Żegiestów is uncommonly picturesque spa located on the road from Muszyna to Piwniczna and Stary Sącz. Small village situated on the narrow and steeple side of the most beautiful part of Poprad’s gorge.
The first settlement was founded here by bishop Franciszek Kamiński on 26 July 1575 in the middle of the forest. In seventeenth century there was a Greek Catholic church built because most of the inhabitants were of Lemko origin. They were forced to raise the sheep because the soil here was very poor.
Żegiestów became a spa when Austrian governor decided to close spa in Krynica in 1846. It was then when Ignacy Medwecki, a Hungarian gentlemen and manager of Spa centre in Muszyna discovered many sources of mineral water here. He bought the land and organized the first local watering places. The biggest was named Anna after his wife. After his death his son Charles continued his father’s work. He lead Żegiestów to it’s full bloom. The new railway between Tarnów and Muszyna with the small stop in Żegiestów made it possible and easy for the health resort visitors to move here. Soon a lot of new buildings were built and it was very difficult to get a place here, so long was the list of reservations.
After the WWI a lot of new comfortable villas were added, which put Żegiestów on the list of the most popular and fashionable spa resorts in Poland. Among the most beautiful villas were : Zamek, Polonia, Elżka, Malutka, Orlątko, Sanato, Biały Orzeł (today’s Post Office) and Wiktor- one of the most luxurious buildings in Galicia. Time of prosperity was brutally ended with the outbreak of WWII. Many buildings were destroyed or devastated and all the medical apparatus was taken. The Germans blew off the railway tunnel, which resulted in Żegiestów being practically cut off from the world. After the war the Communist made all spa centres a national property and only people appointed by the special body in the National Health system could go here for treatment, in fact only prominent and trusted members of the Communist Party went here for holidays. Slowly all the place came to decline because the government effused to do anything about legal rights to the properties and no one paid attention to any modernization. In 1996 there were a lodgings for around 1300 people. In the same year the place became property of Krynica-Żegiestów partnership which is now doing it’s best in order to bring the place back to life.
Parochial Church of St. Anne (the former Greek Catholic Church of St Michael Archangel) is situated in Żegiestów- Village. An Orthodox Church was built in 1917-1925. After the expulsion of the Greek Catholic Lemkos in 1946/7 the building was changed into a Catholic church. In 1951 bishop Jan Strepa established a parish here, but the history of churches in Żegiestów is much more older. The first Greek Catholic church as well as parish were founded here in 1600. Unfortunately small wooden building was completely burned 23 year later. The next church was brick and consecrated in 1770, but it also didn’t survive up to the present day. There are only ruins visible near the road to Palenica. On the cemetery near by a grave of Greek Catholic priest’s wife-Anna Prisłopska- may be still observed. There is also another Lemko cemetery from nineteenth century, a little above the ruins. The third, contemporary cemetery is situated opposite to the church of St Anne. The present parochial church was renovated in 1980-85.It is a building of stone and brick, covered with sheet iron, surmounted by three wooden towers with onion domes. In addition the nave has two annexes, and a small transverse nave. In the main altar there is a statue of the patroness of the church - the Mary’s mother - St. Anne. In addition, in the presbytery there are statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. The side altars are dedicated to Our Lady Who Helps the Faithful, and of Our Lady of Fatima (right) and Sacred Heart (left) – at the top of the altar there are images of saints: Kinga, Joseph, Hubertus, Edward, St. Expeditus and John the Baptist. You can also admire the statue of St. Theresa of Child Jesus and St Francis. Small pictures of Crucifixion and Resurrection are the only relics from the time when the building was a Greek Catholic church. Near, next to the stairs leading to the church courtyard, you can admire the statue of Our Lady and St Joseph. There is also a beautiful crucifix in the outer wall of the chancel.
The church St Kinga in Żegiestów- Zdroj has a complicated history. In 1875, the original barn- like chapel was replaced with small wooden building slightly larger and better equipped. But that was still far from being a proper church. When 10 years later, the new plan was approved by the church's construction committee, Charles Medwecki - would-be founder of the church, died before he could begin to build. His successor erected a small wooden chapel, bearing the name of St Anthony. It functioned as a church until 1907. In 1906 the spa became a property of new owners who willingly gave the Committee a beautifully situated place. The new church was dedicated in 1908 under the name of St. patroness of all the Sącz area. The church was built in Gothic style, had one nave, to which a small sacristy "is stuck. The alls are made of stone and brick, and covered with tile. At the turn of the twentieth century, when the patients visited Żegiestów more than now – the church was enlarged and enriched with an outdoor porch. The main altar contains a beautiful wooden crucifix and a figure of Our Lady and St John standing under the cross. In the window behind the altar there is a stained glass window of St. Kinga, and in the south wall-of St Stanislaus Kostka. Because of moisture problem in the church, the interior decoration was postponed many times and finally finished in 1932. Stylized medieval paintings depict scenes from the life of St Kinga and the legend associated with her. ‘Merciful Jesus’ picture located above the door to the sacristy, and a beautiful copy of the image of the patroness of the church (dedicated in Stary Sącz by Pope John Paul II) are worth seeing. In front of the church there are also statues of Jesus ’Sacred Heart’ and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
The Chapel of Our Lady near the promenade - sponsored by a lady very much in love with Żegiestów in 1933, designed by Z. Rasiński. Every year, on August 15 a solemn procession with torches were made to this chapel. Last time when such procession took place was on August 15th , 1939. After the war, this beautiful custom has disappeared. In the 90s of the twentieth century chapel has been restored.
Shrine of Our Lady Healing the Sick - located on the mountainside along the road to Muszyna, set on a huge boulder. Made on the initiative of Joseph Damsy in 1938. It is connected with the legend of miraculous healing which took place here. A woman with her sick child was going to Żegistów to ask for help. She was so tired that she fell asleep while on her way on a mountain trail (there was no way to Muszyna during these days). When she woke up - she saw her child miraculously cured. That event made this place famous and people devoted to Our Lady built a chapel here .
St Hubertus’ Chapel ("uphill") - located in the woods above the Żegiestów- Village, on the blue route to Pusta Wielka peak. Before the war Lemko settlement consisting of 16 families existed there. Today, only remnants of the foundations and fruit trees are visible. In 1985 the group of hunters from Krynica took care of the ruined chapel. It is a place of annual celebrations of the anniversary of the Constitution of May 3 - residents, hunters and patients of Żegiestów gather here to participate in the solemn Mass on that day.
Troubled Jesus in Żegiestów – nothing is known about it’s origin - it may have been carved by anonymous person who felt such need. The statue is made of pine peduncle and the chapel is located next to the path leading to the church of St Kinga.
Chapel of Our Lady of La Salette - built in the 80's of the twentieth century. Originally it contained a figure of Troubled Jesus After the theft of that statue it was replaced with the statue of Our Lady of La Salette. The chapel is located near the road leading to the church next to the Orlątko villa.
Educational Path of nature on Łopata Polska- a great attraction for people interested in birds. Eight tables describing more than 21 birds’ species are situated along the track. In the spring, If you take the trouble to listen, you can identify the birds’ voices, according to the information given on the descriptions. The path runs along the very banks of the river, which creates breakthrough of Polish and Slovak Łopata and which are very charming. In the middle of the path, on the Slovak side, there is a small inlet of water, which goes to the hydro-electric power station. Water flows into the tunnel, and flies on the opposite side of the mountain, where the generators are installed, and flows back to the Poprad river. The path is about 2 km long and its sojourn takes about 1.5 hours. Species of birds available for observation: raven, crow, magpie, jay, Tit (4 varieties), nuthatch, wagtail, crawlers, kingfisher, sandpiper, dipper, ducks, finch, Jer, robin, woodpecker (several varieties), starling, blackbird, fieldfare, thrush-singer and others.
