Podlasie, kraina otwartych okiennic / The Land of open shutters

"Travelling across Podlasie region means discovering [a different] side of Poland: diverse in cultures and landscapes.

On the north bank of the Narew river, west of the Narew town, villages inhabited by Orthodox Belarusians have been preserved. Dense, wooden buildings, numerous Orthodox churches, votive crosses and shrines, and above all, rich wood carved ornamentation are the most characteristic sights of this part of Podlasie landscape, which is commonly known as the ‘Land of open shutters.’

It is the easiest to start your exploration of this region from Ryboły following the road in the direction of Kaniuki, through Ciełuszki and Puchły, to Trześcianka. The return route leads through Soce, Dawidowicze, Pawły back to Ryboły. This loop is around 30 kilometres long, which makes it a perfect distance for a hike, or a biking trip. The very first villagers you meet speak a dialect mix of Belarusian, Ukrainian and Polish language. It is a landscape of wooden cottages, carved shutters, extensive meadows behind the villages, river, peace and quiet – the essence of Podlasie.

The majority of old cottages with typical, wood carved shutters can be found in Kaniuki, the most beautiful Orthodox church in Puchły, while the best-preserved wooden house in Soce. Only the villages of Soce and Kaniuki have preserved the custom of ceremonial walking around the village on the day of the Prophet Elias celebration. Following a traditional mass at the Orthodox church, a procession with church banners, a cross and an icon of the Saint goes from house to house. The villagers place tables with bread, salt and a note, or ‘zapiska,’ a piece of paper with a request to pray for the family’s health, in front of gates. Orthodox priest known as ‘Batiushka,’ sprinkles holy water on the house and prays for the health of the household members as enumerated on ‘zapiska.’”

Fot. Mariusz Cieszewski

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