Discovering untouched Podkarpackie

By | Category: Travel destinations
The market square in the capital - Rzeszow

The market square in the capital – Rzeszow

The South Eastern part of Poland bordering with Slovakia and the Ukraine known as Subcarpathia is largely undiscovered by tourists outside the country.

A car is a necessity but fortunately petrol, accommodation, and food is a lot cheaper than in the UK. The Podkarpackie administrative region of Poland includes the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and is great place to explore for those who love cycling, walking and culture. Hunting is also allowed at certain times of the year. The regional food is varied, interesting, and sadly, unless you are careful, heart attack material.

Rzeszow, a university town is the largest city in the area and also the capital of the region. Every town I visited has a market square and, in Rzeszow, the square has a permanent stage that is used for concerts. Around the square, open air cafes are filled with young people. The Poles eat early, 6pm is not an unusual time for dinner. An area behind the square is marked by an impressive sculpture, The Transgression, by Josef Szajna, which commemorates the site of a Jewish ghetto.

The Transgression sculpture

The Transgression sculpture

Thousands of Jewish people lost their lives during the Second World War, and at Markowa a new museum has been built to commemorate Polish People that Saved Jews. The museum square has a monument to the Holocaust victims. Inside is memorabilia from the Ulma family who hid Jewish people. Sadly, they were all discovered by the Nazi party who then killed everyone.

Every town or village I visited has a castle. At Lancut their 17th century castle has been preserved with a lot of the furnishings from the latter years intact. Although no longer lived in, it feels as if it is. Visitors have to cover their shoes to protect the parquet flooring which has different variations of wooden design in each room. The extensive library, filled with leather bound books, is particularly impressive. Some castles have hotels attached but be wary, they are not always as grand as they sound.

Created by a dam in the 1960s Lake Solina covers 22 km square meters. The lake is used for recreational purposes including swimming, kayaking, and boat trips. Fly- fishing is allowed with a permit. Around the lake, the villages of Solina & Polanczyk hire out boats. Anyone wanting to sail needs to produce documentation stating that they are capable of handling a boat. Surrounded by forests, it is a great area for camping, although this is prohibited near the water’s edge. Nearby is a smaller Lake Myczkowce, created by another dam that is less commercialized. The water however is colder for anyone wishing to swim, and the lake is not big enough for sailing.

 painting by Jdzislaw Beksinski known as IN 2002. His paintings have no names

painting by Jdzislaw Beksinski known as IN 2002. His paintings have no names

At Solina we ate on the terrace of the Jedrulowa Chata Inn situated on a hill with panoramic views. It is a biker’s haunt with many more motorbikes than cars. I chose well, picking a regional dish reminiscent of my mother’s cooking, cabbage stuffed with mincemeat and rice in a spicy tomato sauce which cost 17 zlotys, just over £3. From Solina, it is possible to walk along the top of the dam. There are lovely views but really no different to those I had from a boat trip. I did notice, however, how clear the water was as I could see both trout and carp swimming around presumably in the hope of catching tit bits thrown by visitors!

A new type of bicycle that seats four people, two cycling and two sitting behind travels along an old disused railway line. Entry is via a disused railway station. Along the track, I cycled the two kilometers needed to reach the brewery of URSA Maior. The brewery specialises in unpasteurised beers and has a large selection. Joining a tour, I was able to sample some as it finished with a beer tasting. Their most popular is light pale ale with 3.6% alcohol content although there is one, Russian Imperial Stout with 9%.

the open air Folk Museum in

the open air Folk Museum in Sanok

In Sanok, the building on the site of where the castle stood has been rebuilt as an art gallery, devoted to the renowned Polish artist Jdzislaw Beksinski who was born in Samok and left his collection to the city. In the basement a military exhibition includes a German bunker along with items recovered from the Second World War. There is also an exhibition of Polish artists who lived in France together with paintings donated by them that includes a Picasso and Kandinsky. Here too are 600 icons from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, being the largest collection in the country.

Also at Sanok is the open-air Museum of Folk Architecture. (The website is only in Polish.) More than 150 buildings have been reconstructed including a Galician Market Square from the turn of the 19th century. I was able to go into buildings that were representative of how they would have looked. It was interesting to see that the postmaster in that period, not only wore an official looking uniform but had an opulent house. More so, for example, than the doctor who also doubled as the local vet! My tour took two and a half hours but our guide said that visitors had the option to stay and see a lot more.

Blizne - All Saints Church

Blizne – All Saints Church

Wooden architecture is one of the treasures of the region and the All Saints Church at Blizne is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First mentioned in 1470, it is one of the most valuable examples of sacral wooden architecture in Poland. The interior of the church contains priceless furnishings as well as a unique cycle of wall paintings, which, in the olden days, was used to depict biblical messages for illiterate villagers.

Borsht, a beetroot soup served both hot and cold is a local specialty as is perogi, three-cornered dumplings that have a variety of fillings. Lard spread on bread is a popular starter as are soups made with sausage and pork with a film of grease on the top. Pork is frequently on the menu, roasted in chunks that have been braised to make the meat tender, and which I found delicious. Mainly I think because the cuts of meat are different to those in the UK.


Borscht served in scooped out kohlrabi

English isn’t widely spoken and although the majority of places have English-speaking guides, everywhere stressed the importance of booking them in advance. Hiring a car to get around is a must but even better is to hire an English-speaking guide    – mine was Pawel Pasztyla –  with a car – someone who, once you have decided on your itinerary, can book everything in advance.

Poland, like us, is not in the Euro-zone, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you can use euros.

Getting there: Ryanair is the only airline that provides direct services to Rzeszow. It flies from Bristol, Dublin, East Midlands, Luton, Manchester and Stansted. I flew from Stansted using the Stansted Express but Stansted is also linked to Birmingham by Cross Country and Cambridge by Abellio Greater Anglia. Once in Rzesow, you can travel around Podkarpackie by train, bus or bicycle but it is recommended to hire a car as the easiest way to get around. The roads are fine and they are also opening a motorway to shorten distances.

For more about Poland, click here.

To read more of Natasha’s travels, click here or go to





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