When planning our road trip around Poland this summer I did a great deal of research on Pinterest, pinning pretty photos of interesting places to visit, and it was here that I first came across the tiny village of Zalipie, Poland’s painted village. It only came up once but that was enough, I was intrigued and set about to find out more about it. It turned out Zalipie, in the Malopolska region not far from Kraków, is a village where almost all the houses and plenty of other buildings are painted with flowers in a naïve folk art style. It struck me as fascinating, utterly unique and a must-see destination.
Wasting no time, on day 2 of our Polish adventure we set off for a day trip to visit Zalipie thinking we could also combine it with some of the ancient UNESCO World Heritage wooden churches of southern Poland. We packed a picnic and decided to take what looked like the scenic route rather than direct via Tarnow. It appeared perfectly straight forward both on the GPS and paper map and it started off easy, passing seller upon seller of fine looking pumpkins!
However what neither mentioned was that there was no bridge across the river, and the road into the village was closed. The lack of bridge added to the fun of the journey, necessitating in a little ferry ride, but the road closure was more challenging. Seeing as Zalipie was too small for its exact location to feature on either the GPS or map, finding an alternative route ended up being by trial and error. Scenic indeed but time consuming; what should have been about a 90 minute journey took two and a half hours.
We arrived ravenous and were very happy we’d taken a picnic as Zalipie, Poland’ painted village, doesn’t have any cafés or shops, just a series of spread out cottages, farm buildings, church and community centre. We started our visit at the community centre “Dom Malarek”, the painters’ centre. In this extremely odd building (angled doors opening into the same room every couple of metres, painted with flowers of course) we met some local women painting wooden and pottery crafts for sale and got a map of the village detailing the painted houses. Then we set off to explore.
Not every house is painted, but the vast majority are, and not only buildings but dog kennels, beehives, wells, fences, a sundial, kitch garden ornaments, tyres, buckets, chicken coops and so on.
From thatched wooden cottages to modern brick and corrugated iron barns, everywhere featured flower paintings in varying degrees of prettiness, artistic ability and upkeep. Whether it was because it was lunchtime or just because it really is a very sleepy place we only saw one other car (visiting and taking photos like us) and no residents at all other than the women in the painting hall and the manager of the museum. It was a beautiful sunny day in August and yet the place was deserted.
We popped into the church to find it too was decorated with flowers – on the walls, up the columns, around the altar and embroidered on the cassocks and other clothing. Then we found the museum, formerly the house of Zalipie’s most famous artist Felicja Curyłowa where we learnt all about this unusual tradition.
In the past the small cottages in Zalipie were built without chimneys and the interior walls became black with soot from the smoky ovens. House-proud women tried to cover up the black walls with lime whitewash but dark patches still showed through, so they began painting flowers over the marks.
No one is really sure exactly when this unusual form of decoration began but it was sometime over a century ago and the tradition continues to this day. An annual competition for the prettiest painted buildings started in 1948 with entrants from just about every household competing each spring. There are around 30 buildings with floral decorations in Zalipie today.
Getting back to Felicja Curyłowa (1904-1974), most definitely the most prolific and well known of Zalipie’s artists, she was commissioned to decorate a restaurant in Kraków and even decorated her own grave! The inside of her farm cottage is almost completely covered with flower decorations, not only paintings on the walls, furniture, cushions, oven, crockery and ceiling (photo below of the ceiling in original soot and lime done when she was 10 years old in 1914, her first work of art), but also paper cutouts on the windows and bunches of crepe paper flowers.
After her death in 1974 the Cepelia Foundation, Poland’s organization for the preservation and promotion of folk art, bought her house and turned it into a museum. It’s tiny, very reasonably priced, looked after by relatives and absolutely charming.
I could have spent much longer searching for, and admiring, every painted building/object in the village but it was boiling hot and the boys had had their fill of flowery houses – they wanted to find a river and cool off. We had also planned to visit some of the wooden UNESCO heritage churches in the area so unfortunately for me, outnumbered, we didn’t see all the painted houses, but we saw a great many and loved our trip to Zalipie.
If you’re ever in Kraków do try and visit Zalipie, it’s such a wonderful, off-the-beaten-track, authentic place to go, created and maintained purely for local folkloric traditions, with barely a tourist in sight. You can’t help but be charmed.
I’ve written enough so I won’t tell you about the UNESCO wooden churches now, I’ll leave it for another post. However, while on the subject of UNESCO I think this village should be on the world heritage list, it’s such a unique and fascinating place on a tangible human level. Who knows, maybe it will be one day.
Have you been to Zalipie, or anywhere like it?
Read more about our Polish road trip: Holiday Snapshots – Road Trip 2015
You may also enjoy these related posts:
Balkan Road Trip – Driving the Lovcen Road
Why not PIN for later!
It’s so much more to see in Poland. I have just scratched a surface. Thanks for sharing!
We adored our seven weeks in Poland last year and Zalipie was a highlight. We even got permission to stay there overnight in our camper. Kx
Looks just gorgeous! Love places which create a story just to get there. Poland is on my list, & this will definitely be a feature! Thanks for sharing!
