The Southern Kashuby. The land of hills and lakes.

Co warto zobaczyć na Kaszubach - atrakcje Kaszub

From the lakes and hills to the valleys full of tastes and covered by the green grass. Form the classical sniffing tobacco to the Kashubian strawberry full of the summer sun. From the Kashubian old huts to museums showing the variety of the tradition of the region. The Southern Kashuby, the area from Zukowo to Przechlewo are fascinating with the landscapes and the culture.

The Southern or the Northern Kashuby? If You would ask such question to someone, who loves this region, for sure it would be impossible to answer that. This region is very diverse with the incomparable features and history.

Kashubian Switzerland... so hills and lakes

“Kashubian Switzerland” – this is how w describe the central part of Kashuby. The name is not accidental. This part has the biggest highs differences full of hills and lakes. It is located close to Wiezyca peak (329 m. above the sea level), the highest hill not only in Kashuby and the Northern Poland but in the European Plain. There is also the Kashubian Landscape Park here with beech trees, pines and spruce forests, unique bird species (like the sea ducks “Mergini” or boreal owl) or bats and even the common European viper. Through the Southern Kashuby goes the red tourists trail, very popular among the walkers as well as the cyclists. In the winter time, the area near Wiezyca is a fantastic place for skiing. In the Summer time it is worth climbing the platform on the top of the hill and admire the view.

Wiezyca, Fot: Kaszubski Park Krajobrazowy

Kashubian Switzerland that is not only hilly landscape and post glacier lakes. That is also a culture and tradition, You can find almost everywhere. The names of cities and villages are written in two languages – Kashubian and Polish. You can hear Kashubian language, a mixture of Polish and German almost everywhere. It is difficult to understand what Kashubian people are saying. Luckily, people where are very friendly and kind, sow hen they see you do not understand, they turn into Polish.

The capital of Kashubia?

Which city is the capital of Kashuby region? No one knows and there are debates about it . Usually, it is said that the capital of the whole Kashubian region is Kartuzy, some people say that it is rather Koscierzyna. On the other hand, when we drive into Gdansk, we see the sign: Gdansk, the capital of Kashuby.  And how to decide now?

Rynek w Kościerzynie, Fot: UM Kościerzyna

Nevertheless, Kartuzy, situated at the four lakes, is that city which promotes Kashuby the most. Already before the WWII Kartuzy were the centre of Kashubian Switzerland. Tourists were coming here all year long, visiting former Carthusian Abbey and swimming on the lakes. Today there is a Kashubian Museum here with the name of F. Treder, with big collection of the artefact of the historical and folk culture of Kashuby.

Kashuby - cultura and traditions

Near Kartuzy, in the Kashubian Landscape Park, there is Chmielno. A small village, extremely popular among sailors and the lovers of Kashubian pottery. For generations the family of Necel lived here, known around Poland for their passion to pottery. Till today they produce by hand traditional Kashubian vases, tableware, pitchers or bowls with the traditional patterns of tulips, lilies, fish scales or Kashubian star.

  Pottery Museum in Chmielno, Fot:

Those decorations are also traditional motives of Kashubian painting on glass and the embroidery. There are several Kashubian embroidery schools, depending on the region.

Travelling deeper  in the region, passing Koscierzyna with its renovated Old Town and famous Old Brewery, where the traditional Kashubian beer is brewed, we shall reach Wdzydze Kiszewskie. It is a touristic village, a true heaven for lake lovers and history enthusiasts. Wdzydze Kiszewskie is situated at the Golun Lake, ant the oldest Polish open air museum is situated here – The Kashubian Ethnographic Park. It was established in 1906 and till today is one of the most important historical attraction in Pomerania region and Poland.

Sunset in Wdzydze Kiszewskie, Fot: LOT Serce Kaszub

The Southern Kashuby hypnotize and fascinate. It is love at the first sight and who will fall in love with this area will love it forever.

