“Honey, get me out of the city. Take me to the water somewhere, take me into the woods. I stumble in my shadow. And I can no longer hear my thoughts” – Anita Lipnica sang in the song “From the City “recorded with the band The Hats. In the Mnikowska Valley, we will surely hear our thoughts, and a walk in this gentle and charming valley will surely make us stop stumbling in our shadows and take a break from the bustle of the city. Especially since the valley is located about 20 km from Krakow.
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The Mnikowska Valley is a gorge about two kilometers long in the Sanka Valley, which is located on the tectonic framework of the Tenczyński Garb. The valley is located within the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland in the town of Mników. It’s a village founded over 700 years ago, with the manor complex built by Camaldolese monks in the 17th century among the most interesting.
“Near Bielany, there is a Camaldolese village No. 20 called Mników. From the top of Mount Bielany, we passed into its wonderful valley, the most beautiful valley you can imagine but the stream, and those beautiful jutting rocks that surround the valley? A strange, indescribable magic overwhelms the senses as you gaze at this rocky amphitheater under the sapphire morning lightwhere your imagination will discover the many shapes and colors of these beautiful giant figures drawn only against a background of different imaginations” – description of Josef Muzinski’s Valley in “Souvenir from Krakow”.
The valley is covered by the “Natura 2000” protection program. In 1963, the Mnikowska Valley Landscape Reserve was created here, which covers 20 hectares. It’s a perfect place for a weekend stroll – the long walks among the rocks and between the trees definitely have their charms. There are also characteristic limestone mountains.
The Sanka Stream flows through the valley and its source is in the village of Freeway. Here it flows meandering and creates small waterfalls, and exactly 18 km from its source it flows to the left bank of the Vistula. A blue hiking trail runs along the Sanka River that ends in Khrosna. The road is also ideal for a bike trip.
The walls of the canyon and river valley are covered with forests (hail, riverine forests, beech) and thermal dry rocky grasslands. In early spring, this place turns into a true floral paradise – among others, liverwort, wood anemone, violets, yellow anemone or lungweed moth. In the reserve, we can also admire 17 species of protected plants – including the golden head lily, lily of the valley or daphne. The Mnikowska Valley is also a refuge for animals, especially bats, kestrels and rusty nightingales.
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The center of the reserve is a charming picturesque area, above which – in the walls in a bend called the Circus – there is an altar with a rock painting of Our Lady of Scala. The image drawn on a rock several meters long is a rare phenomenon. The original work here was painted by Walery Eljasz-Radzikowski in 1863. The painting figuratively presented the Mother of God as a Polish diaspora.
In the 1980s, it was painted and a new one was built in its place. There are steps that lead to the board, and along the path of the cross. Next to the painting is the 82-meter entrance to the cave above the Virgin Mary.
Many legends are associated with the creation of the image of the Mother of God in this place. According to one of them, during the January uprising, Russian soldiers surrounded several rebels who were pursuing them. The Mother of God had to show them the cave behind the rock, where they found shelter.
According to another legend, the initiator of the painting was Countess Potuka, who asked God to save her sick daughter. The woman in her dream was supposed to see a rock from the Mnikowska Valley, where there was an image of the Virgin Mary. When the daughter recovered, the countess asked Eljasz-Radzikowski to paint a picture in this place. Perhaps the Polish painter wanted to create a place of prayer here for the hidden participants of the January Uprising.
However, this is not the end of the interesting threads in the history of rock painting. When the uprising collapsed, the invader forbade mass celebrations for the Fatherland in Krakow’s churches. Thus, the inhabitants, under the pretext of going out of the city for entertainment, took part in a secret mass that was celebrated here.
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