Stoves, barns, doghouses, homes, wells, chicken coops, bridge, and on and on. If it’s in the small Polish village of Zalipie, there are probably some flowers painted on it.
Known lovingly as “The Painted Village,” nearly every bare surface in the village, be it stone or wood has been decorated with intricate floral patterns in a tradition that dates back almost a hundred years. While there is little concrete evidence to support the story, the belief is that the habit of painting flowers on the walls began in the days when soot and smoke issued from everyone’s tiny wood-burning stoves. As the black marks from the soot appeared on the interior and exterior walls of the homes in Zalipie, the women would simply cover them with painted flowers. In the beginning they would even make their own brushes out of cow hair and make paint out of cooking fat and dye.
By the time of the turn of the century, the old world stoves were replaced with chimneys and cleaner modern ventilation, eliminating the practical need for the tradition, but instead of dying out, the practice just became more elaborate. By this time, the decorative tradition was a part of the Zalipie identity and with the advent of better paints and more varied colors, the rustic floral patterns expanded to intricately weaving vine illustrations accented by vibrant flowers in every color of the rainbow. The paintings also began to spread from the walls of personal homes out onto nearly every blank surface, like graffiti from a street crew of grandmas.
The secluded is as vibrant and quaint as ever, although one house which was particularly painted upon has been turned into a museum about the village.