Diablak, Kapryśnica or perhaps Orawska Święta Góra?

Diablak, Kapryśnica or perhaps Orawska Święta Góra?

Mountain slopes covered with vegetation.
Diablak, Góra Diabła, Diabli Zamek, Diable Zamczysko or perhaps Babia Góra, Kapryśnica, Matka Niepogód, Królowa Beskidów or Orawska Święta Góra? There are many names and each has its group of supporters. What is certain is that since ancient times, the highest peak of the Babia Góra Range and the Żywiec Beskids, rising with its massive mound to 1,725 metres amsl, has been associated with dark forces. Today, it’s rather famous for its impressive panoramas – of course when it’s not covered with clouds or mist – as well as for the wonderful beauty of sunrises and sunsets.

Diablak isn’t so scary

Local residents still claim that this used to be the seat of the devil, who was watching from above for those he wanted to lead down the wrong path. Apparently, he’s still lurking out there somewhere. So – they add – you have to be careful all the time not to be led off the trail.

The inhabitants of the surroundings of Babia Góra also mention a mighty castle that the devil built for one of the numerous bandits here; of course, in return the bandit was to give him his soul. According to the contract that the thief signed with his own blood, the stronghold had to be built by the first crowing of the rooster. The dawn came, the cock crowed and the castle was still not ready. The contract was therefore broken. Embittered by his failure, the devil decided to turn the stronghold into a pile of rubble and thus bury the soul he failed to steal. And this is how Diablak was created. Some claim that the groans of a robber can still be heard from between the massive stones. Or is it the sound of the ciupaga axe with which the entombed bandit tries to carve his way to the sun?

The peak was also regarded as a place of sabbaths. They were allegedly taking place on Midsummer Night, All Souls Day or Good Friday, gathering witches from all parts of the world. Why would they meet in this particular place? The mountain was lofty and visible from a distance, so it was easy to navigate to it. Once all the witches had appeared, the top was ‘lost’ in a murky garland of heavy storm clouds. No wonder, then, that great downpours, hailstorms, snowfalls and powerful winds that uprooted centuries-old trees and took away people’s senses were associated with the sabbaths.

There was also supposed to be a cave in Diablak, where the bandits kept young girls abducted from the surrounding villages. However, there are some who claim that the captives weren’t imprisoned in a rocky cave, but in the cellars of a castle erected by the devil. This is, by the way, the reason for naming the peak Babia Góra, i.e., ‘woman’s mount’. Another of the legends indicates that this beautiful name is due to a giantess who inhabited the area. She was allegedly carrying a large bag of stones one day, when the bag ripped open and the boulders formed a picturesque mountain range. Let’s not forget the romantic-tragic version of the rise of the mighty massif either: it’s supposed to be a bandit’s mistress who petrified upon hearing of the death of her beloved one.

The impressive summit is also said to hide enormous treasures. How to reach them? That’s pretty easy. All you have to do is head for the Brona Pass... You’ll find there a gate leading to caverns filled with unimaginable richness. Some say it may also be a passage not to an underground chamber, but to another world.

Diablak, whichever version of the name we adopt, rises to 1,725 metres amsl. It’s not only the highest peak of the Babia Góra Range of the Żywiec Beskids, but also of the Western Beskids. The range extends from the Krowiarka Pass to the Jałowiecka Północna Pass. Another outstanding peak is Mała Babia Góra: 1,517 metres amsl. The Main European Watershed runs along the border. It also forms, till Diablak, the Polish-Slovak border.

‘It’s easily accessible on horseback’

Babia Góra appears on the pages of history as early as in the 15th century. The records that were found come from, among others, Jan Długosz’s Chronographia Regni Poloniae. A hundred years before that, it’s mentioned in Herbarz, czyli zielnik by Marcin of Urzędów.

“(...) in Babia Góra there is a mountain or gronik, on which there is a very big stone, from which the water springs. On one side of the rock, there’s no access to it, and on the other side, it goes more smoothly and hence it’s called Babia Góra” – this is how Andrzej Komoniecki, the head of the Żywiec commune, describes it in his Chronografia albo dziejopis żywiecki from the 18th century.

