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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 29, 2013
Rural Tourism
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Lublin Province Highlights
August 29, 2013   
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Lublin province in central-eastern Poland has huge potential in terms of the conditions needed for rural tourism to flourish. Numerous farms offer home-stay holidays, outdoors recreation and regional cuisine, tempting visitors with a taste of a rural lifestyle.

Bordering Belarus and Ukraine, Lublin province boasts near-pristine natural surroundings and scenic landscapes where tradition lives on in villages and borderland towns, large and small. Abundant in cultural heritage sites, the region particularly appeals to tourists who like to stay active. Along with thousands of kilometers of tourist trails for hikers, cyclists and horse riders, Lublin province has a variety of nature trails criss-crossing national and scenic parks.

The highlights for visitors to Lublin province include lakes scattered between the towns of Łęczna and Włodawa, the hilly Roztocze region with numerous “natural wonders” such as creeks with rocky rapids, and the towns of Puławy, Nałęczów and Kazimierz Dolny, famous for picturesque loess ravines which are particularly popular among cyclists. Other popular places include sites of cultural and historical interest in the town of Lubartów and its surroundings, and the beautiful Janowskie Woodlands, where lush pine forests are dotted with small lakes surrounded by sandy dunes. The Polesie National Park, remarkable for its lakes, swamps and bogs, is populated by many rare animal, bird and plant species. Places worth a visit also include Janów Podlaski, home to Poland’s most famous horse stud farm, which specializes in Arabians.

Over 23 percent of the province’s surface area is protected as two national parks, 17 scenic parks, 17 landscape protection areas and 87 nature reserves, and there are more than 1,500 “natural monuments” in the region. In a testimony to the region’s natural riches, large parts of the Łęczna-Włodawa lake district and the Polesie National Park have been incorporated into the West Polesie International Biosphere Reserve, which also includes the Volhynia Polesye region and the Lakes of Shatskie in Ukraine.

The many different bodies of water in Polesie provide shelter for almost 150 bird species and the largest population of the European pond turtle.

The southwestern section of Lublin province and parts of Lviv province in Ukraine, including the Roztocze National Park in Poland and Ukraine’s Yavorivskiy National Park, are likely to be soon designated as an international biosphere reserve. It will include some of the most valuable beech and fir forests as well as ravines, rivers and creeks with unique rocky rapids.

Lublin province is home to sanctuaries for some of Europe’s rarest animals from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, including the speckled ground squirrel, the European bee-eater, the wood grouse, the lesser spotted eagle, and the European pond turtle. The most precious sanctuaries are located in Polesie and Roztocze and the valleys of the Vistula, Wieprz and Bug rivers. A total of 17 percent of the province’s area is protected under the European Union’s Natura 2000 conservation program, including 21 bird habitats and 69 special areas of conservation.

Lublin province abounds in historic sites linked to different cultures and religions. One of the most remarkable ones is the city of Zamo¶ć, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Renaissance architecture. The founders and former inhabitants included Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Greeks, Jews and Armenians.

Some of the finest examples of how the cultures and religions of Western and Eastern Europe influenced each other are located in the region’s main city of Lublin. The Holy Trinity Chapel at Lublin’s Royal Castle is a world-class historic building in which Gothic architecture blends with the Russian Revival style.

Savoring life in Lublin province
Lublin province is one of just several provinces in Poland to be widely associated with rural tourism, according to A Study of the Potential of Rural Tourism Products in Poland and Their Competitiveness on the Regional, National and International Markets for Tourist Services, a document compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency and commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. A clean environment and undisturbed natural areas are seen as the province’s chief assets, while the local countryside draws visitors with folk customs and tradition which are alive to this day. The locals hold festivals and country fairs during which tourists can see local folk arts and crafts and try regional specialties.

A document entitled A Tourism Audit of Lublin Province names rural tourism and ecotourism as the most promising sectors of the local market for tourism services. These forms of tourism are also identified as priority sectors by the Marketing Strategy for Poland’s Tourism Sector in 2012-2020. Recreation in natural, rural surroundings along with the region’s cultural heritage are the leading themes of promotional campaigns conducted by Lublin province. Encouraging Poles to explore the local attractions, the region’s marketing slogan sums it up best: Savor Life in Lublin Province.

Greatest hits of rural tourism
Visitors to Lublin province are offered almost 4,000 beds at around 500 farm stays. Rural tourism in the region is supported by the Lublin Regional Tourism Organization and a number of local tourism organizations and rural tourism associations. Some of the most recommended rural tourism farms provide accommodation in comfortable rooms in cottages amid bucolic landscapes. The hosts welcome guests with delicious, traditional meals prepared fresh from ingredients grown and made on the site, such as milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables and fruit liqueurs.

