Zalipie, Poland’s Prettiest Painted Village

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The best part about Zalipie isn’t that all the houses are covered in painted flowers. It’s that the town is engaged in an ongoing painted-flower-house contest.

About an hour and a half by car from Poland’s second-largest city, Krakow, you can follow the ornate floral-arrow signs to the vivid little village of Zalipie, where just about every home is festooned in flowers. The practice isn’t relegated to just private homes, though: You’ll also find barns, bridges, chicken coops, garbage cans, and even dog houses garnished with garlands. The town’s school and church are embellished with blooms as well.

Simon Astor

The story goes that the trend started over a century ago, as part of the preparations for religious festivals. Village women would commonly whitewash the area around their chimneys and wood-burning stoves to hide soot marks and make their homes look beautiful for the holiday, but even after the whitewash, dark soot was sometimes still visible. Eventually, thanks to some unknown genius, it became fashionable to paint flowers on the fresh whitewash to disguise the soot even further. And the flowers began to travel, from the insides of the houses to the outside, and across town. As the designs sprawled and spread across the houses, they became increasingly elaborate.

Even though Zalipie’s old-timey furnaces have long since been updated and concealing soot marks is no longer necessary, the flower-painting tradition has endured. It’s even become a friendly town-wide competition. Every year following Corpus Christi, in late May or early June, the town’s women—men only occasionally participate—face off in a house-flower-painting contest. (The time of year is said to have been chosen because it’s when the farm work lets up a little.) The Zalipians also touch up the flowers painted the year before, another holdover from olden times, when their paint was made with cooking fat and needed to be repainted almost from scratch annually. Although the painting tradition started informally, the contest itself was introduced by the Polish government to cheer up its citizenry after World War II. Known as Malowana Chata (Painted Cottage) competition, it became an annual event in 1965.

Simon Astor

Felicja Curyłowa is largely credited for taking the flower fad to its current height. Although she didn’t come up with the idea originally, the Zalipie resident was such an enthusiastic posy-painter that she adorned almost every surface of her three-bedroom cottage with flowers. After she died in 1974, her home was turned into a museum, where her designs can be seen today. Curyłowa pretty much went all out with it, painting everything from her spoons to her light bulbs, and her house is perhaps the most charming among the impressive contenders—if not, then certainly the most thoroughly saturated with blossoms.

Zalipie museum. Image credit: mksfca, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It should be said that Zalipie is a bit of a chore to get to on the bus, and the homes themselves are somewhat scattered apart, so it’s no good for travelers on foot, but it’s worth it to drive out there if you have a car. Fortunately, you’ve probably got some time, as the delightful folk-art tradition is still in full swing and shows no sign of stopping. With any luck, this florescent little Polish community will stick around intact for many more years to come.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Art

The World’s Steepest Street Is in Harlech, Wales

Tonktiti/iStock via Getty Images
Tonktiti/iStock via Getty Images

It wasn’t by chance that Ffordd Pen Llech just clinched the Guinness World Record for the world’s steepest street: The townspeople of Harlech, Wales, worked hard to steal the recognition from Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand.

At its steepest point, the gradient of the street in Wales is 37.5 percent, beating out Baldwin Street’s 35 percent. “I feel sorry for Baldwin Street and the New Zealanders,” Gwyn Headley, who spearheaded the campaign, told The Guardian, “But steeper is steeper.”

Guinness World Records has a surprising 10 criteria for the honor, including a blueprint of the street in question. This was the toughest for Harlech residents, because the thousand-year-old road was there long before roads were planned out with blueprints. So surveyor Myrddyn Phillips created one from scratch, using a satellite dish and chalk to calculate every possible measurement. Another criterion is that the road must actually be used by both people and vehicles. This one was easy, considering it leads to Harlech Castle, a UNESCO Heritage Site that was built over 700 years ago.

Having just lost to England in the Cricket World Cup, New Zealand is having a rough month—which Headley does feel bad about. “At least they have the Rugby World Cup … for the moment,” she said.

Because of its opportunities for bikers, motorcyclists, and other thrill seekers, Baldwin Street has become something of a tourist destination, which Dunedin residents have capitalized on by establishing nearby food, drink, and souvenir shops. Since the street is just as steep as it was before losing the world record, it’ll likely still function as a tourist attraction. But the townspeople are understandably disappointed, and one even suggested resurfacing it to increase the gradient.

In the meantime, Harlech is planning a party. “We know the anticipation has been building for quite some time now and I’m pleased to see the outcome has brought such joy to the residents,” Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday told The Guardian. “I hope Harlech enjoys the celebrations and that the new title brings lots of people to the beautiful town.”

[h/t The Guardian]

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