I was born in a charming little village nestled in southern Poland. From a young age, I was captivated by the beauty of the nearby forest, and spent every free moment exploring its depths. When I moved to Krakow, I was thrilled to discover the Wolski Forest, a protected wilderness teeming with life, and crowned by majestic hills that loomed above the city skyline. The forest’s rocks, sculpted into stunning formations, never ceased to amaze me, and its lush enclaves provided a refuge for an array of wildlife. Whenever I needed to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, I sought solace in the tranquil embrace of Las Wolski.

Towards the end of 2022, I embarked on a new adventure, relocating to the sun-kissed shores of southern Portugal. The Algarve region dazzled me with its awe-inspiring landscapes, adorned with striking cliffs and rugged rocks. The warmth of the sun filled me with a sense of renewed vitality, and I was humbled by the raw power of nature that surrounded me. 

For me, the allure of both these places is simply indescribable, and I am always eager to return to them. Despite the fact that they are separated by kilometers, they are connected by some incomprehensible mysticism. Maybe it’s the memory of the earth for millions of years, or maybe it’s the stories created in people’s minds that try to explain the secrets of these landscapes.

Let me tell you the stories that have built those places. It is truly something magical to experience. From the origin of Panienskie Skaly Rocks in Wolski Forest of Krakow to the legend that thrilled a small fishing village in southern Portugal. 

“Floripes Coin”

The Moorish Floripes is a legendary figure from Olhão (Portugal). She appeared to two men near a water mill and told them she was trapped by an enchantment. To lift the enchantment, a man must embrace her by the river, cut his arm at the level of his heart, cross the ocean with two candles to Africa without them dying, and then marry her. Some Olhao residents believe in the legend so much that they say Floripes appears during the day and pays for her purchases with a gold coin, disappearing without waiting for her change

“St. James Scallop Shells”

The Scallop Shell is an iconic symbol of  both the Spanish and the Portuguese Camino de Santiago. It’s associated with St. James, and one myth says that medieval pilgrims used it as a replacement for a bowl to hold food and water. Another legend claims that the apostle rescued a knight covered in Scallop Shells, and while St. James’ remains were being carried to Galicia, a knight’s horse fell into the water and emerged covered in shells. The Shell is a metaphor, representing the different routes traveled by pilgrims from around the world that all lead to the tomb of St. James. It’s used to guide pilgrims and worn as a symbol of identification and reassurance.

Walking along the beaches of the Algarve you can come across these little masterpieces. They stand out from other shells with their symmetrical, perfectly proportioned shape, reminiscent of the rising sun – for me a symbol of rebirth, hope and new opportunities.

“Remembrance Stone”
As a resident of Krakow, I was fortunate enough to encounter a plethora of fascinating stories surrounding stones. I was enamored by the splendor of the Jurassic rocks that adorned the Wolski Forest, enveloping the city with their timeless beauty. While living in the Jewish quarter, I stumbled upon a hidden gem, a wild and picturesque Jewish cemetery, embellished with numerous stones, or matzevot, bearing testament to the memories of the departed. According to Jewish custom, visitors to the gravesites often place a stone, brought with them as a token of remembrance and respect for the deceased. It was during my time in Krakow that I first heard of a peculiar superstition – that bringing stones into one’s home was considered taboo. The belief was rooted in the notion that stones accumulated the energy of various individuals and sources, thereby carrying with them the potential for bad luck. For me, however, stones were a glimpse into history, bearing witness to thousands of years of natural wonder and unmatched beauty. I adored rocks, considering them to be miniature representations of the majesty of nature. Although I am sometimes inclined to bring home a stone I discovered on the beach or in the forest, I rather leave it in their natural environment, to be admired by others who stumble upon its enchanting allure.

“Mermaid of Rocha”

The legend of Praia da Rocha
Once upon a time, there were two giants of the Sea and Mountain who lived in perfect harmony. Thus was until the day a mermaid arrived… Her charm and enchanting songs caused the two giants to fall in love with her, who wanted her each for themselves, causing a terrible battle for the siren to broke out. The ferocious sea created huge waves, and the rocks mad with anger became even bigger. The mermaid, who was also madly in love with both the Sea and the Mountains, could not decide what to do. All of a sudden, she turned into fine golden sand in order to spend her life with both of the giants. It is now said the landscape was transformed by this battle for love and formed the Praia da Rocha, located just outside Portimao and one of the most famous in the Algarve.

“Panieńskie Skały”
In the Wolski Forest , located within the Zwierzyniec district of Krakow (Poland), there is a nature reserve known as Panieńskie Skały (Maiden Rocks). According to the legend, in the 13th century, the Norbertine nuns who were fleeing from the Tartars from their monastery in Zwierzyniec sought shelter here. When the attackers were close, the sisters prayed to be saved from rape and death: together with the surrounding rocks, they sank into the ground (other versions say that the sisters were turned into rocks). There is also talk of a chamber hidden under the rocks – this is where the saved Norbertine nuns gather for prayer. Apparently, until recently there was a crack in the rocks through which you could look into this underground monastery and see the nuns sleeping in it. Maiden Rocks is a place that delights regardless of the season. This is one of the most beautiful wild alleys of the Wolski Forest with a picturesque gorge and limestone rocks emerging from time to time, wrapped in tree roots. The paths meandering between ancient trees lead alternately up and down.

Credits to: krakow.travel