Stanisław Staszic, geographer and geologist, but also politician and philosopher, left this recollection of an expedition he made on 24 July 1804. ‘It’s easily accessible on horseback up to two thirds of its height, that means, up to where the woods end. The rest of the way has to be done on foot. This is not cause by the unpleasantness of the rocky slope, but more because of the amount of dense shrubs, which make it impossible to continue on horseback’ – he wrote in his On The Geology Of The Carpathians And Other Polish Mountains And Plains. He set off for the summit from Podwilk.

Babia Góra National Park – guarding the treasures

Deer trimming, alpine cornea, flea sedge, Moravian monkshood, white adder’s mouth – these are some of nature’s treasures protected within the Babia Góra National Park. The park is also home to bears, wolves, lynx, deer, roe deer, wild boar and sometimes moose.

The park is also a great place for all those who like to hike, of course respecting the laws of nature. There are several trails here and they’re all accessible to everyone. It’s possible to walk without much effort, and it’s also possible to tackle the handholds and chains of the Academics’ Path, i.e., a trail that requires considerable fitness. Whichever route we choose, we’ll get to know the beautiful forests of the Babia Góra region, picturesque glades, surmount the dwarf pine range, and finally face the hard slog through the high-mountain rockfall and scree. The prize will be unique – of course, only if we finally reach Diablak.

From 1,725 metres amsl, we can see not only the jagged Tatra peaks, but also the Big Fatra and the Little Fatra, the Choč Mountains, Beskid Żywiecki, Silesian Beskids, Beskid Makowski, Mały Beskids, Wyspowy Beskids, the Gorce Mountains, and at our feet, the impressive Orava-Nowy Targ Basin with its peat bogs unique in all of Europe. For such views, available in good weather of course, it’s worth losing those few drops of sweat.

The Babia Góra National Park offers not only numerous hiking trails, but also nature trails.

 Tourist trails in the Babia Góra National Park 

yellow: Zawoja Czatoża – Fickowe Rozstaje – Górny Płaj – Markowe Szczawiny, 5 km

green: Zawoja Markowa – Pośredni Bór – Markowe Szczawiny, 3.6 km

 blue: Zawoja Czatoża – Markowe Rówienki – Zawoja Markowa – Ryzowana – Zawoja Policzne, 7.5 km

black: Podryzowana – Ryzowana – Markowe Szczawiny, 3.5 km

 blue: Zawoja Policzne – Polana Krowiarki – Markowe Szczawiny, 11 km

 green: Górny Płaj – Sokolica, 1.5 km

 yellow: Markowe Szczawiny – Sucha Kotlinka – Diablak, 3 km

 red: Polana Krowiarki – Sokolica – Kępa – Gówniak – Diablak – Brona Pass – Markowe Szczawiny – Fickowe Rozstaje – Jałowiecka Pass, 14.5 km

 green: Jałowiecka Pass – Mała Babia Góra – Brona Pass, 4 km

 green: Przywarówka – Głodna Woda – Diablak, 2.3 km

 green: Polana Krowiarki – Hala Śmietanowa – Zubrzyca Górna, 3 km on the territory of the park

Ski trails in the Babia Góra National Park

Polana Krowiarki – Górny Płaj – Markowe Szczawiny – Przełęcz Brona – Diablak – Sokolica – Polana Krowiarki, 15 km partly one-way route

Polana Krowiarki – Diablak – Polana Krowiarki, 9 km (two-way route)

Polana Krowiarki – Markowe Szczawiny – Żywieckie Rozstaje – granica Parku, 12 km (two-way route)

Markowe Szczawiny – following the black trail to Dejakowe Szczawiny – to Dolny Płaj – following the road to the green trail – Zawoja Markowa, 5 km (two-way route)

Bicycle trails in Babia Góra National Park 

blue: Border of the Babia Góra National Park at Hala Śmietanowa – Gubernasówka – border of the Babia Góra National Park, 3 km within the park

 green: Zawoja Markowa – Makowe Rówienki – Zawoja Czatoża, 3 km within the park

Horse trails in the Babia Góra National Park 

blue: border of the Babia Góra National Park at Hala Śmietanowa – Gubernasówka – border of the Babia Góra National Park, 3 km

