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Kurpie, that is about respect for old customs

Traditional Kurpie palms Traditional Kurpie palms

Ostrołęka – Kadzidło – Łyse – Czarnia – Myszyniec

Located in the extreme northeast part of the voivodeship the Ostrołęka county is still alive with the culture of Kurpie. Its name dates back to the eighteenth century, when the "people of the forest" came to be known as Kurp due to the name of their clogs woven from bast fiber. The area is famous for its large number of forests. The region is crossed by many rivers, with the Narew river as the main one in this part of the country. Ever since the beginning of the state this area had been owned by the dukes of Mazovia, and then by Polish kings.

The culture of Kurpie developed for economic reasons. Due to the poor quality of soil the population was unable to make a living out of agriculture. Numerous crafts and rural crafts became the additional sources of income. Carpentry, woodwork, basketwork, weaving, and amber works developed in the Kurpie region. Products associated with the rituals are produced in this area until today. Cutouts, bouquets adorning houses, Christmas toys, Easter eggs and Easter palms are the commonly known products of from the area.

Some of the folk customs are presented in individual municipalities at folk events. The town of Czarnia is a place worth visiting on the first Sunday of June. The place features a "Let's go hunting" show, demonstrating old hunting customs. A "Kurpie Wedding" takes place in Kadzidło on every third Sunday of June. It is the most famous spectacle, taking place throughout the village. Tourists become authentic wedding guests. In turn, in September during the Kadzidlańska Sunday a presentation of old farm activities, a review of singing and dance groups, and a folk art fair are held. A colorful procession of palms, taking place around a wooden church, is held in the village of Łyse on Palm Sunday. A competition for the most beautiful and the highest palm is held there every year. In turn, honey collecting is the feature event at a clearing in Zawodzie, near Myszyniec, taking place on the last Sunday of August. It refers to the end of the beekeeping season.
Our tour of the Kurpie region begins in Ostrołęka. It is located about 100 km from Warsaw. One can get here by route no. 61, leading towards Augustów. The best time to be here is late May, as this is when the staging of a battle that took place in Ostrołeka on 26 May 1831 is performed. The staging involves troops of historical and uniformed groups. One can watch scenes from the life of a soldier's camp: campfire cooking and or casting lead bullets. Those interested in participating in the battle also come from abroad. The battle takes place according to a specific scenario.
The most precious monument in the town is a Baroque style church and the former Bernardine monastery erected in the seventeenth century. It features a courtyard surrounded by cloisters. What one can admire inside are the Baroque main altar with classicistic elements, eight side altars and a polychromy from the eighteenth century depicting the miracles and scenes from the life of the patron of the church - St. Anthony of Padua. The other church is closer to the river, it was founded in 1399 by Prince Janusz I the Elder.  It assumed its present baroque appearance in the eighteenth century. Gothic elements are preserved only in the chancel.
It is nice to take a walk down Bartosz Głowacki street, which now serves as the city promenade. It can take you to General Józef Bem square. The statue of the General stands at its center. It was during the aforementioned battle of Ostrołęka, the largest one of the November Uprising, that the general prevented the total defeat of the army with the help of the cavalry charge, which he was in command. The interesting element in the square is a classicistic town hall. Located on the other side is the Museum of Kurpie, which is worth visiting for it devotes one chamber to the Kurpie culture. It includes elements of clothing, mainly from the White Wilderness. One can learn that nowadays the original costumes are not worn any more as they used to be very heavy. The chamber also features clay pots and cutouts typical of the region.
The next room is where we can admire paintings. Then we can visit the office of Wiktor Gomulicki, a writer born in Ostrołęka, which features the writer's desk, a few letters and books. Another room presents a model of the battle of Ostrołęka.
The interior of a traditional Kurpie cottage, an open-air museum in KadzidłoAs we leave the city we move on to the village of kadzidło.. One can get here by route no. 53, leading towards Szczytno. As we exit Ostrołęka we come across Zagroda Kurpiowska open-air museum. The Museum presents a cottage, a barn with a coach house, a woodshed and a granary. The buildings are equipped with everyday objects. The wooden house is a typical Kurpie house, made of solid logs in the nineteenth century. We get inside through a hall with a clay floor and farm utensils: a trough for pigs,  a honey centrifuge, a washboard. A large chamber features a corner with holy images. Next to the wall is a bench, a painted chest and a bed; plates and cups hang on the wall, yet the most surprising object is a wooden baby walker. A kitchen and a bread oven are also located in the large chamber. A loom is located in the bower, once inhabited by the elderly. A kitchen with a hearth is also located in the small chamber. The interior of the cottage is decorated with cutouts and paper flowers. The cottage is thatched; one should also pay attention to the dripstones, so typical of the Kurpie building style. The granary is equipped with farming and agricultural tools and utensils to store different products. When visiting the barn one can see both vehicles once used in Kurpie, as well as the agricultural machinery and equipment. The enclosure also features a well with a crane and log hives.  A cabin, fulfilling administrative tasks, and a round manage right next to it are located at the entrance. The open-air museum organizes workshops and museum lessons with folk artists and bonfire events with   traditional Kurpie food served.
After leaving the museum it is a must to go to the center of the village and see the neo-Baroque church. An attraction of the church are stoups made from real, large Adriatic shells.
Now we continue our tour to the town of Czarnia. We follow route no. 53 to Myszyniec, and then route no. 614, where we exit to Czarnia. It boasts a nature reserve of the same name. In order to get there one should, once near the church, follow the green signs. First, the road leads through fields, then we get to a magnificent lodge, and finally enter the forest. The reserve protects a spruce-pine forest. Its peculiarity are Bartne pines, found only here.  
As we leave Czarnia heading east, we go through the village of Brzozowy Kąt and come across a wooden sculpture from the early twentieth century depicting St. Jan Nepomucen located by the road. Our destination is Myszyniec, a town situated on the Rozoga river, a commercial and cultural center of the Kurpie region. The settlement dates back to the beginning of the seventeenth century; it was established as a Jesuit missionary settlement at the place connecting Mazovia with Prussia. The only trace of the Jesuits is a stone gate-belfry from the second half of the eighteenth century, although it is partly of a late Gothic style. It is located next to a neo-Gothic church dating from the early twentieth century. What draws attention inside are two altars from the beginning of the eighteenth century and Baroque sculptures. Located at the entrance are two iron collars, which were used for the public punishment of criminals, although it was apparently mainly women who were locked there for breaching the rules of morality at the time.
Another village, which is well worth seeing, is Łyse. One can get here from Myszyniec by route no. 645, leading to Nowogród and Łomża. Łyse is famous throughout Poland for the aforementioned Easter palm trees. The town already existed in the eighteenth century. An important event was the discovery of amber deposits in 1808, which had been mined for many years. Note the preserved traditional wooden cottages, traditionally set with their sides facing the road. Another interesting object is a wooden church (from 1882) in the style of Kurpie. It is the work of local masters. It was decorated with folk wall paintings. An attraction by the Rudna - Łyse road is a century-old pillar chapel with a statue of St. Florian.

