Much of southern Poland sits upon a thick bed of limestone and salt, covered with a fine layer of topsoil and grass in rolling fields and hills. But scattered about are deep river valleys where the waters have carved high cliffs into the limestone. The town of Skała, just a short drive north of Kraków, sits in one of these valleys, and has with it some unique sights that make for an enjoyable afternoon drive.
The main attraction is the Pieskowa Skała, a royal palace hidden away from the town. The road to the palace follows a fast-moving stream, that shows clear evidence of swelling under heavy rains. Sheer limestone cliffs bound the road virtually the entire way. The cliffs are topped with tall trees.
The first attraction reached is the above chapel, built on a bridge over the stream. The chapel contains only a couple of seats and the altar, as the parishoners are expected to celebrate Mass outside, either on a series of log 'pews' or standing next to their cars (there is no real parking area).
The cliffs are not always sheer, and sometimes the patterns of water erosion leave sections of limestone completely barren and isolated. The most famous example of this is 'Hercules Club', shown below.
Hercules Club is a limestone formation that is thinner at the base vice on top, caused by the peculiar pattern of erosion that emerged over time. According to our guide, this rock was seen by some as a sign of the devil. Thankfully in modern times, it is now just a curiousity.
The Pieskowa is just around the corner from Hercules Club. It is a simple, unassuming palace built on the edge of a limestone cliff overlooking a swamp. It is currently a branch museum of the Wawel Castle in downtown Kraków.
The palace is a fascinating walk through art history, as different rooms were decorated in different styles -- Renaissance, post-Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, etc. Some rooms held Italian furniture, others Spanish, still others native Polish. Sadly, as pictures are not permitted inside, I cannot show you any of the rooms, however, I can show you a picture of the exterior garden, which is absolutely beautiful with flowers of nearly every color.
I enjoyed this excursion. It provided a decent constrast from the urban sights of Kraków and Wieliczka, and showed that Poland is geographically much more than simply open rolling hills and plains.
Trip taken 2 September 2001 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin