During the summer expedition to Vienna in 1829, Fryderyk and his friends visited Cracow and the surrounding area. The young men decided to take a trip to Prądnik Valley, famed for its magnificent views. Chopin gave a detailed and witty account of an adventure connected with his trip to Ojców (on 26 July 1829) in a letter written to his parents after his arrival in Vienna, on 1 August 1829, edited by Maurycy Karasowski in Młodość Fryderyka Chopina [Fryderyk Chopin’s youth]. ‘Before I begin to describe Vienna, I shall tell you what happened with Ojców. After dinner on Sunday, on hiring a four-horsed Cracow cart for 4 thalers, we paraded around in it as elegantly as you like. Having left behind the city and the beautiful outskirts of Cracow, we had our coachman drive straight to Ojców, believing that to be where Mr Indyk lived—the peasant who usually accommodates all travellers and where Miss Tańska also stayed. To our misfortune, it turned out that Mr Indyk lives a mile from Ojców, and our coachman, not familiar with the road, drove into Prądnik river, actually a crystal-clear stream, and no other road could be found, with rocks to the right and to the left. Around nine in the evening, we were met in this nomadic and clueless state by a couple of people who, taking pity on us, undertook to guide us to Mr Indyk. We had to proceed on foot for a good half a mile, across the dew, amidst a host of rocks and sharp stones. We often had to cross the little river along round logs, and all of this in the dark of night. Eventually, after much toiling, nudging and grumbling, we found the way to Mr Indyk. He was not expecting such tardy guests. He gave us a room beneath the rock, in a cottage purposely built for guests. Izabella!… There where Mrs Tańska stood! So each of my colleagues undresses and dries himself in front of a fire kindled in the hearth by the good Mrs Indyk. I just sit down in a corner, and wet up to the knees I ponder whether to undress and dry myself or not; until I see Mrs Indyk approaching a nearby chamber for bedding; touched by some salutary spirit, I follow her and espy on the table a host of woollen Cracow hats. These hats are double, like a dressing-gown. In desperation I buy one for a zloty, tear it into two, doff by shoes, wrap up my feet, and tying them up well, I thus deliver myself from a certain cold. Approaching the fireplace I drank some wine, laughed with my good colleagues, and in the meantime Mrs Indyk has made up our beds on the floors, where we slept marvellously well.’ The next part of the account, as related by Karasowski, includes the following passage: ‘Fryderyk goes on to describe Ojców, Pieskowa Skała, the Black and King’s grottos and the surrounding area in exalted tones, speaking with delight “that be it for nothing other than the true beauty of Ojców it was worth getting soaked”.’ Chopin was certainly familiar with the legends connected with Ojców and, as the composer’s biographers state, not only from Tańska’s accounts, often read in the Chopins’ home, but also from stage works produced at the theatre: Elsner’s opera Król Łokietek [King Ladislaus the Elbow-high] and Kurpiński’s ballet Wesele w Ojcowie [Wedding in Ojców].
photo Ewa Sławińska-Dahlig