In the northeast of the Czech Republic lies Wallachia, a small but fiercely proud region known for its low mountains, placid sheep, traditional wooden architecture, folk dancing, and homemade slivovice (plum brandy).
Around the village of Lidečko, near the Czech-Slovak border between Vsetín and Púchov, several incongruous masses of rock rise like sentinels from the wooded hills. Čertovy Skály is right along the road, and convenient for local climbers, but Pulčínské Skály is more isolated and mysterious. Both are an easy way to get a dose of nature and small-town Czech (or Wallachian) life, way off the tourist track.
Čertovy Skály (pronounced chertovy skaly) means “Devil’s rocks.” Various legends surround the rocks, including tales of a brave Wallachian miller who wagered with the devil that he couldn’t change the course of the stream by the cock’s first crow.
The devil took up the challenge and worked all night, but in the morning he had failed. Though he lost the wager, the Devil’s Rocks remain as a testament to his attempt to redirect the water.
Some versions of the legend say that as part of the wager the miller exacted a promise that if the devil lost, he would have to give gold to the region’s poor. Wallachia, in the past, was never a rich region, and devil’s gold certainly would have helped.
The sandstone rock bench of Čertovy Skály stretches for 150 meters (492 feet) and rises 25 meters (82 feet) at its tallest. Though not nearly as large as the rock pillars and mazes of Bohemia, Certovy Skaly’s position alone on the hillside gives it an air of authority.
The almost perfectly flat face is unusual, making it look like it was indeed constructed by the devil it’s named after, or by a giant wanting a picket fence for his garden.
The formations reach level 9 on the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation’s scale of difficulty, and on sunny weekends, you’ll find it crowded with groups of rock-climbing friends and even families: baby in the playpen, Mom scaling the rocks, Dad anchoring. It’s a great insight into the Wallachian mentality: outdoor sports are a serious affair, and the younger you start, the better.
Go early or on a weekday, and you might have the place to yourself. While the front face is good only for real climbers with equipment, follow the trail up behind the rocks and you can have a nice clamber over waterfalls of knobbly roots to the tops of the rocks, where you can take in the views of the lush hilly countryside.
Kids will love it, but exercise caution with the sheer drops. At the top is a picnic table if you’ve packed your lunch. From there, a trail leads about 10 km (6 mi) past smaller rock formations and a fishing lake in a loop to Horní Lideč, another quiet Wallachian town, from where you can catch a bus or train.