19th-century Polish countryside in art (warning: picture-heavy)

What’s a better inlook inside the past world than the art? Today I want to take you back to the 19th-century Polish countryside (mostly the 2nd half of that century) and therefore I prepared a short selection of old Polish pantings created at that time. They are showing a range of scenes: the rural people at work and during their free time, their houses and travels, the agriculture, the inns, taverns or road houses, the beautiful nature. This gallery of paintings comes without my further description: you can just scroll down and look at the world the artists immortalized in that form. It can be amazingly inspirational to have such an inlook into the past, and many of the artworks provide a great range of references: the countryside’s daily fashion, the rural architecture against the landscape, the means of transport, the ways of interactions, activities and plays, and many other details.

The paintings are sorted only by the names of the artists, and you will see various artworks painted from around the mid- to the late 19th century so pay a closer attention to the captions under each picture for more details. Enjoy!

[pictures after the cut]

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Rękawka, a Slavic spring festival in Kraków

Rękawka festival in Kraków, Poland. Photo © Ilja Van de Pavert

One of the events of the most mysterious roots held in the city of Kraków (Cracow) in Poland is a festival called Rękawka (pronounced ren-kav-kah), organized on the first Tuesday after Easter on the famous Krakus Mound, one of the 5 historical man-made mounds that you can see nowadays in Kraków.

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Wisent (European wood bison) and aurochs (extinct wild ox)

There are two species related to modern cattle that hold a significant importance in Poland. One of them is wisent (Polish: żubr), commonly called an ‘European bison’, which you can see nowadays in the wild in many sites not only in Poland but also in other European countries where it was reintroduced. Second is aurochs (Polish: tur) – an extinct species of European wild ox, ancestral to domesticated cattle.

Below you can read a few basic informations about them and about their relations to Polish geography, history and culture.

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Mysterious trail of castles in the Polish Jurassic Highland

Region of Polish Jurassic Highland
Typical limestone formations in the region of Polish Jura. Photos © Marek Grausz.

The geographical region located between the cities of Kraków and Częstochowa in southern Poland (see the map below) is called the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland or Polish Jura (short for Polish Jurassic Highland). It is famous for a rich ecosystem, and its untouched parts are protected as nature reserves. Here you can see landscapes with white limestone rock formations that were formed milions of years ago in the Jurassic period of Mesozoic era, surrounded by patches of flat meadows and hilly areas, with wild forests preserving a great variety of protected species and plants. Various fossils from the Jurassic period were found here, as well as early human settlements from around 12,000 years ago in many of the region’s attractive cave formations full of flint rocks.

map-of-poland-with-polish-jura

Nowadays the region is a popular destination for nature lovers, and also for castle lovers interested in early Polish history – the region houses over 20 of ancient Polish defensive castles that were protecting Kraków’s northwestern borders at the beginning of the previous millenium.

The castles are connected as a so-called ‘Trail of the Eagle’s Nests‘ (in Polish: Szlak Orlich Gniazd). Nest of an eagle is quite a common symbol from Polish mythology. It is referencing one of the oldest of Polish legends which tells a story about Lech (semi-legendary founder of the early tribe of Polans from around 6th century AD) who chose a location for the tribe’s first capital city after he saw a beautiful sight of a magnificent white eagle flying up from its nest, contrasted with red evening sky (read more about the legend here). In general, an ‘Eagle’s Nest’ is a symbol of the oldest centers of the early Polish state – of the medieval Piast dynasty who started using the image of the white eagle as the Polish coats of arms.

Most of the castles located on the Trail of the Eagle’s Nests are in preserved ruins nowadays. They were destroyed in the past centuries during the many wars Poland went through or simply abandoned, no longer needed as fortresses. Majority of them was built in 14th century during the reign of the king Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir III the Great), but many local tales stress out that the castles were erected over much older defensive structures of the early Polish state (or even of the early proto-Polish Slavic tribe of Vistulans). Each castle on the Trail has its own history and legends, making the whole Trail a unique and mysterious route to discover.

In this article you can read about a few interesting castles to see on the Trail:

  1. Pieskowa Skała – with a legend about a cruel alchemist
  2. Ojców – with a legend about lovers saved by a good king
  3. Ogrodzieniec – with a legend about a ghost of a black dog
  4. Bobolice – with a legend about twin brothers and a treasure protected by a witch

Continue reading “Mysterious trail of castles in the Polish Jurassic Highland”