“It’s all too beautiful” – The Small Faces.
“Where is Zalipie?” Was a common question from even my Polish friends. Nobody knew what or where it was, but thanks to two travel blog articles I had read, I included this place in my Reader Vote for October 2017, unaware it would actually win the vote and I would end up backpacking here! But so it was to be and I headed for tranquil Zalipie! Zalipie really exists and it’s a rockingly cool place to visit! It also nicely ends up being my final travel article of 2017 on this website.
What is Zalipie?
It is a remote Polish village in the middle of nowhere, famous for its flower art. I first heard about it from two other blogs within my network. It was first shared on Hello Poland thanks to a blog post by Salix w Podrozy and later on Culture Trip by a fellow travel writer there. It just stood out to me as somewhere completely off the wall and typical of my own journeys to lesser known Polish towns and villages such as Zakrzewo, Kokoszkowy, Pelplin, Trzcianka, Starogard Gdański and Kętrzyn. It also appeared on Unusual Places, but I didn’t check that site until post-trip. But I knew I wanted to go.
Why is there Flower Art in Zalipie?
It’s a good question, and while it might seem like a recent phenomenon, it is not! This peculiar tradition of painting houses (and any building) dates back over a century and was inspired by local female residents who decided to cover up faults in their houses and cottages woodwork or paintwork with pictures of flowers! It became a tradition and has lasted for over 100 years now.
“Winter flowers, did you ever forgive her?” – Manic Street Preachers.
Where is Zalipie?
The burning question and of course, Google Maps make it easy these days. However that doesn’t make your trip getting here any easier. It’s still a difficult village to backpack to! Zalipie is in the Małopolska Voivodeship (Lower/Lesser Polish Province) and is north of the city of Tarnów, the town of Zabno and the small village of Niecziecza (which we also visited and made for an interesting story). It is a countryside village.
Getting to Zalipie
This is not easy my friends. If you have a car – you are sorted for Zalipie, but we didn’t so it was back to hardcore backpacking and well, hitch-hiking! We started early morning and went from Kraków to Tarnów to Żabno to Niecziecza and finally via Goruszów to Zalipie. It involved one train, one bus, lots of walking and two rides from locals as we hitch-hiked our way there. There were just two of us on the trip – myself and the famous Rafał Kowalczyk.
1 – Train from Kraków to Tarnów
OK getting to Tarnów is no problem, it’s a relatively big city and is on main train and bus routes from various parts of Poland. I had passed through it twice before on trains to Rzeszów. This time, we got a train from Kraków, taking advantage of the Bilet Weekendowy (Weekend train ticket) which covers you on lots of different train routes in Poland from 18.00 Friday evening until 06.00 am Monday morning. Our train was slightly delayed but we arrived in Tarnów mid morning.
The cost was 81 złotych for the Bilet Weekendowy (singles for this route only may be cheaper).
2. Bus from Tarnów to Żabno
Next up we looked for a local bus from Tarnów to Żabno. We had a short walk to find it, near the Church on Krakowska Street (Parafia św. Rodziny). The bus left about 30 minutes after we had arrived in Tarnów and was a 20 – 25 minute ride to little Żabno.
3. Walking from Żabno to Nieciecza
The next leg of the journey we decided to walk. Sure it was a cold December frosty morning, but we were warm and the journey by foot shouldn’t take too long. It was around 2 – 3 kilometres through the countryside. While walking we were able to admire the scenery, take some photos of places we wouldn’t see on public transport and have a beer along the way. Nieciecza itself was a place of high interest to me. It is a village of a mere 750 residents yet they have a football team in the top flight. Tiny Bruk-Bet Termalica Nieciecza play in the Polish Ekstraklasa and have done since 2015 and are the smallest village in Europe to ever have a top flight team! Later, Rafal and I would go to watch a match there, having already watched them play Legia Warszawa twice. I wrote about watching football in Termalika here.
4.Hitch-Hiking from Nieciecza to Goruszów
We decided to leave Nieciecza on foot and try to hit-hike our way to Zalipie, which was about 14 kilometres away. Within 20 minutes of walking, we got our first lift off a kind gentleman who left us in the village of Goruszów. We offered him money, but he didn’t want it. He was happy to help.
5.Hitch-Hiking from Goruszów to Zalipie
The final leg of our journey to Zalipie was another period of walking and hitch-hiking. We visited an interesting countryside cemetery and passed many houses with dogs before a car began to come.
