Along the Raba Trail The river winds through the Małopolska region like a snake

A bird’s-eye-view of the Raba River. Buildings and fields can be seen in the background. Houses are in the foreground.
The Raba winds through the Małopolska region like an impressive snake. It is as if it wanted to show us as many unique corners, unusual attractions and exceptional views as possible. It is here that you can immerse yourself in a world-class collection of steam-spewing steam locomotives, a unique statue of Father Christmas and a fountain peopled by charming elephants. There will also be an opportunity to look down from the castle hill at the vast reservoir from which much of Kraków draws its drinking water andreston the magnificent sandy beach for a little while. Anyone who isn’t afraid to go underground will probably be eager to descend into a world where the mysterious Treasurer guards his salt treasures.

Raba - from Obidowa to Rabka-Zdrój at a fast pace

It begins its run in the vicinity of Sieniawa. Or, more precisely, between the old and new courses of the road from Kraków to Zakopane (the well-known 'Zakopianka'), near Rdzawka, where there is a petrol station. It’s fed by waters from streams flowing down the western slopes of Mt Obidowa. To Uścia Solne, where it flows into the Vistula River, it visits the Gorce Mountains and the Beskid Wyspowy, the Beskid Makowski and the Wielickie Foothills. Travelling along the Raba River, you will get to know not only the natural diversity of the region, but also many interesting wonderfulplaces.

The initial section of the Raba has a typically mountainous character - swift current, rocky bottom, numerous tributaries flowing out of narrow and steep valleys. A comfortable journey along the river is possible only from where it flows into the valley along which the road runs from Klikuszowa to Raba Wyżna and the railwayroute from Zakopane to Sucha Beskidzka. This is also the VeloRaba Trail, which starts in Podhale - in Nowy Targ. It goes through Ludźmierz, Sieniawska Pass, Sieniawa, and then along the Raba River (or even moving away from it for a considerable distance) up to Uście Solne.

The fast pace mentioned above obviously refers to the river’s current. We do not need to rush. On the contrary, the journey should be leisurely, allowing you to explore places of interest along the way. The first ones are located in picturesque Sieniawa. Here, it is worth seeing the Church of St. Anthony of Padua and the park and manor complex. The church was originally a manorial chapel with a 'private' chaplain and, later on, parish priests from Raba Wyżna ministering there . To this day it has retained the characteristic appearance of the wooden churches on the Wooden Architecture Route.

Similar tourist attractions are offered by the nearby Raba Wyżna, which is located by Road No. 958 leading from the Tatra Mountains to Rabka. The history of the Baroque  Church of St. Stanislaus the Bishop Martyr (Link to the article on the Church of St. Stanislaus the Martyr Bishop in Raba Wyżna) dates back to the mid-17th century, but nearly a century earlier a small wooden church existed here. Notable in the furnishings are the miraculous image of Our Lady of Rabiańska and Lamentation of Christ - the work of an unknown author, inspired by paintings by the Italian artist, Annibal Carracci.

 In the manor house in Raba, which is part of a vast estate, at the end of the 19th century there was a health vodka factory, and in the inter-war period it operated as an elegant boarding house for wealthy holidaymakers(General Józef Haller, among others, was a guest here).

 The burial chapel of the Zduń familyis in the local cemetery, owners of the estates in Raba Wyżna and Sieniawa.

In Chabówka, crowds of tourists visit the Rolling Stock Open-Air Museum. Of course, railway enthusiasts should definitely visit the museum, but everyone’s invited to share the museum’s passion for railroads. Who wouldn't want to look at the countryside from the high up in the engineer’s cab of a steam locomotive, take a peek inside a roaring coal-burning firebox or experience the atmosphere of travelling in old passenger carriages? The exhibits include one of the most popular train engines that served in the Polish State Railways (PKP) - the more than 100-year-old  TP 4 steam locomotive. Some locomotives are operational and run within a heritagerailway; some have even become film stars.

