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.
Floral garlands and trees bursting into bloom are nearly ubiquitous themes on the homes.
The paintings are largely done on the facades of whitewashed wooden homes.
Although more recent homes have inverted the color scheme, like this barn.
Most remarkably, these paintings are not the work of one prolific local artist.
The beautiful art on the town’s homes, wells, bridges and barns is a collective effort from the women of Zalipie.
They aren’t professional artists and it’s not entirely clear how the tradition got started.
We know it began toward the end of the 19th century when many homes were upgrading their homes with new furnaces with small chimneys.
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.
Since no amount of scrubbing could get the black marks off the wood, whitewashing became highly fashionable.
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.
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.
The most famous of Zalipie’s painters was a woman named Felicja Curyłowa (1904-1974).
Since her passing, her three-bedroom home, the most ornately painted in the town, has been turned into a preservation museum.
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.
Inspired by the town, Zalipie’s surrounding villages – Kuzie, Niwka and Kłyż – took up their paintbrushes and joined in the fun.
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.
Zalipie’s competition for its painted homes is now known as Malowana Chata.
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.
Although it remains largely untouched by tourists, visitors do show up to honor this beautiful community during the Malowana Chata.
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