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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 27, 2014
Rural Tourism
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Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province
March 27, 2014   
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Kujawy-Pomerania province in central-north Poland has huge potential to develop a strong rural tourism sector, taking advantage of the region’s natural beauty and colorful traditions.

The province offers a host of tourist attractions ranging from vast woodlands, picturesque lakes and clean rivers to traditional countryside, historic towns and health resorts. Kujawy-Pomerania is a perfect destination for people seeking to improve their health and fans of aquatic sports and horse riding, and it also has a variety of historic buildings and sites, many of which date back to the Gothic period.

One of the province’s most remarkable tourist sights is the Bydgoszcz Canal, which connects the inland navigation systems of Western and Eastern Europe. Built at the end of the 18th century, this 27-kilometer-long canal stands out with a unique set of hydraulic structures.

One of the province’s two principal cities, Toruń, is home to the most valuable places of historical interest in Kujawy-Pomerania. Regarded as a gem of Gothic architecture, Toruń received its city charter almost 800 years ago and its Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old Town is one of the most beautiful surviving examples of urban medieval architecture and includes around 200 Gothic and Gothic-influenced townhouses. One of them is the famous Copernicus House that in 1473 was the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, the great astronomer who revolutionized our understanding of the solar system.

Many visitors to Kujawy-Pomerania province are impressed by the medieval castle in Golub-Dobrzyń, west of Toruń, whose foundations and lower levels are made of Gothic bricks laid by the Teutonic Order of knights in the 14th century. In those days, the castle served as a fortress and a monastery.

Some 30 kilometers southeast of Toruń lies the town of Ciechocinek, which is one of Poland’s best known and most beautiful health resorts. This is the place for those who want to relax and for those seeking health and beauty treatments. Ciechocinek has a wide variety of hotels, sanatoriums, physiotherapy centers and treatment facilities. The town sits on brine deposits that gave rise to three mighty graduation towers that are the landmark of Ciechocinek. Built of wood and blackthorn, the almost 16-meter-tall towers are used to evaporate water from brine, producing a cloud of vapor that is reputed to have a host of health benefits. The air around the towers has a delicious smell and is rich in iodine.

One of Kujawy-Pomerania’s biggest attractions is the village of Biskupin, or more precisely, the local archeological open-air museum with structures and artifacts of the Lusatian culture (around 1400-500 BC). Tourists and archeologists alike are interested in the well-preserved remains of technologically advanced structures from 2,700 years ago. What today is a peninsula on Lake Biskupińskie used to be an island with a fortified town on it, inhabited by 700-1,000 people. The town has been painstakingly reconstructed and is the most impressive part of the local museum, complete with houses, streets, embankments and gates. Every year in the third week in September, the Biskupin museum hosts an archeology festival attended by visitors from different corners of the world.

Natural delights

Kujawy-Pomerania province is famous for its natural beauty. The Tuchola Forest is the second largest woodland area in Poland. The forest comprises 320,000 hectares of woods, meadows and clean waters. Its most valuable wilderness areas have been designated as nature reserves and scenic parks, including the Tuchola Forest National Park, spanning 4,800 hectares of protected woods and lakes. The Tuchola Forest is dotted with 900 lakes and ponds, of which 40 are more than 1 square kilometer in size, the biggest ones being Lake Wdzydze (1,500 hectares) and Lake Charzykowskie (1,400 hectares). The region’s main rivers, the Wda and Brda, flow through many of the lakes, offering picturesque canoeing routes.

The Brodnica Lake District in the northeastern part of the province has over 100 lakes that abound in fish. Cutting across the lake district, the Drwęca River is a fish reserve along its entire length, providing shelter for trout and sea trout, salmon, the vimba bream and the European river lamprey. The Drwęca River Gap between the town of Nowe Miasto Lubawskie and the mouth of the Brynica River is a particularly attractive tourist region with a deep valley whose upper section, the Drwęca Marsh Valley, is a bird sanctuary.

Rural attractions

Kujawy-Pomerania province has seen rural tourism growing in popularity. Local rural tourism farms draw people keen to get away from the city hustle and bustle and savor the region’s bucolic scenery and traditional cuisine. Located amid lakes, forests, rivers and vast farmlands, such farms offer plenty of recreational opportunities.

The province has the potential to support many different forms of tourism, including rural tourism, according to a report by the Polish Tourism Development Agency entitled A Study of the Potential of Rural Tourism Products in Poland and their Competitiveness on the Regional, National and International Markets for Tourist Services. The local attractions include the traditions that live on among the different ethnic groups in the region. Many of these cultivate traditional cuisine, arts, crafts and dying professions such as blacksmithing and pottery.

Experts from the Polish Tourism Development Agency believe that in the future the province should mainly focus on existing attractions and combine them into rural tourism products.

Kujawy-Pomerania province has many good rural tourism farms with original products and activities for guests. Two of these have been put on the “Greatest Hits of Rural Tourism” list compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency.

One is Agroturystyka nad Jeziorem Sopień (Rural Tourism Farm by Lake Sopień) in the village of Mały Głęboczek, Brodnica county. A member of the Polish Educational Homesteads Network, the farm offers simple, country-style food made from produce grown locally and at nearby farms.