We stuck our hands out again and he stopped. Rafał explained that we were heading for Zalipie and this driver was passing through Zalipie anyway, so our mission was complete. We thanked the driver, who left us off at the museum in the centre of Zalipie. As with our previous driver, we offered money and he wouldn’t take it. Polish hospitality never fails to impress.
Exploring on the Way to Zalipie
On the way to Zalipie, we actually spent at least 30 minutes in each of the following places, so here are some more photos:
4.The Football Stadium in Nieciecza
I will write about this separately in my Śmieszne Historie o Piłce Nożnej w Polsce series but here are some photos of the stadium.
Sleeping in Zalipie
We didn’t stay over here as to be honest, once you have seen the entire village, there isn’t much need to stay overnight. There is one Bed and Breakfast and one bar which sometimes opens. As far as we could tell there is only one Bed and Breakfast in Zalipie and this is it:
On the Rip in Zalipie: Top Bars and Restaurants
We are here to see floral art not for food and drink, but there is interestingly one bar in this tiny village! It was closed on our visit, but here it is.
Top Sights in Zalipie
When we arrived in Zalipie we were dropped off on what looked like the main street. To our left was the museum and to the right a normal house which had some flowers painted on it. It was private property so we couldn’t go in. It was Saturday so the museum was also closed. There was a huge map of the region, with some information on Zalipie too.
Having read my two guides before the trip, Rafał and I assumed that this is an easy town to backpack. You just turn up. It is small so you will be able to see everything with ease and in a short time. We expected an hour was enough time. This is not the case at all. The village spans a large geographic area and walking it on its own takes over an hour, not allowing time for photos and exploring.
We spoke to the guy in the first house who alerted us not to miss the church and that we could take a right hand turn and do a loop. This sounded easy and was exactly what we did. There were two main places we wanted to see as well as the fact that we were told the village is completely covered in flower art. These were the Dom Malarek (House of Painters) and the Koscioł (Church). On the first corner we saw a sign for Dom Malarek so we thought it must be close. We followed the signs for it to a tee.
On the way, we passed many houses and yes most of them were covered in flower art. But not all. After 25 minutes on the same street and following signs for Dom Malarek we still hadn’t found it. We had allowed 2hours or so to see everything as we had knowledge there was a bus back to Tarnów at 15.37pm.
We asked a few locals in Polish of course about this Dom Malarek place and they also kept pointing us to the direction of these signs. After about an hour though, we had seen quite a few nice houses decorated in flowers but none actually called Dom Malarek. It was confusing!
We must also note that if people tell you the entire village is full of wall art they are lying. In fact most houses are normal and some of them feature this flower art only. Most buildings do not have any art. We asked a local man again if he knew of Dom Malarek and after another two signs for it and his advice, we still don’t think we saw it. Or we did, and it wasn’t obvious.
Next up we finally found the church and it was worth the wait. It is rare to find a church decorated in flowers, which inside it was but not from the outside. I sat down and prayed.
After that we found the Fire Station. Again it was special to see a Fire Station decorated in flowers. Yes even the Fire Station has floral art on it. As mentioned, we also saw Zalipies only Bed and Breakfast / Hotel, the villages only pub and a shop.
At this point we had 40 minutes until our bus and still felt we didn’t see the so called Dom Malarek. Even as we left the village, signs still showed we were almost at the Dom Malarek! We checked the village map on the way out and again it felt like we had walked it all yet still hadn’t seen this elusive Dom Malarek. It was a busy weekend where we also toured Tarnów, Żabno and watched football in Nieciecza.
So Here are the main sights we saw in Zalipie:
3.Zalipie Museum (was closed)
4.Zalipie Football Pitch
5.Dom Malarek (House of Painters)
6.Zalipie Fire Station
8.Zalipie Local Shop – FH Kamex
9.Zalipie Bed and Breakfast
10.Zalipie Painted Houses
Zalipie is an amazing little village and certainly worth the trip despite the elusive Dom Malarek and the fact that not every building is covered in flower art as previously expected. My thanks again to Salix w Podrozy / Zakaz Prowokacji , Hello Poland and Culture Trip for their introduction to this place and to Rafał for joining me on the journey and sorting out the directions. Go and check out Zalipie, it is one of the prettiest villages in Poland!!
Here are a few videos from Zalipie and my trip that day: