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Zalipie, Poland's painted village

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.  It only came up once but that was enough, I was intrigued and set about to find out more about it.  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.

Zalipie painted house floral folkart Poland

Wasting no time, on day 2 of our Polish adventure we set off for a daytrip 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!.

pumpkins for sale in Poland

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.

ferry across river

We arrived ravenous and were very happy we’d taken a picnic as Zalipie 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. 

Zalipie painters house Dom Malarek

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. 

Zalipie dog kennel

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.

Zalipie farm Poland

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. 

Zalipie church

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. 

Zalipie old houseNo 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.

Zalipie village southern Poland

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. 

painted ceiling in Zalipe museum Felicja CuryłowaAfter 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. 

bedroom in house of Felicja Curyłowa Zalipie Poland

Zalipie inside house of Felicja Curyłowa

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. 

Zalipie wellIf 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.

Zalipie wall

decorated building Zalipie

Zalipie geese in painted farm

Zalipie red house

Zalipie garden

Zalipie museum painted house

Zalipie swan

Zalipie sundial

Zalipie red painted barn

detail of painted house in Zalipie Poland

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.

painted blue house in Zalipie Poland

Have you been to Zalipie, or anywhere like it?

 

Read more about our Polish road trip:  Holiday Snapshots - Road Trip 2015

 

 Why not PIN this for later!

Zalipie the painted village in Poland

 

 

 
 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Chiera Saturday, 04 February 2017

    What an amazing find! Oh the power of Pinterest! haa. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. Zalipie looks like a lovely town #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    Thank you Chiera :) isn't Pinterest great!

  • Guest
    Ahila Saturday, 04 February 2017

    Such an interesting and charming village to visit. Love that painted bucket and well.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    Yes it really was, and so unique too.

  • Guest
    Corey with fifi + hop Friday, 03 February 2017

    What a unique place and experience. I love that the artist painted her grave! #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    It's incredible isn't it?

  • Guest
    Ruth Friday, 03 February 2017

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    Krakow and its surrounding area are so full of amazing places to see, we absolutely loved it there.

  • Guest
    Bumble Bee Mum Friday, 03 February 2017

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    Thanks for pinning, I don't know about the bridge but hopefully the road works will at least have been finished!

  • Guest
    Bryna | Dotted Line Travels Friday, 03 February 2017

    Zalipie looks lovely! And interesting background on why they started painting flowers. It looks like a wonderful place to visit. The museum looks wonderful!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    It really was, Bryna :)

  • Guest
    Hilary Thursday, 02 February 2017

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    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.

  • Guest

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    I hope you get to drag your teens around Zalipie one day Erin!!!

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Thursday, 02 February 2017

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 10 February 2017

    Yes, thank goodness for the picnic!

  • Guest
    Katy Thursday, 02 February 2017

    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!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 February 2017

    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.

  • Guest
    Lolo Thursday, 02 February 2017

    I found this post a while ago on Pinterest and loved it and pinned it! I totally want to go here! #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 February 2017

    I'm happy you found my pin on Pinterest, that's good feedback to hear.

  • Guest
    Lia Sunday, 26 June 2016

    Lou, I'm planning a trip to Poland next year and also found your post via pinterest :) I have to see this pretty town!

  • Guest
    Mary Sunday, 17 April 2016

    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!

  • Guest
    Ting at MTM Monday, 26 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    lisa Monday, 26 October 2015

    wow stunning i love how bright and cheerful everything looks and look at the size of those pumpkins

  • Guest
    Richard Saturday, 24 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Catherine Saturday, 24 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    beatravelling Friday, 23 October 2015

    Wow! Super neat! Have been to Warsaw, which I didn't fancy too much...

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Nancie Thursday, 22 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Vlad Thursday, 22 October 2015

    Awesome photos, the town looks like something out of a fairytale, I love how colorful it is!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    It's great isn't it Vlad!

  • Guest
    Lolo Monday, 19 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    Happy you liked it Lolo. :)

  • Guest
    Jaime Oliver Monday, 19 October 2015

    wow i am so loving those flat pumpkins! but even more so impressive is the detail in the paintings ... utterly beautiful

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    The pumpkins were all along one particular road and then we never saw them again! The detail sure is impressive.

  • Guest
    Fritha Strickland Monday, 19 October 2015

    such beautiful images! I love the mural in the first shot x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    That was one of my favourites too Fritha

  • Guest
    Urska Monday, 19 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    It's amazing that there aren't more visitors really as Zalipie is really not far from Krakow.

  • Guest
    Coombe Mill Monday, 19 October 2015

    What a wonderful place to visit, I love the colourful paintings, it would brighten up any day seeing this! Popping by from #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    It certainly brightened up our day!!

  • Guest
    Cathy ( MummyTravels ) Monday, 19 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    Pinterest has so many great things about it, it's not just for recipes and craft; haha!!!

  • Guest
    Trish Monday, 19 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Saturday, 24 October 2015

    Yes I couldn't agree more as Zalipie barely gets a mention in any traditional guide to Poland.

  • Guest
    Jennifer (aka Dr J) Sunday, 18 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Red Nomad OZ Sunday, 18 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    I know! But for young boys they showed a good amount of interest and I wasn't too disappointed.

  • Guest
    Erica Price Sunday, 18 October 2015

    Such a pretty place. It's like something out of a fairy tale.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    Yes it really is Erica.

  • Guest
    Karen Saturday, 17 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    I'm glad you enjoyed it Karen

  • Guest
    Corinne Saturday, 17 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Tanja Saturday, 17 October 2015

    Hi! It look so nice and colourful like something from a story book and not real life!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    Yes you're right Tanja :)

  • Guest
    Julie Small Friday, 16 October 2015

    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

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    happyhomebird Friday, 16 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    Thank you for your enthusiastic comment, I'm so glad my post cheered you up!!

  • Guest
    kara Friday, 16 October 2015

    What a beautiful village, all that work must have taken hours!!

  • Guest
    Stephs Two Girls Thursday, 15 October 2015

    Wow how cute... and flowery... and bizarre! What a great place to visit! :)

  • Guest
    budget jan Thursday, 15 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    We're big picnickers Jan, helps with the budget too!!

  • Guest
    Liz Burton Thursday, 15 October 2015

    What a fabulous find! So beautiful. I love discovering little gems like this away from all the other tourists.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    I agree Liz :)

  • Guest
    Rachel Heller Thursday, 15 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    You must get to Krakow Rachel, there's so much to see you'll love it.

  • Guest
    Sarah Bailey Thursday, 15 October 2015

    Wow what an amazing looking place - so pretty.

  • travelgalcindy
    travelgalcindy Thursday, 15 October 2015

    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!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    I'm happy I gave you another place to put on your itinerary.

  • Guest
    pinkoddy Thursday, 15 October 2015

    What a pretty place - I like how so much is decorated and I do love flowers.

  • Guest
    Rachel Thursday, 15 October 2015

    Imagine if something like this happened here in the UK, there would be absolute outcry x

  • Guest
    Sonia Thursday, 15 October 2015

    Wow that is such a beautiful place. Gorgeous photos x

  • Guest
    Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages Wednesday, 14 October 2015

    Wow - what an amazing tradition, some really great talent in these paintings.
    Thanks for linking up #wednesdaywanderlust

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    Some of the paintings were really excellent, others very basic but the overall effect was incredible.

  • Guest
    Lyndall Wednesday, 14 October 2015

    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 :-)

  • Guest
    Christine Tuesday, 13 October 2015

    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.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 18 October 2015

    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.

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