The other “greatest hit” of Kujawy-Pomerania province is Osada Karbówko (Karbówko Village), perched in the picturesque valley of the Drwęca River, one of Poland’s most beautiful rivers. The village offers cozy rooms and suites in thatched-roof cottages, a wellness and spa center, conference rooms and ballrooms, a My¶liwska (Hunter’s) Inn and a bowling alley. Those who like active forms of recreation can go horseriding, take a ride in a quad or an all-terrain vehicle and embark on a canoeing or biking expedition.

One other notable rural tourism farm is called Stelchno, located on a lake of the same name in the village of Jeżewo in Tuchola Forest. This small, family-run farm is ideal for families with young children. Accommodation is provided in a lavishly furnished Dutch cottage on an enclosed plot of land adjacent to the lake. There is an outdoor barbecue and a playground and guests are free to use boats and similar equipment at no extra charge.

Rural tourism in Kujawy-Pomerania province also includes a number of so-called theme villages. One of them, located in Krzywogoniec near the town of Tuchola, has forest mushrooms as the leading theme. It was established in 2005 and is the oldest theme village in the Tuchola Forest. Pictures of different mushrooms hang on every building and every year there is a Mushroom Festival that draws crowds of visitors. Tourists who want to taste local traditions and dishes should pay a visit to the U Heleny restaurant, which serves delicious potato pie with a mushroom relish, here known as szandar, and a local specialty, borowiacki bread, which is baked on site.

In Wielki Mędromierz near Tuchola is a “Honey Village,” a project undertaken jointly by 10 apiary owners in a bid to encourage young people to keep up beekeeping traditions. Visitors to the village can try and buy a variety of healthy bee products. The village conducts handicraft workshops during which guests can learn to make beeswax candles (a choice of 30 types), weave wicker, embroider and paint on glass. Educational activities include classes for young beekeepers.

Nature lovers should check out the “Forest Life” village, picturesquely located by Lake Mukrz in Lniano district in the Wda River Scenic Park. Activities in the village include classes in making brooms and jewelry from natural materials. Bordering a nature reserve called Cisy Staropolskie (Old Polish Yew Trees), the village is surrounded by forests and three lakes.

In the heart of the Tuchola Forest is the charming village of Jabłonka, where ancient varieties of apple and pear trees still grow in private orchards. This local heritage has prompted the local Association for the Development and Promotion of Jabłonka to establish a theme village called Jabłkowa Kraina (Land of Apples.) Every year, Jabłonka holds an Apple Tree Festival, during which visitors can try apple-based specialties such as apple pie, apple wine and puffy pancakes with apples.

Visitors to Wioska Chlebowa (Bread Village) in Jania Góra, ¦wiekatowo district, can learn how bread is made. Locals demonstrate traditional threshing methods, show how bread dough is prepared according to traditional recipes and then everybody joins forces to bake bread in an oven. During handicraft workshops, visitors can make Bread Village souvenirs for themselves. In September, a Bread Festival is held in the village with attractions such as an exhibition of traditional farming machines and household equipment, contests and games for children and a competition to select the most delicious leavened or yeast cake baked by housewives from the counties of ¦wiecie and Tuchola.

Traditional cuisine

In the past, the traditional cuisine of the Kujawy region heavily relied on locally harvested ingredients. Many dishes were based on flour and groats, especially barley and millet groats. Most bread varieties were baked from wholemeal rye flour, whereas wheat bread was baked for holidays and family celebrations. Beverages which the locals drank on a daily basis included a drink reminiscent of coffee but made from roasted barley and chicory.

One of the best-known local specialties in Kujawy is żurek sour soup, made with leavened wholemeal rye flour. Many traditional and still popular dishes contain cabbage and sauerkraut, sometimes with peas and beans. Cabbage with peas is a staple dish served in Kujawy on Christmas Eve. Sauerkraut juice, in turn, is a popular ingredient used to sour dishes and make different kinds of soup.

Fifty-two food products from Kujawy-Pomerania province have been officially listed as traditional products by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. One of them is biała (white) pork sausage made from the złotnicka pstra breed of pigs bred at organic farms.

The Agriculture Ministry’s list also features bread from Stolno, made from wheat and rye flour. The bread owes its distinctive flavor to caraway, poppy and sunflower seeds added to the dough.

Popular dishes in Kujawy include czarnina soup, one of Poland’s oldest soups. The Kujawy variation is made from duck or goose offal boiled with vegetables and dried fruit and contains duck blood mixed with flour and vinegar. It is also spiced up with marjoram.

Many gourmets relish the plum jam that has been made for hundreds of years in regions located along the Vistula River. This kind of fruit preserve became particularly popular after purple plum farming spread in the area. The plums were traditionally fried in copper cauldrons and stirred with large wooden ladles.

One famous delicacy, known in Poland for hundreds of years, is the półgęsek goose dish. Served as a delicious starter in the past, it used to be popular across Europe. Półgęsek is prepared from goose fillets with skin that are first marinated and then smoked.

Many local specialties and traditional dishes are available at Kujawy-Pomerania’s rural tourism farms, where such dishes are often made on site.
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