The best and most inventive tourism products in Lublin province have been put on the “Greatest Hits of Rural Tourism” list compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency. One is the Kraina Rumianku (Land of Camomile) farm in Hołowno, Podedwórze district, established by an organization that works to promote the Polesie area. Hołowno and nearby villages have specialized in camomile growing for over 20 years, delivering the plant to many businesses in Poland and abroad. Kraina Rumianku is the very first theme village in Lublin province and other than delightful scents and spectacular white camomile fields, the farm offers visitors a range of educational and recreational activities. Far away from the city bustle, the Kraina Rumianku managers have made the most of unpolluted nature, local culture and abundance of herbs by opening a Center for Regional Education and a Rural Spa. In its ethnography studios, the Center for Regional Education conducts workshops centered on traditional crafts and occupations. During the activities visitors can, for example, bake bread, starting with threshing rye with flails, and learn to weave, from hand picking flax to spinning it on a wheel to weaving linen on a loom. Tourists can also make butter in wooden churns, wash clothes in washtubs, iron them with wood-fired irons and so on. Fans of arts and crafts can, it turn, attend pottery classes and learn to make decorative ceramics, make flowers of plaited straw and paint on glass and wood.

Surrounded by a flower and herb garden, Kraina Rumianku’s rural spa is a major attraction with beauty treatment rooms, a massage parlor and a wood-fired sauna, all housed in 100-year-old granaries. The spa provides services based on herbs and camomile and the customers can learn many facts about how herbs are used in traditional medicine, cuisine and cosmetology.

Rural tourism highlights in Lublin province also include a smithy in the village of Wojciechów with a open-air museum called Wojciechowisko Zagroda. These are a stop on the Iron and Blacksmithing Tourist Trail, which draws on the legacy of early 20th-century blacksmiths. What started in Wojciechów as traditional horseshoe-making evolved into artistic welding and applied arts. Twenty-five years ago, the locals undertook concentrated efforts to preserve the decreasingly popular profession of a blacksmith and turned Wojciechów into Poland’s center for blacksmithing. The Iron and Blacksmithing Tourist Trail passes through several locations, taking visitors on an all-day tour to show them how melted iron is turned into horseshoes.

The smithy in Wojciechów hosts national blacksmith conventions attended by blacksmiths from both Poland and abroad. Thanks to a rural tourism business started by Roman and Danuta Czerniec, Wojciechów is now a prime tourist site in Lublin province. Roman Czerniec has since 2003 been the chief of the Polish Blacksmith Association headquartered in Wojciechów.

Amid the pine forests and waters of the Podlaski Przełom Bugu scenic park sits Uroczysko Zaborek (Zaborek Wilderness), a 50-hectare complex of vintage wooden buildings with accommodation for tourists. This inventive tourism product is often referred to as Podlasie in miniature.

The historic wooden buildings amid the meadows and forests along the Bug River form a sort of open-air museum. Guests can rent rooms in a presbytery from 1880, a windmill called KoĽlak and a white manor house dating back to the January Uprising of 1863. Conferences and training sessions can be held inside a wooden church which also houses an art gallery for pictures painted during outdoor workshops held in the neighborhood. There is also a permanent exhibition of oil paintings of late local artist Bazyli Albiczuk.

Regional cuisine

Reflecting the complicated history of the region, the cuisine of Lublin province evolved under Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Russian and Jewish influences. Traditional dishes can be roughly divided into poor people’s food and specialties eaten by the gentry. Poor people used to mainly eat dishes made of different kinds of flour and usually sprinkled with pork scratchings. One of the most distinctive Lublin dishes are pierogis with fillings of cottage cheese, cabbage, mushrooms and buckwheat and millet groats. The local gentry, in turn, ate meat prepared in many different fashions and garnished with fruit and vegetables. One of the best known regional specialties from the Lublin area are goł±bki cabbage leaves stuffed with groats, potatoes and meat.

Buckwheat groats are the staple food of Lublin province and districts such as Janów Lubelski and Biłgoraj have for over a century been famous for buckwheat farms. Well-known buckwheat-based dishes include gryczak janowski, which can be described as a loaf of bread with buckwheat stuffing. A uniquely Lublin delicacy are kartoflaczki pancakes, which apart from buckwheat are made of cottage cheese and, optionally, potatoes.

One of the most popular Lublin specialties is the cebularz onion pie, which originated from Jewish cuisine. Jewish traditions blend with Eastern Slavic cuisine in a dish called forszmak, which is a stew prepared from an array of ingredients such as scraps of smoked meat, chicken, pickled cucumbers, tomato concentrate and potatoes cooked without peeling.

Originating from Zamo¶ć, the thick and spicy flaki zamojskie tripe soup is a regional specialty popular across Poland. The locals also enjoy kulebiak, a calzone-like dish stuffed with minced meat and, sometimes, cabbage.

The Lublin region is famous for quality honey, especially buckwheat honey. Buyers appreciate its distinctive flavor, sweet and intense, and strong scent with a hint of buckwheat flowers. Buckwheat honey is also known to have therapeutic properties. Different kinds of honey are also processed into mead, an alcoholic drink that is highly popular in Lublin province.

Breweries around the world like to use superior hops from Lublin province. Most hops grown in Poland come from the region, earning Poland the no. 7 spot among the world’s largest producers of hops. Several breweries in Lublin province use locally grown hops to make popular kinds of beer.
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