Family rest in Rabka Zdrój

A visit with children to the Open-Air Museum in Chabówka is an excellent introduction to a stay in Rabka-Zdrój, located about 2 km away Rabka-Zdrój, with the beautiful name of the City of Children of the World. The designation is well-deserved, as not only are young patients treated here, but there are also many activities for them. A must-see is the Monument of St. Nicholas the fountain with 7 elephants and visit the Rabkoland Amusement Park. A good place to spend some family time is also the  Museum of Highlanders and Robbers and the Rabcio Puppet Theatre.

Adult tourists might also enjoy seeing the railway station building and taking a walk in the Spa Park, going on a visit to the Władysław Orkan Museum located in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene dating back to 1606, or strolling through the old cemetery, where there is a historic burial chapel of Julian Wieniawa Zubrzycki, the founder of the local spa.

If you are travelling by car, it is best to leave it in the car park near the train station and, from there, explore the spa on foot, visiting the sites on both sides of the railway tracks.

Rabka is also a great place for hiking enthusiasts. It is from here that a section of the Main Beskid Trail (red colour), which leads through the whole of the Gorce Mountains to the eastern edge of this mountain group, specifically to Krościenko nad Dunajcem. For those who prefer shorter routes walks on Nordic walking trails are recommended. One of them ends at thecharming Church of the Holy Cross on Mt Piątkowa, the creation of which as well as nearby Pocieszna Woda spring are associated with an interesting legend, and the other Nordic walking route leads to the observation tower on Polczakówka.

The journey continues along Rabka for a dozen or so kilometres along National Road No. 28, which crosses the whole of Małopolska (from Zator in the west to Gorlice in the east) and takes us to Mszana Dolna.

Between the slopes of the Beskid Wyspowy, or from Mszana Dolna to Myślenice

Mszana Dolna lies to the east of the Raba River.. So if you want to explore its attractions, you need to leavethe river behind and head east for a little while, but stick to Road No. 28. This will take you past the railway station and across the bridge over the Mszanka River to turn left towards the Market Square.

The history of Mszana Dolna goes back to the mid-13th century, although it had to wait a hundred years before it was granted town rights. The medieval urban layout has been preserved to this day, with the neo-Gothic Church of St. Michael the Archangel (at Jana Pawła II Street) and the pump house that served the inhabitants for many years. An interesting way to learn about the town's history is to go on a ‘Walk with a Pump, a description of which can be found in the Limanowa District app (there is aversion for devices with Android and iOS).

Mszana's past is also evidenced by the manor park with a stand of old trees, the manor house built by the last owner Henryk Piotr Krasiński and the 18th-century brick granary, which is the oldest building in the town (now housing a hotel). These facilities are located along Road No. 968, where the car tour Around the Gorce starts.

But let's get back on track along the run of the Raba River. To do this, you need to take Road No. 28 past therailway station that we met earlier (built along the Galician Trans-Siberian Railway, which opened in 1884; its total length was about 800 km) to the crossroads where Road No. 968 turns to the right, and follow it towards Kasinka Mała and Lubień.

The Raba surrounds the Szczebel massif from the east over a distance of approximately 10 km. From now on, we will be able to see the impressive massif everywhere we go on our journey. Heading towards Myślenice, we enter the popular ‘Zakopianka’ road in Lubń. In this section, the Raba courses right next to the road; during the construction of the modern Road S7, its bed even had to be moved in several places.

In Myślenice, you must stop both in the centre, around the Market Square, and in the recreational area, the so-called Zarabie, located on the other side of the river.

It is best to start exploring the town from Zarabie, leaving the ‘Zakopianka’ where it curves sharply to the right, then head for the bridge over the Raba River and stop at the car park on the left.

