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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 31, 2015
Rural Tourism
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Nature, History and Tradition in Silesia
March 31, 2015   
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Despite its reputation as a heavily industrial region, Silesia province in southern Poland has a wide variety of tourist attractions, with rural tourism playing an important role.

Many Poles think of Silesia province as a land of coal mines and steel mills. However, the province extends far beyond the densely populated areas around the region’s principal cities of Katowice and Częstochowa. Silesia also offers natural beauty, plenty of historic sites and picturesque recreational areas, especially in the Cracow-Częstochowa Upland and the mountain ranges of Beskid ¦l±ski and Beskid Żywiecki, where the popular ski resorts of Wisła, Szczyrk and Ustroń draw thousands of tourists.

Present-day Silesia province straddles three historical regions: Upper Silesia, Małopolska and the Łęczyca-Sieradz region. Over 4,000 places and buildings in Silesia province are officially listed as historic sites and include fortified towns, remnants of prehistoric settlements and burial grounds and mounds. The most valuable sites include a Lusatian burial ground in the Raków district of Częstochowa and an archeological reserve in Sławków with the ruins of a castle that belonged to the bishops of Cracow. Castle ruins are also located along Szlak Orlich Gniazd (Trail of the Eagle Nests) that passes through the villages of Olsztyn near Częstochowa, Ogrodzieniec, Mirów and Bobolice. There are also several unique examples of Romanesque architecture, including the St. James the Apostle Parish Church in Giebło, Ogrodzieniec district.

Visitors to Silesia province can also see rare examples of vintage technology and industry. Tourist attractions of this kind include the Królowa Luiza (Queen Louise) open-air museum and the Brewing Museum in Tychy.

The distinctive culture of Silesia is a result of the region’s location between areas inhabited by Germans, Poles and Moravians. Tradition and folk customs live on in Silesia, as do the local Silesian and highlander dialects. Silesia has a distinctive regional cuisine, folk outfits and traditional arts and crafts.

Nature, history and tradition

According to An Analysis of the Potential of Rural Tourism Products in Poland and Their Competitiveness on 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, Silesia is among the Polish provinces that have the most diversified tourist attractions. It has the right conditions for tourism in many forms to develop, including tourism in rural areas. In Silesia, this segment of the tourism market plays a supplementary role to the recreational, urban, cultural, industrial and business tourism that prevail in the area, in addition to a number of health resorts. The 2004-2013 Tourism Development Strategy for Silesia Province lists rural tourism among Silesia’s priority products. Under the strategy, rural tourism should primarily be promoted in the mountain ranges of Beskid ¦l±ski, Beskid Mały and Beskid Żywiecki, the Cracow-Częstochowa Upland, the Rybnik area and the forests near the towns of Lubliniec, Pszczyna and Będzin. Farmers offering accommodation for tourists should encourage their guests to join in farm work, pursue physical activity and see the local sights, which includes tours of places of cultural interests. Hunting and angling are also recommended.

Greatest hits

Silesia province is home to many farms with accommodation for tourists and inventive products and services. The best of these have been put on a list of “the greatest hits of rural tourism” compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency.

One such place is Folwark Zrębice (Zrębice Farm) in the village of Zrębice Pierwsze. The farm was established to promote Silesia and local attractions in addition to traditional meat processing methods. Visitors to the farm will find Poland’s first School of Homemade Meats, established to preserve vintage recipes and meat processing techniques. With projects such as a “Rural Weekend with Homemade Meats,” the school works to encourage people to make sausages and hams at home.

Folwark Zrębice organizes a range of other events and tours for its guests. One tour takes tourists to Betlejemowo, which is the name of an elaborate nativity scene built by Jan Wiewiór. Housed in a cottage of wood and stone, Betlejemowo is famous across Poland and is one of very few animated nativity scenes in Europe. Depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, it comprises over 800 figurines made of linden wood, including 300 moving objects. Part of the display is a scale model of Olsztyn castle.

Visitors to Folwark Zrębice can also explore a new St. Giles Trail, which takes them to a larch wood church, a highlight on Silesia’s Wooden Architecture Route.

One other tourism-oriented farm is Chlebowa Chata (Bread Cottage) in the village of Górki Małe, perched in the picturesque valley of the Brennica River in the Beskidy Mountains. The farm specializes in traditional cooking methods, including baking bread and making cheese. The farm was established to show tourists what life looked like in Polish villages a century ago, and to this end, the farm’s wooden cottage has been furnished with vintage items such as 90-year-old wooden rural furniture and traditional household appliances. There is a bread oven that the hosts use to bake leavened rye bread and pancakes. Exhibited in the cottage are machines used to process grain and other equipment that peasants used to make butter and cottage cheese and to take honey out of beehives. Visitors can do all of that themselves as well as try their hand at other farm chores, such as threshing, grinding grain and sifting flour. In front of the cottage are several beehives and the farm also holds food-making demonstrations and workshops.

Traditional cuisine and dishes

Even though most Poles associate Silesia with meat dishes, it has a highly diversified cuisine. The most popular two-course meal in Silesia consists of chicken broth with noodles (nudelzupa) and rolada (meat roll), served with kluski ¶l±skie (Silesian potato dumplings), and a red cabbage salad. Rolada is a rolled slice of meat, usually beef, with one of a variety of stuffing. The stuffing ingredients differ from region to region, but traditional recipes have remained unchanged for centuries. Usually served to accompany meat, kluski ¶l±skie are a staple side dish in Silesia, but they are also popular across Poland. Potatoes for these dumplings are first boiled and then grated and mixed with other ingredients. Traditionally, the dumplings should be served in odd numbers with a thick, dark gravy poured over them. Red cabbage salad is the most popular salad in Silesia, prepared with grated apples. Traditional Silesian families like to eat it especially on Sundays and red cabbage holds a special place in the local culinary culture. The salad goes particularly well with meats, including beef roll and roast goose.

Silesian cuisine offers a variety of soups based on traditional recipes. In the past, people would economize by grinding down food and leftovers to prepare new dishes, including soups. Such was the origin of the region’s staple soup, wodzionka, made from shredded bread and large amounts of animal fat boiled in water. Nutritious and tasty, this soup is easy to prepare from readily available ingredients.

Also highly popular in Silesia are local varieties of Polish żur sour soup made of flour. Żur is traditionally prepared from leavened rye flour and white sausage, sometimes replaced by different smoked meats. Żur is best with sausage, smoked bacon and spare ribs. Some like to also add dried mushrooms to it, but no kind of żur is complete without marjoram. While żur and meat seem inseparable, there is, in fact, a version prepared from vegetable stock, potatoes and dried mushrooms. Another variety is served mainly during holidays and celebrations and, in addition to meat, it contains carrots and sour cream. Some also serve żur with boiled eggs cut into pieces.

Silesians also like pea soup, bean soup with dried fruits and gryzek, which is a thick soup with milk and wholemeal wheat flour.

Traditionally a mining region, Silesia embraced meat dishes and cold meats as a rich source of protein for hard-working miners. One of the most popular products is krupniok, a type of sausage that in addition to animal blood and groats is made from offal. Simple, cheap and tasty, it rapidly became popular across the Upper Silesia region. Another popular meat dish is karminadle made from minced pork or pork and beef, bread rolls, eggs and, optionally, boiled vegetables and mushrooms. In some homes, karminadle also contains minced herring and in the past, was sometimes made from rabbit meat. Although usually served hot, sliced karminadle are also eaten cold in sandwiches.

Fried cheese with caraway, popular across Poland, also hails from Silesia.
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