Poprad, the mountain river has it’s sources in the Slovak part of the High Tatra Mountains at an altitude of 2000 m. In total, the river spreads over 168 km, of which slightly over 60km in Poland. On the stretch of 31 km Poprad forms Polish-Slovak border. In the Stary Sacz area it falls into the Dunajec river supplying it to an average of 23 m³ of water per second. Particularly beautiful is it’s gorge in Łopata in the southern part of Żegiestów. In the summer there are traditional rafting boats available, which go between the famous tourist destinations - Piwniczna and Rytro or Muszyna and Leluchów. The boats carrying tourists are extremely safe and their very small draft allows to run down the river even at low states. Unsinkable boats are lead by two oarsmen, who control it using wooden poles. Over the past several years the water in Poprad definitely cleared. Fast current makes the water oxygenation rapid and naturally cleans it. Both Slovaks and Poles, after receiving funds from the EU significantly decreased river pollution by sewage. A few years ago crayfish reappeared there, and since 2007, you can watch the beavers. Poprad is one of the most efficient and most beautiful danube salmon fisheries. In the river, there are also large quantities of trout, barbell, chub and mumps.
Stone beach - in the proximity of Viktor spa, stretching along the banks of the Poprad is a stone beach. It is part of the railway retaining wall. Previously bathing here in the stream of the river was considered to be beneficial. It is also one of the most famous places exposed on Żegiestów postcards during the interwar period. Over time, the beach has been substantially damaged by the natural action of the river. Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Żegiestów Society, the area of the beach is in constant restoration since 2008, thanks to a special Fund of “Kropla Beskidu”. The sand was removed and wooden stairs were made as well as a descending path leading from the resort. It's a great place to bath in water and sunshine, and walk along the river.
Wanda's Stone - in the beech forest on the road, near the exit of the railway tunnel, there is a distinctive, protruding rock in the shape of a tall pillar. At its feet the Wanda’s stone is situated. The name of stone was taken from the inscription placed on it, "I love Wanda." The history of it’s origin goes back before the war - when known talent and extraordinary beauty actress Wanda Siemaszko came to Żegiestów for cure. It is no wonder that she had a great group of admirers. One of them, a young sculptor pursued her everywhere He came also to Żegiestów longing to draw actress’s attention to his own person. Wanda was not interested in unknown artist. Greatly disappointed sculptor located a large stone at the foot of a natural pillar. To express his feelings he carved inscription "I love Wanda." Legend has it that after that the sculptor committed suicide. Unfortunately, we do not know his name, but probably he did not expect that, after long years his work will enter the history of Żegiestów.
Żegiestów Crossing – Pusta Wielka- length of 6.5 km., The difference in altitude 631 m. Walking time 3 hours there and back 2h30m. It begins at the bus stop in Żegiestów -Village. It runs in a northerly direction along the black trail - to the village centre. Then goes next to the historic Greek Catholic church. Behind the chapel turns left, leaving on the right a road to Palenica. Yellow trail leads gently enough to the end of Rusinówka settlement. When you turn right – the route becomes more steeply and passes through the forest, later joining the blue trail (from Żegiestów to Pusta Wielka). The yellow trail does not reach the summit of the Pusta Wielka- you can only get there, following unmarked path when you leave the forest.
Żegiestów – Pusta Wielka (1061 m.) length 7.2 km, the difference in altitude 611 m. Walking time 2h30m there and 2h back. It starts at the railway station in Żegiestów and then leads on an asphalt road leading towards Muszyna. Then it turns right into the pedestrian track leading to a Żegiestów-Zdrój. It passes the buildings and climbs the slopes of Stawiska (759 m). Reaches the top of “Trzy Kopce”, and then comes to the clearings of Palenica’s hamlet. From here sharp approach leads through the forest. Reaching the slopes of Pusta Wielka the blue trail joins the yellow trail.
Żegiestów - Pusta Wielka (1061 m) - length of 7.5 km., The difference in altitude 631 m. Walking time 3h10m 2h40m there and back. Beginning at the bus stop in Żegiestów Village. It leads north along the yellow trail. In the centre of the village it passes the church, then turns left. Then the trail leads to Bukovina’s glade. There, the trail bends gently to the left passing the Zubrzyk hill (860 m). Then turns right passing the next summit - Barnów (857 m). Finally by a steeply path it reaches the border of Wierchomla Reserve. Walking to Pusta Wielka (1060 m) on a sunny day you may be sure to enjoy the wonderful panorama of the Tatra Mountains and the Beskid Sadecki.
Downhill – Pusta Wielka- Żegiestów village (the school).