Nature trails in Babia Góra National Park 

There are eight nature trails in the Babia Góra National Park. According to the park administration, the first trail was established in 1974 and was named after Professor Władysław Szafer. It is 7 km long and the head of the trail is near the building of the park authorities and the Park Natural History Museum in Zawoja-Barańcowa. The nearly four-hour walk led through the middle forest, Jarzębinowa Skałka, Markowe Szczawiny, Szumiąca Woda, up the Academics’ Path and to the top of Diablak. The trip requires considerable fitness, as it’s a climb of 1,025 metres from the start of the trail to the finish on the summit of Diablak.

green – Through the Valley of Rybny Potok: Zawoja Ryzowana – Sulowa Cyrhel – Rybna – Zawoja Lajkonik, 3.5 km

green – How we protect the Babia Góra nature: Zawoja Markowa – Fickówka – Ryzowana (border of the park), 3.5 km

yellow – Echoes of the original Carpathian primeval forest: Zawoja Czatoża – Gruba Jodła – Fickowe Rozstaje, 8.4 km

blue – In the footsteps of Wawrzyniec Szkolnik: Zawoja Czatoża – Markowe Rówienki, 3.5 km

blue – In the lower forest: Zawoja Lajkonik – Rybna –Norczak – Zawoja Policzne, 2.8 km

blue – Mokry Kozub: Zawoja Barańcowa – Mokry Kozub – Zawoja Barańcowa – Zawoja Markowa, 2 km

red – Between forest and village: Zawoja Markowe Rówienki – green hiking trail – Zawoja Markowa, 2 km

green – Forest life course: Zawoja Markowe Rówienki – green ski trail – Zawoja Markowe Rówienki, 2 km

Orava and Żywiec Beskids are a fantastic area for all types of tourism, not only hiking, cycling and horse riding, but also skiing. Whether you like to ski on one or two boards, for the best you’ll definitely want to go in winter is the Mosorny Groń ski resort – although there’s also plenty to do here in summer – where you’ll find perfectly prepared trails for both skilled skiers and those just taking their first steps. It’s worth mentioning that the station is FIS-licensed for national and international ski competitions, and the resort itself encourages the organisation of sporting events. Of course, Zawoja is also tempting with its ski slopes. Only few people remember that, but Żywiec Beskids is also a great place to organise ski tours and snowshoe excursions.

From the peasant manor to Adam and Eve

Did peasants live in manor houses? It did happen from time to time. If you don’t believe it, take a trip to the Museum – Orava Ethnographic Park in Zubrzyca Górna. You’ll there see some of the most interesting treasures of the area, but also the magnificent 17th-century manor house of the Moniak family, an Orava noble family of village chiefs.

Without this picturesque museum, many unique artefacts probably wouldn’t have survived to the present day. Today, in addition to the famous Moniak manor house, we can also admire, among others, the lumber-room from Podwilk with its charming first floor, the Dziubek’s cottage from Jabłonka with its elegant watchtower, the oil mill from Lipnica Mała, the blacksmith’s shop from Zubrzyca Górna, the Miraj’s homestead covered with the so-called kicoks and the Church of Our Lady of the Snows from Tokarnia... Wandering from one homestead to another, it’s worth considering how little it takes to save such pearls and gems on the one hand, and to make them disappear forever on the other. What’s worth emphasising is that it’s a living museum, bringing the colourful life of the Orava region closer.

Those who like to immerse themselves in this world but at the same time seek impressive sights, should head for the intimate  Józefa Żak Open-Air Museum in Zawoja, beautifully located in the so-called Markowa Rola in the hamlet of Markowa. Here, we’ll discover, among other things, the Gancarczyk House, which housed a room, a pantry, a stable and a cowshed under the same roof, as well as an example of a kurlok, or chimneyless house: Słopniakowa Hut.

