Lesser Poland's Painted Village

Zalipie, Poland

I had a long weekend thanks to the Corpus Christi holiday on Thursday 15th June, and apart from the usual housework and renovating an old closet, we decided to drive an hour away and visit the small village of Zalipie.  They have a local custom of decorating their houses, which we wanted to check out.

 

It's about 68km (42 miles) from Krakow, and is actually quite a nice drive through the countryside. We parked outside the church and went on foot around the village, but there are plenty of places to park if you prefer to drive.  It's about 6km to walk around the village, and is a large circular route.  If you park at the church (which Google Maps will take you to if you just enter Zalipie as a destination), and then follow signs to Dom Malarek, and then onto the Museum, and finally follow signs back towards the church, it's a large circular route which will take you past most of the houses. 

This is just opposite the church and fire station.  I'm not sure if anyone actually lives in this one, but it was the first example we came across. 

From here we walked further into the village, following the signs for "Dom Malarek" or the Painter's house. Many of the buildings are decorated in a similar style, but by different people from around the local area. 

As we were walking along the road, it was sunny and there was a really nice breeze and we heard a voice calling us over, with a friendly "Dzien Dobry" (Good day).  We were invited in to see the outbuildings by Mrs. Danusia, a local resident and apparently the local souvenir shop! 

She then invited us into her house, and this was even more intricately decorated! Of course, we bought a small decorative chopping board for 20zl.

It was a real surprise to be randomly invited into someone's house and see how beautifully it was decorated.  Mrs. Danusia was extremely friendly and welcoming.  She also seemed to have a permanent smile! If you happen to visit Zalipie, you'll notice her from the distinctive hat.  Go and say "Dzien Dobry" and you might get invited in too! 

We then headed further up the road towards Dom Malarek passing a couple more decorated buildings. 

After a short while we arrived at Dom Malarek, which also has a small visitor's centre and a children's play area. 

After having a look around and posing in front of the painter's house, we headed towards the Museum which was further along the road.  The museum costs 6zl per person to enter, and is basically two old wooden houses which you can go and explore. 

There was nothing cooking unfortunately! If you decide to head to Zalipie, I'd advise taking some water and maybe a picnic, as we didn't see anywhere locally to get anything.  Although there were fields full of strawberries all around! 

I'll be adding a gallery of more pictures from Zalipie in the top menu (here) if you want to check some more out.  I'd recommend escaping the city on a summer's day and walking round the countryside village. 

Mass in the mountains

Snieznica, Kasina Wielka, Poland

This past weekend we visited a church on top of a mountain, where they were having a mass in remembrance of my wife's grandfather who sadly passed away last year.  It was a really nice service and good to bring back some memories.  But the journey to get there was really nice too.

 

It's about an hour from Bochnia, maybe a little more from Krakow in a place called Kasina Wielka.  It's a popular ski resort in the winter months and I also saw plenty of mountain bike trails during this visit, so that seems popular in the summer.  They have just had a new chair lift installed, and are still in the process of finishing off the main buildings.  This will include a coffee shop at the very top, with some amazing views towards Krakow.

You can still see the layer of smog above the city!  This was at the top of the chair lift, and it does get a little higher.   From here there are multiple trails through the forest, and we followed the one marked with a church symbol.  

After about 30 minutes of walking through the forest, we came to the mountain refuge, which is also home to the church.

It's a really nice little church with a lot of wood carving inside.  It's on the "Papal Trail" as Pope John Paul II visited whilst he was Archbishop of Krakow.  Apparently, he liked to spend a lot of time in this area.

We were on Snieznica mountain, in the Beskid range and in the photo above, you can see the higher, Tatra mountain range.  There were not too many viewpoints due to all the trees, but it was extremely clear and you can still make out some snow on the upper slopes in the distance.

After a short hike through the forest, we made it back to the chair lift and went back down the mountain.  As we descended we could see an old steam train at the bottom, so we went to investigate.  A lot of movies have been filmed here due to the old station still retaining it's original architecture.

It was a really nice day out and the sun was out for all of it.  It seems summer has finally arrived in Poland and it's proving to be hot and stormy as always! 

10 alternative day trips from Kraków

1: Błędów Desert

Did you know that there is a desert in Poland? I didn’t either until I moved here.  It’s actually Central Europe’s largest accumulation of sand, apart from beaches.  It’s about an hour from Kraków by car

The desert was actually created by human activity which lowered the water level so much that plant , life could no longer grow there.  Deforestation in the Middle Ages was partially to blame.

