Travel

Middle Roztocze – A Magical Land

More than a hundred sunny days a year, delicious onion cakes, loess ravines and (not really wuthering) heights. We just need to add the incredibly hospitable and helpful farmers from the nearby villages and children who can turn a simple stick into a prince, to understand that less really does mean more.

text by: Natalia Semczuk

Even the cities here are abnormally homely, although they can give their western neighbours a run for their money. We can say that in the centre of Roztocze time simply goes slower and the only rule we need to obey is to savour life.

Day I
The capital city of the central part of Roztocze is Zwierzyniec, which lies on the River Wieprz, on the Roztocze National Park border. The biggest attraction in this charming town is the “floating” church and Echo Lake, where with a bit of luck we can see the Polish ponies, who appear only in this region. Only 40 km south from here lies Susiec and the little waterfalls on the River Tanew, considered by Dorota Gardias – a known Polish weather girl from this region – as the most romantic place in Roztocze. It is also worth staying in Krasnobród, a town famous for its wooden shrines, which are said to have been a place of revelations, and now they bring together Christians from all around the world. It is best to end the trip in Józefów, where we can visit the closed suburban quarries with numerous tourist routes.

Day II
Szczebrzeszyn. It is famous because of a certain insect, which has the guts to disrupt the peace and quiet (there is a well-known tongue twister about a beetle in Szczebrzeszyn – “W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie”). Apart form the famed beetle, which has several monuments devoted to it in the town, Szczebrzeszyn is also known for being a crossroads of the Amber Road and the Kiev – Kraków route. A blessing in disguise, we could say, as on the one hand, such position fostered a dynamic development of the town, but on the other hand, it posed a threat of foreign raids. What is also interesting is the fact that Michałów, which lies near Szczebrzeszyn, is the hometown of the Kaczorowski family – the family of the mother of Karol Wojtyła, later pope John Paul II.

Day III
It does not matter where we are – all that matters is that we are in the centre of Roztocze. Halfway between Zamość and Tomaszów Lubelski, driving along the national road 17 we will find Krynice. It is a tiny village and a commune with little more than 3 thousand inhabitants. It is unfailingly enchanting. On the one side, we have a huge lagoon, popular among anglers, on the other side, a gorgeous wooden church dating back to 1920. According to the locals, the two places share a legend passed down form generation to generation. Supposedly, in the days of yore, the little church was situated on a small island in the middle of the lagoon. Women used to meet in a designated place on the coast to do the washing together. Once upon a time one of them dropped a tadpole into the water and swore loudly, as she was unable to find it. The woman next to her scolded her, reminding her that she cannot behave like that near the church. The woman laughed and swore again. Then the waters of the lagoon rose and sucked in the evil woman and the church. The good woman managed to escape. Since then, rumour has it that if at midnight we circle the lagoon three times, we could hear the evil woman screaming, penitent for her wrongdoing. Moreover, on windy days we should be able to hear the chimes of the church bells audible from under the water, and some people have seen depictions of saints being carried by the stormy waters. According to another legend, under one of the three oaks that are natural monuments, rested Napoleon Bonaparte himself. Could this be the truth? We cannot be sure, but it is definitely more probable that it was the Lipczyński family, who lived in a 19th century manor-house, whose ruins are hidden in the local park. In any case, Middle Roztocze is definitely worth visiting!