We return to Warsaw through Myszyniec and Ostrołęka.

Practical information:

Warszawa – Ostrołęka – Kadzidło – Myszyniec – Czarnia – Łyse: 160 km. The entire journey is 320 km long.
Visiting Ostrołęka – 2 hours, Museum – 1 hour, Museum in Kadzidło – 1 hour, Czarnia, a walk – 3 hours, Myszyniec – 1 hour, Łyse – 1 hour.


Energetyk Hotel, Ostrołęka, ul. I Armii WP 30, phone (29) 769 10 99, 760 49 74

Inter Hotel, Ostrołęka, ul. Partyzantów 1, phone (29) 769 10 12,

Relaks Hotel, Ostrołęka, ul. Szpitalna 15, phone (29) 760 44 40

MOSiR Hotel, Ostrołęka, ul. Witosa 1, phone (29) 760 68 89, 769 68 68, 760 69 45

Borowik Inn, Łodziska 1 (droga 53), phone (29) 760 52 31

'Deptuła' guest rooms, at the gas station, Kadzidło, ul. Trasa Mazurska 56, phone (29) 761 81 86 ext. 23

Agritourism farms:


'Marco Polo' Italian restaurant, Ostrołęka, ul. Prądzyńskiego 4, phone (29) 764 65 33,

Zabytkowa restaurant, Ostrołęka, ul. Głowackiego 42, phone (29) 764 49 28,

'Ostoja' Kurpie Tavern, Ostrołęka, ul. Stacha Konwy 3, phone (29) 760 26 27,

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