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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 27, 2013
Countryside, culture, history
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Welcome to Ma這polska
March 27, 2013   
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Ma這polska is one of Poland’s most attractive regions in terms of tourism. Its unspoiled nature, varied landscape and precious historical buildings and art treasures, which attract tourists from Poland and abroad, are its greatest assets. Ma這polska is also the strongest region in terms of agritourism in Poland, with over 1,300 tourist farms, out of the 10,000 across Poland. The farms provide more than 15,000 beds.

The rich and varied landscape of Ma這polska includes mountain ranges – from the towering Tatra mountains to the more gentle slopes of the Beskids and Gorce to the limestone Pieniny. The picturesque gorge of the Dunajec river in the Pieniny region is a magnificent monument of nature. A trip down the river on a raft is an unforgettable experience and an attraction that draws tourists from around the world.

The Cracow-Cz瘰tochowa Upland, formed in the Jurassic period, is a great tourist attraction with its picturesque buttes, the most famous of which is Hercules’ Club in the Pieskowa Ska豉 valley. The B喚d闚 Desert, Europe’s largest area of loose sand, is located in the upland.

Ma這polska is rich in natural resources and mineral waters used in the treatment of many diseases. Its most famous spa towns are Krynica, Muszyna, Piwniczna, Rabka, Szczawnica with the nearby town of Kro軼ienko, and Swoszowice, outside Cracow. The sanatoriums in the salt mines of Wieliczka and Bochnia near Cracow are famous for their healthy microclimate. These are unique. The natural assets of the region are complemented by its cultural heritage. Its numerous historical buildings and museums are big tourist attractions. Some of them are one-of-a-kind locations, like the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cracow, Poland’s former capital and the artistic, historical and administrative center of Ma這polska, is a must-see. Wawel Hill with the Royal Castle and Cathedral, rich in works of art collected over the centuries, attests to the former power of the country and its rulers. The site is visited by crowds of tourists.

Culture and Customs of Rural Ma這polska

It is not only nature and cultural heritage that attract tourists to Ma這polska. Its ethnographic diversity is also a great asset. There are diverse groups of people living in Ma這polska, who cherish their different customs, local dialects, costumes, cultural artifacts and tradition. This can be seen during feasts and the customs that are associated with them, particularly during the most important Church holidays, like Christmas, Easter and the Feast of Corpus Christi with its famous processions.

Local folk heritage and regional traditions are celebrated at various festivals of rural culture, annual harvest festivals and special occasions, which are usually celebrated in a traditional, scenic setting.

Not Only Accommodation

More and more Polish and foreign tourists visiting Ma這polska stay on tourist farms, which offer not only comfortable accommodation but also tasty regional cuisine and various leisure opportunities. Numerous organizations of tourist farms play a big role in promoting agritourism in Ma這polska. The Galician Hospitable Farms Agritourist Association is among the best known such organizations. For 20 years now it has promoted the region’s assets, making it possible for tourists to enjoy a vacation in pleasant conditions and at affordable prices.

The Association of Tourism and Agritourism in Mountainous Areas offers accommodation at 200 tourist farms in the Gorlice, Limanowa, Wieliczka, Nowy S帷z, Nowy Targ and Tatra districts. In turn, the Jura Association of Rural Tourism brings together tourist farms located in the Cracow-Cz瘰tochowa Upland in Silesia and Ma這polska provinces.

The Highlanders’ Agritourism Association also works to promote and develop rural tourism. It takes pains to maintain appropriate accommodation and dietary standards.

Tourist farms offer accommodation in guest rooms, independent apartments and holiday cottages. Most provide traditional home-cooked meals. Otherwise, guests have an opportunity to buy fresh products locally and prepare their meals themselves.

Some tourist farm owners offer their guests additional attractions, for example bonfires, horse-drawn carriage and bicycle rides, demonstrations of bread-baking, and butter and cheese-making using traditional methods, weaving on a loom and angling. They also organize shows of folk music, songs and ceremonies, meetings with interesting people, folk artists, sight-seeing excursions combined with animal and bird watching (so-called photo-safaris). Visitors can even work with the farmer in the fields, around the homestead and in bee yards.

Flagship Attractions of Rural Tourism

Local tourism promotion organizations use different ways to attract tourists to rural Ma這polska. One such magnet are specially developed tourist products. Two of them, developed by the S帷z Tourist Organization, have proved rural tourism hits.

