. However, this does not have to be the end of exploring Małopolska by way of the valleys of the region's largest rivers. We encourage you to discover interesting attractions along the Vistula, the Dunajec, the Poprad, the Skawa, or the Raba, and wander along the hiking trails, travelling along car routes or thematic routes.


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