This Small Painted Village In Poland Looks Whimsical, But Wait Until You Learn About Its Fascinating History…

About 42 miles outside Krakow, Poland’s former capital, there’s a small village called Zalipie. It’s a small town in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship – only 743 people live there – but it’s thought of as one of Poland’s best-kept secrets. It looks absolutely whimsical, but there’s a fascinating history behind this charming village.

Zalipie known for its beautifully painted homes.

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Floral garlands and trees bursting into bloom are nearly ubiquitous themes on the homes.

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The paintings are largely done on the facades of whitewashed wooden homes.

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Although more recent homes have inverted the color scheme, like this barn.

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Most remarkably, these paintings are not the work of one prolific local artist.

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The beautiful art on the town’s homes, wells, bridges and barns is a collective effort from the women of Zalipie.

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They aren’t professional artists and it’s not entirely clear how the tradition got started.

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We know it began toward the end of the 19th century when many homes were upgrading their homes with new furnaces with small chimneys.

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Although these new furnaces produced better heat, the small chimneys didn’t let all of the soot escape. Cleaning the soot off blackened walls became the bane of a Zalipie homemaker’s existence.

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Since no amount of scrubbing could get the black marks off the wood, whitewashing became highly fashionable.

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To break up the monotony of the white buildings and to cover stubborn black marks that appeared through the white paint, a few of the Zalipie women began creating floral murals.

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Word spread and a friendly sense of local competition was born. Every year, an award for the most beautifully decorated cottage became part of the town’s celebrations for the first week of Corpus Christi.

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The most famous of Zalipie’s painters was a woman named Felicja Curyłowa (1904-1974).

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Since her passing, her three-bedroom home, the most ornately painted in the town, has been turned into a preservation museum.

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Zalipie’s charming local tradition wasn’t known to the rest of the world until 1905, when it was featured in an ethnography periodical in Krakow.

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Inspired by the town, Zalipie’s surrounding villages – Kuzie, Niwka and Kłyż – took up their paintbrushes and joined in the fun.

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Originally, the women would have to make all the necessary materials by hand, sourcing fats from their dumplings and hair from their cattle for paint and brushes.

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Zalipie’s competition for its painted homes is now known as Malowana Chata.

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Following World War II, when 17 percent of Zalipie’s population was killed, Malowana Chata helped rebuild the community and the sense of Zalipie’s specialness.

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Although it remains largely untouched by tourists, visitors do show up to honor this beautiful community during the Malowana Chata.

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