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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » September 30, 2015
Polska... tastes good!
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Rural Tourism in Mazowia
September 30, 2015   
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Mazovia province in central Poland has the kind of picturesque landscapes and natural environment that are perfect for rural tourism to flourish.

Straddling the middle section of the Vistula river, the historical region of Mazovia is one of the oldest in Poland. It was incorporated into the kingdom of the Piasts, the first dynasty to rule Poland, at the end of the 10th century. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, Mazovia was frequently invaded by Prussians, Lithuanians and other tribes and then divided up by local noblemen. Eventually, Mazovia became part of the Polish Kingdom in 1526. With a city charter dating back to 1237, Płock in eastern Mazovia is the oldest city in the region.

Scenic landscapes and natural beauty are some of the main attractions of Mazovia. It is home to one of Poland’s largest national parks, the Kampinos National Park. It also has several scenic parks, including the Nadbużański (Bug River), Mazovia, Brudzeń, Chojnów and Kozienice parks. The vast woodlands in the northeastern part of Mazovia are sometimes referred to as “the green lungs of Poland.” Many valuable natural sites are also located along the Vistula River between Płock and the town of Wyszogród northwest of Warsaw. This stretch of the river has many islands where nature reserves have been established to protect rare bird species.

One of the region’s most popular vacation and weekend destinations is Lake Zegrzyńskie located 20 kilometers north of Warsaw. Its shores are dotted with popular bathing sites in the towns of Nieporęt, Rynia, Zegrze and Serock. While Lake Zegrzyńskie is a manmade reservoir, there are also natural lakes in the slightly hilly area around the town of Gostynin, Lake Łąckie with the Łąck bathing site and Lake Zdworskie with bathing sites in Koszelówka and Zdwórz. Mazovia residents also enjoy trips to the valleys of the Świder, Wkra, Liwiec and Pilica rivers. Mazovia also boasts a health resort, Konstancin-Jeziorna, just to the south of Warsaw, that offers treatment for rheumatic diseases.

Natural beauty aside, Mazovia has a wealth of remarkable cultural heritage sites such as historic churches and secular buildings, indoor and outdoor museums and towns with historic street layouts. The Old Town in Warsaw, rebuilt after World War II, is the only reconstructed quarter in Europe to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Warsaw’s other valuable historic sites include the park and palace complexes of Wilanów and the Royal Łazienki Park. In Płock, a site called Wzgórze Tumskie (Cathedral Hill) is home to a Renaissance cathedral and the remains of an old castle.

Greatest hits of rural tourism

Mazovia province has many good rural tourism farms with inventive tourism products. Two of these have been put on the Greatest Hits of Rural Tourism list compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency and commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

One is the Pod Kogutem (“Rooster’s”) education and health center in Krępa near the Chojnów Scenic Park. Pod Kogutem comprises four hectares of forest with recreational facilities for people who like to relax in quiet and peaceful surroundings close to nature. This rural tourism farm is particularly appealing to families with children, who can enjoy the local mini-zoo with pheasants, peacocks, pigeons, ostriches, geese, turkeys, guineafowl, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, a pony and a donkey.

The other rural highlight of Mazovia is the Mazowieckie Sioło “Julianówka” (Julianówka Mazovian Hamlet) farm in Julianów, 50 kilometers east of Warsaw. Located amid the wild forests and meadows of the Mińsk Mazowiecki Landscape Protection Area, this farm is a perfect destination for kids, parents, adolescents and adults. Visitors are welcome to use facilities ideal for holding open-air parties. The local attractions include accommodation where visitors sleep on haystacks in a barn, pony rides, archery and air gun shooting ranges and wood chopping and sawing contests.

Traditional cuisine and regional dishes

Since Mazovia was always a heavily forested region, the locals frequently ate game, honey, mushrooms and blueberries. Those living in villages mainly ate dishes made from flour, groats, peas, potatoes, beetroot and cabbage. Until the mid-20th century, the local cuisine could be described as modest and somewhat monotonous with a prevalence of bread, pancakes, soups, dumplings and a variety of other dishes made from flour, peas and vegetables thickened with flour. The food was usually washed down with water, milk and the low-alcohol juniper beer that was highly popular across Mazovia. Stronger alcoholic beverages, when available, included barley beer, rye vodka, mead and the krupnik variety of vodka with spices and honey.

The cuisine of Mazovia is influenced by such Polish regions as Kurpie and Kujawy on the one hand and by international cuisine on the other, in Warsaw especially. In time, Mazovian food came to be recognized as traditional Polish cuisine with such distinctively Polish dishes as czernina soup of duck or goose blood; boiled groats; roast duck stuffed with offal, parsnip and bread; forest mushroom soup; and żur sour soup. Other staple dishes from Mazovia include soup made from Yellow Knight mushrooms in the Kurpie region; Kurpie bread with potatoes, served with fried onions and eggs; roast goose with apples or red cabbage; and chicken stuffed with offal, parsnip, bread and eggs. The krupnik kurpiowski variety of spicy, honey-based vodka is considered a Mazovia specialty as well, as are liver larded with fatback.

Mazovia boasts a number of traditional food products, some of which have been officially recognized as regional products by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. These include the sójka mazowiecka calzone-style pie stuffed with cabbage and millet groats; mead and pork sirloin from Kurpie; beer from Ciechanów; and eggs and noodles from Radziwiłłów.

The village of Sobienie Jeziory is famous for a highly popular paté made from pork, beef and poultry. Apart from the three kinds of meat, the product owes its distinctive flavor to a special spice blend. Popular meats from Mazovia also include traditional pork sausage from the town of Szydłowiec. The pork comes from naturally bred pigs and the sausage tastes just the way it did years ago thanks to a special mix of spices and a smoking process involving alder wood.
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