We encourage you to go for a quiet walk along the Raba River and discover the charms of Zarabie. The red trail will take you to Zdrojowa Street to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on Zarabie) considered to be the patron saint of ecology. Then, along Zamkowa Street, you will reach the foot of the slopes of Chełm, with the Zamczysko nad Rabą Reserve and the ruins of a medieval castle (the approach takes about 10-15 minutes). Continuing the walk along the Raba River, you will reach the lower station of the cableway to Chełm, which is part of the of the Sport Arena Myślenice Ski Station, we will encounter many refreshment points and places for active recreation, such as playgrounds, swimming pools, and the Adventure Park.

From Zarabie, it is best to go to the centre via the well-known bridge over the Raba River and continue along Piłsudskiego Street to Słowackiego Street, where you can leave your car and then walk to the Market Square. The the first stone house (Link to the article on the Oboński Tenement House in Myślenice) (No. 27) dating back to 1784 and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the sanctuary of Our Lady of Myślenice. A 16th-century image of Mary, which originally belonged to Pope Sixtus V, is venerated here.

To the top of the castle hill

We are less than 15 km away from yet other attractions. The first stage is to reach the viaduct along Słowackiego Street, along which the ‘Zakopianka’ runs. At this junction we go straight ahead, following the signposts indicating Road No. 967 to Dobczyce. After a few kilometres, we will pass over one of the branches of Lake Dobczyckie. Soon we will also see signs directing us to Dobczyce’s town centre.

Everything here is within easy reach. So, everything is within a convenient distance whether you leave your car at the Market Square (on weekdays and event-filled weekends, however, it’snot so easy to find a space) or just across the river by turning right into Podgórska Street and park in the large car park at the foot of the castle.

Once we have managed to do this, it is a must to visit the Church of Our Lady Help of Christians  that towers over the square and let ourselves be awed by thecontemporary polychrome depicting the miracles and teachings of Jesus Christ. Now it's time to reach the top of the castle hill to see the the Church of St. John the Baptist and a fulsome linden tree that is said to have been planted shortly after King John III Sobieski's victory at Vienna. We probably won't miss the Royal Castle and the nearby Open-Air Museum of Wooden Folk Architecture Open Air Museum of Wooden Folk Architecture. The hill offers a magnificent view of the Dobczyce Reservoir, from which most of Kraków draws its water. The pedestrian and bicycle bridge will take us to the crown of the dam, from where we can easily reach the parking lot by the river or the Market Square.

Romanesque polychromes, Wit Stwosz from Gdów and a sandy beach

On our further journey down the course of the Raba River, we will be accompanied byRoad No. 967 for more than 20 km, as far as Łapczyca. From time to time, however, we will leave it to explore the extremely interesting places nearby.

We take our first detour after just 2 km, turning off onto Road No. 964 and headingto Wieliczka, to visit two churches standing right next to each other in Dziekanowice. This is the 12th century Church of St. Mary Magdalene and St. Nicholas and the the Sanctuary of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first of the shrines is one of the most valuable religious buildings in Małopolska. It was built in the Romanesque style and, among other things, some of the polychrome decoration from this period has survived to the present day. Some of the furnishings, including the organ and the 17th-century image of Our Lady of Dziekanów, were moved to the new church, which is associated in a great many ways with the future Pope John Paul II. Karol Wojtyla, as Archbishop, consecrated it in 1966, and in 1991, by that time Pope John Paul II, he crowned the grace-famous image.

In Gdów, located nearby, in the  Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the image of Our Lady of Gdów is venerated. King Władysław Jagiełłois said to have prayed here, asking for a descendant in front of it. The prayer was apparently effective, as Casimir (founder of the Jagiellon Dynasty) and Ladislaus of Varna were born. The church is furnished with Rococo altars made by a local craftsman known as the ‘Wit Stwosz of Gdów’ because of his craftsmanship.

After Gdów, it's time for another side-trip. First left, to Niegowici, to the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the oldest parishes in Małopolska. Karol Wojtyla began his priestly service here This fact is commemorated by two plaques and a statue of the young vicar made of granite and bronze by an Italian sculptor. On the main altar is a painting of Our Lady of Niegowić dating from 1610, on which a silver cloth was placed as a votive offering for the restoration of independence in 1918, and in the chapel we see a life-size replica of the Vatican tomb of John Paul II.

