The painted flower village of Zalipie, near Krakow in Poland

Graffiti, Grandma Style: The Painted Village of Zalipie

Graffiti, Grandma Style: The Painted Village of Zalipie

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Nov. 24 2014 1:18 PM

The Painted Polish Village of Zalipie Bursts With Blooms

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A room at the home of Felicja Curyłowa, Zalipie’s most prominent floral artist.

Photo:Henryk Żychowski/Creative Commons

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Zalipie, a small Polish village east of Kraków, is forever in bloom. The walls of its wooden homes, both interior and exterior, are decorated from floor to ceiling with painted flowers. The village well is covered with carefully colored blossoms. At St. Joseph’s church, a sculpture of Jesus on the cross is surrounded by sprays of flowers painted on the wall. Floral murals curl their way around ovens, roofs, dog houses, and chicken coops. 

The Zalipie tradition of painting flowers on every available surface likely began during the late 19th century as a way of dealing with the soot spewed into the air from wood-burning stoves. To hide stubborn spots on the blackened walls, the women of Zalipie took to painting over them, first with a lime whitewash and then with colored flowers. By the time chimneys and modern ovens replaced the soot-spewing stoves, floral murals had become a hallmark of the village.

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During the 20th century, the standout artist among many painters was Felicja Curyłowa, who went all-out in the floral decoration stakes. In addition to painting murals all over the walls and ceilings, Curyłowa decorated her home with hanging bouquets made of crepe paper and painted blooms on her plates and kettles. After she died in 1974, Curyłowa’s flower-filled home was kept intact and opened to the public as a museum.

Zalipie’s flower-painting practice continues to this day. Every spring, the village holds a competition for the best painted cottage.

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Another room in Felicja Curyłowa's home.

Photo:Henryk Żychowski/Creative Commons

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Felicja Curyłowa's kitchen.

Photo: Andrzej O/Creative Commons

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Jesus surrounded by flowers at St. Joseph's Church in Zalipie.

Photo: Luxetowiec/Creative Commons

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Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.