Getting there is always part of the fun. Thanks for commenting I hope you get to visit Zalipie one day.
Yes, thank goodness for the picnic!
I hope you get to drag your teens around Zalipie one day Erin!!!
I didn’t know that about Play-doh! Poland is a lovely place to visit, it’s beautiful, full of history, not too crowded and cheap! It really does have a great deal to offer.
It really was, Bryna 🙂
Thanks for pinning, I don’t know about the bridge but hopefully the road works will at least have been finished!
Krakow and its surrounding area are so full of amazing places to see, we absolutely loved it there.
It’s incredible isn’t it?
Yes it really was, and so unique too.
Thank you Chiera 🙂 isn’t Pinterest great!
What an amazing find! Oh the power of Pinterest! haa. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. Zalipie looks like a lovely town #farawayfiles
Such an interesting and charming village to visit. Love that painted bucket and well.
What a unique place and experience. I love that the artist painted her grave! #farawayfiles
I loved everything about Poland when I visited last year. Therefore, I am fascinated to learn about this town! Plus, I am happier to learn it is located close to Krakow. Seems like that area if full of interesting and beautiful places. Missing Poland right now! #FarawayFiles
Wow, I absolutely love this!! Even the part on not having a bridge to cross the river. I’ve pinned it up so that I’ll remember to visit when I go to Poland! Maybe they will have a bridge by then? :p #FarawayFiles
Zalipie looks lovely! And interesting background on why they started painting flowers. It looks like a wonderful place to visit. The museum looks wonderful!
Lovely! Poland has never been on my must visit list, but I’m realizing it has a lot to offer. I love how they turned a problem in to something beautiful. I recently learned that Play-doh was created from a similar problem with coal dust. Fun! #farawayfiles
I think I would have had the same challenge with my teen boys – I can already hear it – seriously mom – enough pictures of flowery cottages. And I’m sure I would respond – well, at least it’s not a church! I adore this little charmer of a village and would love to see it! Thanks for sharing this little corner of the world for #FarawayFiles, Erin
This looks so fascinating, Phoebe. What a great find! And well worth the trek to get there. Thank goodness you were organised enough to take a picnic with you – there’s nothing worse than tired, hungry kids. I think mine would really enjoy this. Thanks for sharing it with us on #FarawayFiles
I’m happy you found my pin on Pinterest, that’s good feedback to hear.
My boys actually really liked the adventure of getting to Zalipie…and they’re pretty used to being dragged off to off the beaten track places by me, but they soon tired of flowery cottages! They are fairly normal teens/tweens afterall.
Just my kind of place. Love the history and pretty painted houses of Zalipie and how you found them on Pinterest too. Many people would have given up on seeing that ferry but I am so glad you persisted. Did you have much resistance from the boys? I am getting flashbacks to some family holidays where my mum went off on missions like this one!
I found this post a while ago on Pinterest and loved it and pinned it! I totally want to go here! #FarawayFiles
Lou, I’m planning a trip to Poland next year and also found your post via pinterest 🙂 I have to see this pretty town!
I have this on my list for our trip to Krakow in August. Someone posted a story on Facebook about a year ago and I’ve been intrigued ever since! Thanks for your entry here!
I can see why you wanted to make an effor to get to Zalipie – what a unique place to visit. I just love the painted buildings. I love your sense of adventure as a family – not letting no road or a bridge deter your determination! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes
wow stunning i love how bright and cheerful everything looks and look at the size of those pumpkins
What a lovely place, and good on you for persevering and getting to it. We went to Krakow a couple of years ago, but I don’t think anyone mentioned Zalipie to us.
You did see the stencilled houses on Chios (you could hardly miss them), but I think you were more interested in the beach and the goings-on in the taverna where we were staying, including the rats!
That was one of my favourites too Fritha
Yes I couldn’t agree more as Zalipie barely gets a mention in any traditional guide to Poland.
Pinterest has so many great things about it, it’s not just for recipes and craft; haha!!!
It certainly brightened up our day!!
It’s amazing that there aren’t more visitors really as Zalipie is really not far from Krakow.
The pumpkins were all along one particular road and then we never saw them again! The detail sure is impressive.
Happy you liked it Lolo. 🙂
It’s great isn’t it Vlad!
I can’t imagine it either Nancie, I think you have to be deeply religious and believe you’re going to a better place when you die to do that. For an atheist like me it’s just too macabre.
I can see why Warsaw didn’t appeal, but bizarrely I really liked it. Such a mix of super modern, Stalinist and Soviet structuralism and ancient (albeit rebuilt ancient) made it fascinating for me.
I knew you’d like it Catherine, I was beginning to wonder why you hadn’t commented and was about to send you a private message to check you’d seen it! Glad you found it after all.
How did I miss this Blog Phoebe? I would absolutely LOVE to go to Zalipie. It is just my sort of thing. Folk art is wonderful. Clever you for finding it and thank you for sharing it.
