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Chocholow Village

'Zakopane Style' Timber Architecture

Text & Images - Copyright © 2009 Kevin Hulsey

The bucolic Sub-Carpathian village of Chocholow is a window into Poland's rural past, and historic Chocholow is the most complete surviving representation of a "living skansen," or "living museum" of traditional gorale village dwellings.

Most of the wood houses in Chocholow were constructed in the 19th century, and the buildings in this region were said to be the inspiration for Witkiewicz's creation of the "Zakopane Style" of hand-joined Polish split-timber architecture. Each structure is embellished with exquisite carpentry details and beautifully maintained gardens that exemplify the pride of ownership that is the hallmark of the Podhale highlanders.

Traditional Chocholow Wood Houses
Traditional Wood Houses

The village has one main street with rows of single-story wooden houses that mirror each-other on both sides of the street. The only break in the conformity is the large gothic stone Swiety Jacek church at one end of town (photo: below, right), which was named after Jacek Odrowaz.

Traditional Chocholow Wood House

There is a museum in one of the buildings that shows the interior of a traditional home, and there are also several traditional gorale highlander wood-carvers who welcome the public. House no. 24 is known as the "house made from one tree," and house no. 75 has a museum telling the story of when the village's inhabitants rose up against the occupying Austrians in 1846.

Wood Shrine & Swiety Jacek Stone Church
Carved wooden shrine (left), Gothic Swiety Jacek stone church (right)

These wooden structures are assembled using few nails in the construction. The wooden exteriors of these structures maintain their look of newness from a yearly cleaning and polishing with wood soap, and they appear to have just been built.

Traditional House Interior
Traditional Podhale highlander's living room (left), and kitchen (right)

Many of Chocholow's local inhabitants are carpenters and wood-carvers, with each home representing the owner's unique talents. The basic wood construction of a typical Podhale home is individualized with elaborate wood-carved accents featuring geometric and floral patterns, and each home has a unique carved wood altarpiece shrine at the dwelling's entrance.

The ornate style of these highly decorative semi-gothic wooden structures was certainly a precursor to the "gingerbread" style of architecture that was popularized during the early 19th century in America.


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