The cheerful group of carol singers with Santa Claus, called “Gwiazdor” wearing a veal leather mask, eagerly waiting for the first star in the sky, 12 Christmas dishes… Christmas time and waiting time for this special moment in the year, it is time of rituals and customs, that in Low Lands, Kashubian Land and Kociewie is cultivated with care and devotion.

The great anticipation for Christmas time is foregone by Advent, from Latin oncoming. It is the time, when farmers leave their work, women are not tearing the feathers and are not spinning the linen. They are preparing to welcome the Gods’ Son instead. In Low Lands that was the time for the pigs ticking and careful preparation of all Christmas dishes. In Low Lands’ kitchens there was smell of ginger and sugar balls or doughnuts with raisins. In Kashubian Land in a big pot there was “brzad” soup, made out of dried fruits, in Kociewie greedy eaters were waiting for herring stuffed with raisins.

Advent, that was also praying time, calming down, singing  and playing Christmas songs on the musical instrument, called “burczybas”. This instrument is made out a barrel, covered with an animal skin and on its side there is horse hair coming out. People, called “brentopi” , who are promoting Kashubians carols play this. Songs praising new born Jesus  can still be heard in Low Land and Kociewie households, sometimes  in modern versions.

“Gwiazdor” gives away the presents.

Kashubian kids did not know the Santa Claus. December 6th, they were waiting for ‘Gwiazdor”. He’s a mysterious, elderly person dressed up in a fur coat with hey belt. He holds “korbacz”, a kind of a whip, a hat and on legs, “skorznie” – rubber boots. His face was covered with a leather mask. “Gwiazdor”, as Santa Claus gives presents to the kinds. Of course, only to those, who were well behaved! Those, who were naughty will be given a birch rod.

Joyful carollers.

Advent is also the time for carollers singing. Low Lands, Kashubian Land and Kociewie – everywhere-starting from December 6th, so from the immaculate conception of  the Virgin Mary, one can still meet the carollers. They are ahead of joyful group of dressed up people – starting with animals, like a goat, a stork, a bull or a bear, up to bible angels and devils. The figure of the death with a scythe was following the group. They are walking from house to house dancing, singing, playing tricks. Their visit should bring prosperity for the next year. Obviously, they did not do it for free. They should be given little money or something to eat.

Christmas Eve supper.

At the end of Advent time there is Christmas Eve. December 24th, Christmas Eve supper is a special celebration in every Kashubian, Low Land or kociewie house. Beautifully decorated table, with a bit of hay under the table cloth reminds that Mary put little Jesus in a hay crib, and that is a forecast of the next year good crop yields. A good farmer must not forget about the fire in the fireplace – a new born baby has to be warm! One empty place at the Christmas table, that’s the invitation for a tired traveller, who can knock at the door any time.

There are 12 dishes at the Christmas Eve supper. Mainly fish, poppy seed noodles, sauerkraut with mushrooms, beetroot soup and mushroom soup. Those dishes don not have meat, because fast ends December 25th, the first day of Christmas. When there is the first star in the sky, family share the wafer, making wishes for the Christian unity. It is due to the XVIII c  wafers, that were baked in Kashuby region without sourdough, with a bit of salt and were the main addition to the herring. afterwards, it was time for common carol singing: “Cech noc”,”Gwiozdeczko”, “Biżaha”, “Jezusku”, “Wesoła nowina” – those are the most popular Christmas songs in Kashubian houses.

Christmas time is not only the feast for humans. It means also special care for animals. The farmer cleaned the bar, animals ate the bits of Christmas bread. Christians also believe, that on December 24th animals speak human language. Gives some tasty food, for sure they will tell some interesting stories. After the supper “Gwiazdor” comes again with the presents, but more and more he shares responsibilities with the Santa Claus, who leaves gifts under the Christmas tree. What’s interesting , in Low Lands this is a Grey Horse who gives presents to the kids. He comes along with his attendants.

There is a mass at the end of the evening. It is a special mass at midnight. Christians pray for peace and Gods’ mercy, many believe, that this time is magical and some miracles may happen.