Unusual experiences also await us at the Museum of Folk Culture in Sidzina. This site offers not only a picturesque exhibition, but also regular traditional crafts workshops. If you go to Stryszawa, don’t miss the Beskid Wooden Toy Centre, with its rocking horses, famous klepoks – colourful birds on sticks – and a walker with moving animals. It’s not only an occasion to take a break from the pace of the modern world, but it also lets you feel like a kid again, if only for a moment.

It’s worth noting here that each and every day all these museums - the open-air ones as well as the others – are full of life and colourful activity. They organise festivals, re-enactments, workshops and performances, recalling old customs and habits, and everything is accompanied by music, song and dance. Let’s add also the regional delicacies that bring it all together in one harmonious whole. It’s a paradise for every tourist.

Redyks and the Babia Góra Autumn – not only for the enthusiasts of shepherding

Hala Barankowa has grown into an iconic destination for all those who enjoy unconventional attractions and are also lovers of old pastoral traditions and sweeping views. It’s on this glade, successfully included into the Wallachian Culture Trail, that we’ll meet a flock of sheep from April to September, as well as a shepherd who will tell us the secrets of shepherding in the Żywiec Beskids.

But that’s not all. In spring and autumn, Zawoja hosts traditional redyks. Both events are surrounded by many customs, prohibitions and regulations but also magical rituals. The spring redyk, i.e., the departure of the sheep to the mountain glades and pastures, always starts the day after the whole process begins, under the patronage of St Adalbert (April 23). The descent into the valleys, on the other hand, takes place around September 29, on the day consecrated to St Michael the Archangel, the patron of shepherds. However, before the herd can move down, the shepherd has to carry everything out of the hut and also bid farewell to the burning bonfire with the sign of the cross before pouring water on it. Only then can everyone move back to the village. A shepherd (baca) walks at the head, with his helpers (juhasi) and sheepdogs roaming around. Music, joyful dancing, singing and fun awaited them in the village... One of the largest and most colourful events associated with redyk in the area is, of course, the Babia Góra Autumn, honoured in 2023 with the prestigious title of Tourist Treasure of the Małopolska Region.

Wooden pearls can also be found in Żywiec Beskids

Where? For example in Zawoja, which can boast of being the longest and most extensive village in Poland. We’re talking about a unique church, built in 1888 and founded by Albrecht Habsburg, which bears features of eclectic style and alpine construction. Not far from the Church of St Clement the Pope and Martyr we can admire the famous Babia Góra Railway Station, a place where, at the beginning of the 20th century, a tourism outpost of the Tatra Society used to operate.

When thinking about wooden pearls and the craftsmanship of their creators, we should definitely visit Lachowice, where we can find one of the most beautiful wooden churches in the Małopolska region. Dedicated to Sts Peter and St Paul, the church was founded at the end of the 18th century by Teresa Wielopolska. It’s worth mentioning that it was pre-qualified to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Orawka attracts visitors with its wooden Church of St John the Baptist from 1651 (with beautiful polychrome paintings inside), while under the peak of Okrąglica (1,239 metres amsl), you’ll find the chapel of Our Lady Protector of Tourists. It’s also worth visiting Sidzina – perhaps you’ll find Adam, Eve, Abraham and Sirius, the oak trees given to the inhabitants by King John II Casimir Vasa.

Tourist Treasures of the Małopolska Region

Orava and the Żywiec Beskids attract and fascinate. And if we give them the attention they deserve, they will reveal treasures we never dreamed of. We’ll learn the secrets of both the 2023 Tourist Treasures of the Małopolska Region, which include the Babia Góra Trails and Babia Góra Autumn, but also the Zawoja commune, which was awarded with a special mention, and the artful works of old masters of the axe, chisel and brush. We’ll get to know the candidates for UNESCO list, the centuries-old tradition cultivated in the immediate family, the solitude and tranquillity of the wonderful paths, and the power of the magical sunset at Diablak. This is a land where we can follow in the footsteps of the Orava, Babia Góra and Żywiec highlanders, as well as the Kliszczak highlanders. Or maybe we’ll be tempted by the path of the famous bandits? There’s plenty to choose from!



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