Returning to the main road, we advise you to cross it straight ahead. This will take you to the leisure complex about 2 km away - Kuter Port Nieznanowice. Visitors can enjoy a beautiful sandy beach, a swimming area, a fishing area, a restaurant and recreational and leisure space. It is, therefore, an ideal place to rest for a while before continuing your journey.

Heading east along Road No. 967, heading past Książnice we will cross the Raba River and .... we will lose contact with it for a while as the river heads north into the woodlands. We continue to Łapczyca, where we enter National Road No. 94 and turn in the direction of Bochnia. Within a very short distance, less than a kilometre, we can turn left to behold, on a hill above the village, one of the most valuable Gothic monuments in all of Malopolska, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was erected as early as the 13th century and probably served as a chapel where people stopped to pray during royal hunting trips in the Niepołomice Forest.

 It is not far to Bochnia from Łapczyca. It is mainly associated with the salt mine, although the mine is by far not all there is to see. If you want to reach its centre, you must - at the end of Łapczyca - turn off the main road to the right and drive down.

In Bochnia, salt was also extracted from the pits of the

The beginnings of the Bochnia mine can be traced back to 1248. However, historical records reveal that salt was already being extracted here as early as around 3500 BCE. That was done by evaporating water from brine extracted from wells and pits that were dug using primitive methods. They were the origin of the still-operational Sutoris mine shaft.

A walk through the underground passageways is of course a must-see in Bochnia, as is following the signs of the NaCl Bochnia Salt Trail, which leads to 15 sites connected to the history ofBochnia salt.

It is also worth seeing the Bochnia People House the District Office building and the former Dominican Monastery, which today serves as the Professor Stanisław Fischer Museum. Also worth a visit is  the Basilica of St. Nicholas with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary (the main altar was built by the Confederates of Bar), a detached wooden belfry and the private Arthropoda Butterfly Museum. For a little bit of relaxation it’s a good idea to visit the Family Park with its viewing tower on the top of Uzbornia.

Cyclists are advised that the 90-kilometre-long Bicycle Salt Ring Salina Cracoviensis leading along the former Wieliczka-Bocheń salt works.

Looking for an outlet to the Vistula

In the Bochnia area, the Raba River once again changes direction. It still meanders as if it is undecided where to go but, nevertheless, it clearly heads north, with a slight deviation to the east. If you want to follow the course of the river, you need to take Road No. 965 in the centre of Bochnia and head towards Zielona.

In nearby Krzyżanowice stands the Church of St. Joachim, which can only be reached from the road by a footbridge suspended over the Raba River. It was originally a monastery of the Bernardine Orderin Bochnia. After the dissolution of the Order, it was bought at auction by the city authorities andmoved to Krzyżanowice, which was then part of Bochnia.

A little further on, in Mikluszowice, we find another interesting house of worship - the  Church of St. John the Baptist was built on a hill formed by the meandering waters of the Raba River. In the Middle Ages, a castle stood here, in later times more churches were erected, which were destroyed by fire. from time to time A grotto of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes was erected in front of the church. Nearby, there is another footbridge allowing access to the right bank of the Raba River.

Mikluszowice is located along the Raba River on a local road that we will reach by turning onto it in Gawłówek. Following it, we will reach Uści e Solne, once an important port on the Vistula, from where Bochnia salt was sent downriver to Gdańsk. Today, it is a small village with a characteristic architectural layout formed by woodenhouses and barns that are part of the homesteads. The estuary of the Raba River, where it empties into the Vistula, is slightly north of the village.

Taking a journey along the rivers of Małopolska - the Vistula, the Dunajec, the Poprad, the Skawa and the Biala - is one way of experiencing the region's charms. Others include the use of car routes, hiking trails or thematic routes. All of these ways are equally good because there is always something to discover in Malopolska.


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