20140619 Pustynia Błędowska w Chechle 3471

It was also used by the German Afrika Korps to train during WW2 prior to deployment to Africa.

If you’ve never seen a true desert before, it’s worth a trip out here.  It’s easiest by car, but there are also buses.  You will need to take a bus to Klucze from Kraków's main bus station, which takes almost an hour. Once in Klucze, you will need to head for Czubatka which is a viewpoint including an observation tower and the start of the yellow walking route that takes you through the forest and into the sandy areas. From here two further trails begin.

2: Bochnia Salt Mine

I’ve mentioned this one before, but while most people will head to the more publicised salt mine in Wieliczka, there is a smaller but older one in Bochnia.  It’s right in the centre of the town and therefore easily accessible.  You can take a little minibus from opposite Galeria Krakówska and this will drop you right outside.  Or you can take the train from the main station and it’s a 15 minute walk from there.  http://bochnia-mine.eu/

This is actually the oldest mine in Poland and one of the oldest in the world.  There is also a hotel there - http://www.kopalniasoli.pl/en/obiekty/bochnia-salt-mine-health-resort.html as the air & climate are supposed to be extremely good for your health.

Bochnia, kopalnia soli, kaplica św. Kingi (1)

3: Dolina Kobylanska

A beautiful, old limestone valley with plenty of nature trails.  This is a really nice area to go for a relaxing walk, or chill with a picnic.  It’s about a 40 minute drive from Kraków and you ideally need a car.

Many famous Polish climbers and mountaineers begin their careers here and you will often see people climbing up the sides of the gorge. 

There is also a chapel, hidden away in a cave which can be reached via some steep steps.  It also provides a great vantage point over the valley.

Dolina Kobylańska, kapliczka

4: Tarnów

Tarnów is a little further outside than Bochnia, but can also be reached by train from the main station.  It’s a historic city and some of the architecture is really nice. 

It’s also one of the warmest cities in Poland, and it’s claimed to have the longest summer in all of Poland. 

Tarnow Rynek 20080708 4153

Nowadays, it’s known for several chemical plants and being a transport hub, but there is also plenty to see there.  You can visit the market square, the 14th Century town hall, remains of the Old Synagogue, the City Park or Tarnów Cathedral.

5: Zalipie

This is a small village about 90 minutes from Kraków, and is famous for its intricately decorated wooden cottages.

You’ll need a car to get here, and there isn’t much else beyond the houses so you probably won’t spend a whole day here.  But the trip is worthwhile, as the houses are incredibly beautiful.

Zalipie - painted cottage 04 Zalipie - painted cottage 10 panorama

6: Krynica Zdroj

This is a lovely spa town in the mountains, south of Kraków.  You can get a train from the main station directly to Krynica Zdroj.  There are a couple of places to try the local mineral water and it’s pretty cheap.  The main place to try is right in the centre of the town, in what looks like a large, old hotel.

You can also take a trip on the cable cars, up to the top of the mountains or just wander through the forests and enjoy nature.  I love it here and find it really relaxing.  If you want to stay a couple of days, there are some excellent spa hotels including Dr. Irena Eris’ resort on the mountainside, or the slightly less expensive Mercure hotel which is where I stayed previously.

7: Lipnica Murowana

This is a lovely little village, just south of Bochnia.  There isn’t too much here but it has St. Leonard’s church, which was built in the 15th Century.   This is one of six wooden churches on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in Lesser Poland.

Kosciol sw. Leonarda w Lipnicy Murowanej 13.08.08 p

However, the best thing here is the little ice cream shop on the corner of the market square.  It’s all hand made by the owner, and includes only natural ingredients which are available at the time.  So the flavours change, depending on the season.  He also does a very nice selection of honey from his bees.

8: Nowy Wisnicz

Nowy Wisnicz is a small town just south of Bochnia and it has a Baroque style castle surrounded by forests.  There is a pretty nice little coffee shop in the corner of the grounds too. 

You can take a walk around the grounds of the castle for free, but to go inside you need to join a guided tour.  When I last visited, much of the interior was being renovated but hopefully that’s all now complete and should provide a much more interesting trip.

Again a car is easier here, but you can also catch a bus from Bochnia’s main stop.