Wow! Super neat! Have been to Warsaw, which I didn’t fancy too much…
What a beautiful village! I cannot imagine decorating my own grave! I love those car ferries. There are a few rivers/waterways in Nova Scotia that use them for crossings. Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday
Awesome photos, the town looks like something out of a fairytale, I love how colorful it is!
OMG this village is soooo adorable! Thank you for sharing! I hope to make it to Poland one day, especially Krakow and this will definitely be added to my itinerary! #MondayEscapes
wow i am so loving those flat pumpkins! but even more so impressive is the detail in the paintings … utterly beautiful
such beautiful images! I love the mural in the first shot x
Wow, those wall paintings are so cute. I didn’t know such a gorgeous village exists and is not yet discovered by the tourists. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 #MondayEscapes
What a wonderful place to visit, I love the colourful paintings, it would brighten up any day seeing this! Popping by from #MondayEscapes
This is fabulous, I’d never even heard of this place before. And that’s a good thought to use Pinterest to plan, hadn’t thought of that either! #mondayescapes
I would never have thought of using Pinterest when planning a holiday but thank goodness you did – finding this place is extraordinary. Sounds well worth the long journey to realise you are seeing something so many tourists miss out on. #MondayEscapes
It is absolutely the sort of place you expect to see Hansel & Gretel and in many other places there probably would be more role acting for tourists, but one of the things which was so lovely about Zalipie was its total lack of artifice for tourists, just genuine tradition.
Some of the paintings were really excellent, others very basic but the overall effect was incredible.
I’m happy I gave you another place to put on your itinerary.
You must get to Krakow Rachel, there’s so much to see you’ll love it.
I agree Liz 🙂
We’re big picnickers Jan, helps with the budget too!!
Thank you for your enthusiastic comment, I’m so glad my post cheered you up!!
Now you’ve got me intrigued to see the houses in Chios. I went there on a family holiday when I was about 12 which is ancient history and I certainly don’t remember them. We probably didn’t see them as we mainly went to the beach. One day I hope to go back.
Yes you’re right Tanja 🙂
I hope you get to Zalipie one day Corinne, you’re luck Krakow isn’t so far from you. Now you’ve put the pressure on to write about the churches sooner rather than later!
I’m glad you enjoyed it Karen
Yes it really is Erica.
I know! But for young boys they showed a good amount of interest and I wasn’t too disappointed.
I’m using Pinterest more and more for researching places Dr J, being so visual things jump out at you and then you click through to find out more.
Very cool! I never thought to use Pinterest for destination selection but I see now that this can be quite a successful strategy. Thanks for sharing some #wkendtravelinspiration.
Wow! So ornate and detailed – what a shame the boys didn’t want to stay for longer!!! I haven’t got the patience to create paintings like that, but I sure can appreciate the HUGE amount of time and effort that went into them! Have a great week!
Such a pretty place. It’s like something out of a fairy tale.
These houses are so charming. I’ve never heard of Zalipie, but if I ever go to Poland, I would love to check these out. This kind of thing is right up my alley. Thank you for sharing.
Phoebe, I have never heard of Zalipie before, but it is now firmly planted on my list for next time I’m in Krakow. What is it about that city that I keep going back again and again? I love your photos and story and can’t wait to read about the churches!
Hi! It look so nice and colourful like something from a story book and not real life!
What a great place and lovely photos. Reminded me of a little town on the greek island of Chios in the Aegean – all the houses in the village were intricately stencilled. Thanks for sharing
Well I just absolutely love this – folk style, little houses, a community spirit, history and a decorated church. I absolutely, when I do one day get chance, will visit this village. It is absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad that places like this exist. Really cheered me up.
What a beautiful village, all that work must have taken hours!!
Wow how cute… and flowery… and bizarre! What a great place to visit! 🙂
That is an incredible sight. We’ve had instances where towns don’t show on our GPS too which is fine if you have the time! Having a picnic along when driving is one of our favourite things to do and saves us time and again!
What a fabulous find! So beautiful. I love discovering little gems like this away from all the other tourists.
Wow! It’s so over-the-top that it works, somehow. Charming! One of the budget airlines is flying from here to Krakow now, so I’ve been thinking of fitting in a weekend sometime this year. I’ll plan in Zalipie as well!
Wow what an amazing looking place – so pretty.
Love, love, love! We are planning a trip to Poland in the next couple years and this is being added to the list. Thanks for sharing your great discovery!
What a pretty place – I like how so much is decorated and I do love flowers.
Imagine if something like this happened here in the UK, there would be absolute outcry x
Wow that is such a beautiful place. Gorgeous photos x
Wow – what an amazing tradition, some really great talent in these paintings.
Thanks for linking up #wednesdaywanderlust
Such a gorgeous little village. There doesn’t seem to be a blank wall in the place. It would be lovely to see flowers everywhere you go 🙂
What an amazing find! The photos are great. It looks like something out of a children’s book, I was expecting to see Hansel and Gretal in the doorway! The car ferry looks great fun and I’m sure a highlight for the boys.