The first goes by the name of the Ma這polska Countryside—Scent of Herbs route. The route is composed of 20 attractively located agritourist facilities specialized in growing and using herbs. A stay on such a fragrant farm is an excellent opportunity to enjoy nature and the traditions of rural Ma這polska.

The owners of farms situated on the route are skilled in herb cultivation in cottage gardens, know their properties and ways of drying them, arranging herb bouquets and using herbs in regional cuisine and unconventional medicine. Among the plants that grow in the herb gardens are lovage, tarragon, mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, balm and many others.

Apart from maintaining vegetable and herb gardens, the farm owners offer tourists healthy regional cuisine based on herbs and health food from their own farms. Many of the owners also provide a wide range of natural rejuvenation treatments based on herbs, which have a very relaxing and energizing effect. These include herbal baths, massages and aromatherapy. These attractions are perfect for people who value peace and quiet, the environment and excellent regional cuisine.

Another flagship attraction of rural tourism in the region is the route called Ma這polska Countryside for Children. This comprises 16 tourist farms with facilities that enable active, diverse and safe leisure pursuits for children of different ages and their parents.

Data from the S帷z Tourist Organization show that the owners of all tourist farms on this route offer special attractions for children of any age. Each facility has a safe fenced playground and some also offer additional attractions like a ropes course or a swimming pool. The owners keep farm animals and pets and serve regional cuisine based on organic products.

Children and parents can stay on tourist farms at any time of the year and spend both weekends and longer holidays there. Through play children can learn about rural traditions and customs, the nature of Ma這polska and the legends and stories associated with the region.

The tourist farms on the route have been carefully selected from among several hundred such farms in Ma這polska. All of them have been given a status – denoted as standard, or with one, two or three “suns” – in line with the requirements of the Hospitable Farms Polish Federation of Rural Tourism.

Traditional Products of Ma這polska

Ma這polska boasts a special regional cuisine and original, traditional products. There are now 68 products from Ma這polska on the list of traditional foodstuffs. Bryndza Podhala雟ka cheese, Podstolice Rural Sausage and Jurajski Bread are the best known among these products.

Bryndza Podhala雟ka is one of the best known cheeses made in the Tatra area. For years it has been valued highly by regional and traditional cuisine lovers in Poland and abroad. Sheep farming in the Podhale region at the foot of the Tatra Mountains has for centuries been associated with the production of cheese. The shepherds used to spend several months with their sheep in high pastures. During this period they drank virtually only sheep’s milk and ate sheep’s milk products. The knowledge of Bryndza cheese-making dates back to the 15th century. Passed on from generation to generation, it has become an art whose secrets are known only to the regional producers.

The cheese owes its unique taste to the milk it is made of. Sheep’s milk from Polish mountain sheep, a breed closely associated with the history and tradition of Podhale, is used to make Bryndza Podhala雟ka. The area where the cheese is made is one of the cleanest regions in Poland and Europe. The plants that grow in the Tatra and Podhale region and are eaten by the sheep contribute to the excellent quality of the sheep’s milk used to make Bryndza.

Podstolice Rural Sausage, which has a unique aroma and taste, comes from the village of Podstolice, situated several kilometers to the south of Cracow. Butchery and meat processing have a tradition dating back centuries in the village and the local method of producing Rural Sausage has remained unchanged for years. The sausage is made of pork, mainly shoulder meat, and some ham, from a freshly slaughtered animal. Sometimes, when the pork is too fat, a bit of veal or beef is added. The taste of the meat is enhanced with spices such as pepper, garlic and a bit of sugar.

Rings of raw sausage are put up on wooden sticks and smoked using mainly beech, alder and fruit-tree wood. The smoking time depends on many factors, like for example the water content in the wood and even the weather.

Jurajski Bread has been baked since the 1920s according to a special traditional recipe which gives it a unique taste. Initially, it was baked by farmer’s wives and small bakeries in several villages of the present rural district of Klucze in the Cracow-Cz瘰tochowa Upland.

First, rye flour was used to bake the bread because the local soils are not very fertile. Wheat flour was added only in small quantities and only to bake bread for feasts and special occasions. With time, the flour proportions have become standardized - six parts of rye flour and four parts of wheat flour. Then, the bread is the tastiest.

The simple baking methods and the basic products, available on farms – flour, salt, water, potatoes and yeast – made it possible to bake bread which has a unique taste and aroma. Thanks to the addition of potato flakes, Jurajski Bread remains fresh for a long time without the use of any preservatives.
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