Wisnicz1

9: Bialka Tatrzanska

If you saw my trip to the mountains post earlier this year, you’ll know that I learned to ski.  It was at Bialka Tatrzanska.  This is another one where a car is easiest, and it’s about 2 hours’ drive from Kraków.

It’s a really nice ski resort with a variety of slopes, but would also be a nice trip in the summer.  You can also visit the thermal baths and really relax!

Termy BANIA - panoramio

10: Bardejov

This one’s a little further out than the rest, at around 3 hours by car from Kraków.  It’s also in another country, Slovakia.  This is another of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

It’s got a really beautiful market square and is dominated by the Church of St. Aegidius.  In the centre of the square is the Town Hall which dates back to 1505.  It’s no longer a town hall and is now the oldest museum in Slovakia.

There are some great cafes and restaurants around the square for you to relax while watching the world go by.  The coffee is rich and strong, and the fried, breaded cheese is excellent!

Visiting Poland's border with Slovakia

A couple of hours drive from Krakow is the border with Slovakia. You can cross deep in the Tatra mountains, or Pieninski National Park. It's a beautiful area, no matter which way you go. You can also go on a traditional raft along the Dunajec river. This runs along the border and finishes in Szczawnica. From here you can rent a bike and ride along the river and cross between the two countries.

 

I enjoy going here during the summer and cycling along the river. With a quick stop in a cafe across the border for some traditional Slovakian food.  The garlic soup and deep fried cheese are not exactly healthy, but they do taste amazing.

The views here are awesome, and you can see various mountain ranges, but my favourite is the Trzy Korony (Three Kings).  A series of three peaks and you can hike up them, although I haven't tried that yet.

Go a different way and you will go past Morskie Oko. This is a nice trip too, up a mountain. The main goal is the crystal clear lake at the very top. It is quite a hike though, and took us about 4 hours. There is an option to take a horse-drawn cart up there instead though.

Morskie Oko, widok na Mięguszowieckie Szczyty

Once you get here there are a load of trails that you can follow, but watch out for bears! These mountains are home to Eurasian Brown Bears.  If you have had enough walking already, there is a cafe where you can get food & drinks.

I took the picture above from the side of the road when we were travelling to Stary Smokovec.  Many of the roads in the High Tatras have similar views.  Stary Smokovec is also a great place to visit for a weekend.  It's a nice quaint Slovakian town in the mountains, and has easy access to the chair lifts.  It also has some great views! 

This is our view from the hotel room at the Grand Hotel Stary Smokovec. It's a nice hotel with a fantastic history and excellent service.

If you are visiting Krakow, think about heading south and out of the city. It's a gorgeous part of the world and I recommend hiring a car for a couple of days and heading into the mountains.

Spring has come, and it's gone again

It's May, almost halfway through the year and it's freezing cold, raining heavily and just generally miserable.  Normally by now it's getting warm and I can wear shorts all the time, but not this year for some reason.

In Poland we have two public holidays at the start of May, on 1st & 3rd, which is normally Monday & Wednesday.  So for the first time, I took advantage and booked my holiday around this so I could have a week off, for only 3 days of vacation.  It was warm on 1 day, and I spent that servicing the lawnmower and using it to cut the grass.  But we didn't let the weather stop us completely, and we took our dog over to Szarow, to visit "The Great Muds".

Doesn't look too muddy, but I promise if you step into it, you'll notice.  There is a lot of peaty ground here and it's extremely fertile.  It's also full of wildlife, including what seems to be a very healthy population of beavers! 

These stumps used to be huge lime trees which are planted all along the sides of the track.  Despite seeing plenty of signs that beavers are in the area, I didn't see any, but that's probably due to having my dog with me and not being very quiet or patient.  Maybe next time I'll go alone and see if waiting pays off.

The area is also home to pine martens, deer, wild boar, raccoons, foxes, badgers, and a ton of types of birds, including storks in the summer.  Unfortunately, being a marsh/swamp type area, it's also home to millions of mosquitoes in the summer.

To reach the area, you can easily drive from Krakow within about 20-25 minutes, or take the train from Krakow Glowny to Szarow and it drops you right in the forest.

 

Even with the gloomy weather, it was a nice week off.  I managed to finally do some work on restoring an old art-deco wardrobe that we found in our attic when we bought the house, and some other bits of DIY around the house.  I'll leave you with some more pictures of "The Great Muds".