Today we will tell you a bit about two places in Poland where till this day you can discover culture of Kurpie. These are Green and White Forests, located north and north east from Warsaw.
Kurpiowszczyzna near Nowogród definetely a capital of Kurpie, where you will find quite a few museums and also where the well-known contest for an Eastern palm is held (in Łyse).
On the other hand White Forest near Pułtusk has less architectural monuments. However it is still a great place for a spring or summer trip.
Who are Kurpie?
In times when simple peasant all over Poland were obliged to work more and more for local master (serfdom), Kurpie people stayed free. They lived in one of the biggest and reachest woods in the Polish Kingdom known as the Green Wilderness (and in XVIII century some of them moved to White Wilderness, north from Warsaw).
As their land was not suitable for farming, they specialised in beekeeping and hunting. As a result, people from Kurpie were considered almost wild and definitely dangerous – at least by the rest of the nation.
Kurpie were notable hunters, perfect gunmen. During the war for independence in the end of XVIII century, they were being recruited to the shooters troops as sharpshooters.
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Location – where is Kurpie?
Take a look at a map of Poland. You will find Kurpie between the Northern East corner of Mazovia and Mazury. You can visit it on your way to Mazurian lakes or make it an objective of your weekend trip.
Here’s a map of Green Forest:
What to see in Kurpie land
Fans of open air museums and wooden architecture will have plenty to choose from. You can visit museum in Nowogród, which is one of the oldest towns in Poland (funded in X century).
Then, just 30 km from Nowogród, there is an open air museum in Kadzidło.
Beside this one, you should consider visiting at least two unique “museums” in the area – in Wach and Klon.
Museum in Wach
First one is private museum in Wach. It is an extraordinary collection of local items, starting from the farm tools and finishing with furniture and Easter palms (Kurpie are well known for an annual contest for the tallest palm).
The owner – Mr Zdzisław Bzukiewicz – is also a guide and will show you around his collection. However, I am afraid you will need a translator if you don’t speak Polish.
Price for visiting is not set. You can donate money for development of the museum at the spot.
Klon was discovered in the seventies by artists from Warsaw, who immediately realized the enormous potential of this place. Once it was supposed to be the second Lanckorona. A beautiful town with wooden buildings, loved by the Warsaw intelligentsia. They wanted to come here and fraternize town and country. Klon, because that is the name of this place, was entered in the register of monuments.
Once upon a time, there were 100 wooden Masurian houses with crosses on the fronts. Today, the monument’s marking can be found on 18 buildings. Soon it will be even less, because unfortunately neither the intelligentsia nor the conservator of monuments remember the village.
Of course, people still live in the village of the open-air museum. Some houses renovated as they could. In order to renovate them as the conservator would like, it takes a huge investment for Klon that no one will undertake. Those who are sick of patching behind wooden houses build two-story brick houses that will never be entered in the register of monuments. But they will surely wait for the moment when the wooden hut at the front collapses like a house of cards. It is easier and cheaper to build a new one than to renovate the one that remembers the 19th century.
Klon is one of the last places in Poland with dense and well-preserved wooden buildings. I wonder what would happen if Klon were lucky enough to lie 30 km to the northeast, in the Land of the Great Masurian Lakes.
People of Kurpie were the best beekeepers in Poland. And the trees were their beehives. Some of them can be still seen in the Czarnia reserve (rezerwat Czarnia). The forest there is amazing and you will find there 250 year old pines that were used for beekeeping. Turn your head up and you will see the holes in the trunks.
The reserve is pretty well hidden in the forest, but in fact it is easy to get there once you know where to look. Located close to the town Czarnia, next to the crossing of the roads 614 and local road from Czarnia to Zawady.
What to do beside sightseeing in Kurpie
If you are fun of kayaking, don’t miss an opportunity to kayak from Łomża to Nowogród by Narew river. You can finish your ride at the Open Air Museum.
Palm Sunday in Łyse
Interested in local festivals? Come to Kurpie on Sunday before Easter when a competition for the tallest palm takes place in Łyse.
White Forest – Puszcza Biała near Warsaw
White Forest is filled with ghost of the military past. During WWII this was a place where the eastern front stopped for months. Pułtusk, the biggest city in the area, was also a witness of one of the Napoleon’s battles with Russians in 1806.
And here’s what to visit in White Forest:
Czapliniec and Bartnia
Czapliniec and Bartnia and bioreserves near Pułtusk, created on land between pretty wild Narew river and the forest.
In the Bartnia Reserve, several hundred-year-old pines are worth seeing. Several dozen years ago, mainly herons were protected here, which have now moved closer to the Narew – not elsewhere but to the present Czapliniec Reserve.
The Czapliniec Reserve is quite a large pool in the spring. Some trails may not be possible without rubber boots. This also applies to the bike trail, which when we visited this place in April was blocked by a small flood.
In several places along the trail, there are already somewhat old observation towers, from which you will be able to see this space from above.
Pulwy – marshes near Warsaw
Pulwy is the Kurpie word for: a marsh – a remnant of a great river, the bed of which once ran here. For thousands of years, Pulwy separated Mazovia from Podlasie, forcing travelers to circle them. Today, thanks to the drainage system, Pulwy is a bit less wet.
What’s so interesting here? A rare flat landscape. You can see everything here clearly and the meadows stretch, flat as a table, to the horizon. Mammals and birds especially like this land. So we think that it is a great place for safaris, whether by bike or car.
Roe deers spend all days here, you can meet them even at noon. In the open area, they probably feel quite safe, being able to see the impending danger from a distance.
Accomodation in White Forest
You are sometimes asking about huts near Warsaw, so here’s something we can recommend from our latest experience – huts in Tocznabiel in Puszcza Biała. We have been invited there by the owner, spent a few days and we enjoyed it. If you are looking for a hut in the middle of the forests with awesome WiFi connection, that’s the place.
A downside for some people might be heating – you have to use a fireplace. We personally love this, but I know some people don’t like it or don’t know how to use it.
It is in the middle of the forest, so no shops or restaurants. Pure nature, a moose might come by to say hello.