The Swietokrzyskie region in Poland (translated as ‘Holy Cross’) contains some of the oldest geological sites in Europe, dating back to the Devonian period around 370 million years ago. Although the mountains of have a few years on them, they have been shrinking for some time so they are not the hugest by any means.
The Swietokrzyski National Park’s tallest peak, Lysica, is 612 metres above sea level, while the nearby shorter Lysiec is famed instead for being a site for pagan rituals back before Christians took a hold in Poland.
The area is perfect for hiking, with views and unusual sites aplenty. Here’s a sample of the things you might see.
This old town is home to a particularly impressive ruined castle that is completely open and even has a volleyball net set up nearby.
Walking from Bodzentyn to Swieta Katarzyna
A lovely walk through a forest that breaks into peaceful hidden meadows. At just under two hours, the village of Swieta Katarzyna (‘Saint Catherine’) will reward you with its selection of informal eateries where you can get some barbecued grub and relax under a parasol.
The highest peak in Swietokrzyski National Park is best reached from Swieta Katarzyna. The walk gets a bit steep but the path’s increasing rockiness makes the walk visually arresting and a break from the norm. Don’t mind what the signs say, it’ll probably take you about half an hour.
Holy Cross Cloister
Famous throughout Poland, the peak of Lysa Gora (‘Bald Mountain’) is home to an old Benedictine monastery that is still used by monks today. Beneath is a crypt where the fearless can see well-preserved corpses of holy-men from the past. Nearby stands an extremely tall weather research tower.
On the west side, the monastery is reachable by a perfectly-paved road for vehicles from Huta Szklana (‘Glassworks’), while from the town of Nowa Slupia on the east of the mountain, you can take a more authentic forest walk lined with wooden-carved depictions of the twelve Stations of the Cross. If, at the entrance to either, you’re asked to pay an entry fee, just tell them you’re going up for a bit of a pray – according to Polish law, they have to let you pass for free.
In keeping with all the geology and fossils abound in the area, the town of Baltow is home to a dinosaur-based theme park known as JuraPark: