A Gentle Land, which has many places waiting to be discovered. We invite You to visit Kociewie!

Kociewie. Ethnical-cultural land of Pomerania spreads from  Gdansk county to Chojnice on the line of Tczew-Starogard Gdanski – Swiecie.

- It was winter, 1807. There were fights between Polish and French troops fighting with the Prussians to get part of this land back. Lieutenant colonel Hurtig was informing gen Jan Henryk Dabrowski about moving the soldiers “towards Gociewie”. This fragment of a letter sent February 10 from Nowe, near Wistula River was the first time, the name of this area was mentioned – says Piotr Konczewski, a director of the Local Tourists Board KOCIEWIE.

There are 340.000 inhabitants living in Kociewie. They are called “Kociewiacy”, along with Kashubians, one of the most important social group in Pomerania. Let’s focus more on the practice, not theory. In our conversation We shall ask Piotr Konczewski about the things what characterise Kociewie and why it is worth coming here…

Piotr Konczewski: - It is worth coming to Kociewie for the several century tradition which testimony is the folk art, the dialect and local food. For unforgettable landscapes, historical heritage and original folk food. But first and foremost for people in Kociewie always welcome You with serenity.

Vistula bridges in Tczew, fot: pomorskie.travel

Pomerania.travel: - What we have to visit in Kociewie?

P.K.: - Kociewie is the land, which You can visit at any time of the year. It is really worth visiting Tczew to see the bridge from XIX c built by Carl Lentze, famous at that time architect. There is the only in Poland river museum here, Vistula River Museum, where in Wreck Conservatory Centre You can see boats from all over the world. For art fans there is a Art Factory, where You can visit different kinds of art exhibitions.

One more place important on the map of Kociewie is Pelplin, the spiritual capital of the region. There is a massive construction of the Basilica church with a famous painting by Herman Han “The coronation od St. Virgin Mary”. The Cistercians, while building the monastery did not forget about the citizens and the Holy Spirit church was built for them. You can find different styles of the interior there, form gothic to neo - baroque.   In a Diocese Museum there is the only in Poland piece of Gutenberg Bible. It is one of the most precious book in the world. A very special place in Pelplin is a hill near the city. June 6 1999, pope  John Paul II celebrated a mass there. Today a lot of pilgrimages come there.

Cistercian abbey in Pelplin, fot: UM Pelplin

Pomorskie.travel: - Kociewie is also associated with the ancient settlements and medieval constructions…

P.K.: - Fans of medieval tournaments should visit Gniew and the former Teutonic Castle, which was built in XIII/XIV c. It was a seat of a House Commander and later a Polish foremen, including, the most famous one,  - John III Sobieski. Today, there are tournaments and historical show’s organised here. While visiting the city, go and see the Old Town, where the square has remained its medieval shape.

Following the tradition of medieval nights, we have to also mention Johannites, whose castle was in Skarszewy and today You can see its remaining. Have a look also at the market square and medieval city walls.

Owidz Settlement is situated  close to the capital of Kociewie and also offers meetings with the history. There is reconstructed  settlement from IX c. where old Slavic tribes used to live. There is a Mythological Slavic Museum there too, where in a modern way You can learn more about people who lived here in the past.

Owicz settlement, fot: pomorskie.travel

Pomorskie.travel: - What about the capital of Kociewie?

P.K.: - Of course, it is worth going to Starogard Gdanski, the capital of the region. This settlement was built on the former ancient Amber Route and St. Mathew church still remembers those times. The church was built in XIV c. and impresses us with the number of sacral artefacts. Walking around the city pay your attention to the touristic trail, called “The crown and the cross”. Following it You will see the most important places in the city – for example the square market in the Old Town and three towers: Gdansk, Triangle and Tczew. There are also two history and cultural facilities here. Museum of Kociewie Land where You know more about the history and the culture of the region and the Musuem of Rokitna Chevau-leger, where You can have a living history lesson.

Pomoreskie.travel: - Kociewie is also a place for the active tourists.

P.K.: - There are over 800 km of cycling paths in the region, called Cycling Trail of Kociewie. They lead through the most interesting and most beautiful areas of Kociewie. The fans of water sports can go canoeing down the two rivers. Wda – a calm river where You can admire the nature of Wda Landscape Park or Zurski Lagoon. Those, who need adrenaline choose Wieżyca River, which is very curly and can offer us some surprises.

Canoeing down the Wieżyca river, fot: LOT Serce Kaszub

Pomorskie.travel: - Kociewie has extremely rich culture. There are famous embroidered table cloths and napkins here with flower, wheat and poppyseed patterns. There is also a typical kind of tree shaped laces on vest typical for the women folk clothes tradition.

P.K.: - Yes, indeed. What’s more – along with the embroidery and the traditional clothes people in Kociewie has got their characteristic dialect, which is registered as a part of the greater Poland dialect. The culture of Kociewie that is also its kitchen and food, which is very varied  because the food was different at the lakes and rivers and different in the low lands and forests. There were mainly vegetables, fruits, forest fruits and fish. Meat was served usually during festivals.

Pomorskie.travel: - People from Kociewie, Low Lands, citizens from the Tricity. Shared life is in peace and symbiosis…

P.K.: - Of course, it is… We are aware of the fact that people come to Pomerania to visit mainly the Tricity with Gdansk and the sea side. Kociewie has got many advantages from that as well. More and more tourists, during summer time, organise loser and further trips away from the beach … to Kociewie.

Castle in Gniew, fot: Castle in Gniew

I can admit, we are less popular that Kashuby region but popularity is not the same as the attractiveness and the touristic potential. The last one is on our side. I am sure we have far more to offer when the cultural tourism is concerned: artefacts, such as Pelplin or Gniew, the Owidz settlement, an arboretum in Wirty, the complex of the Art Factory in Tczew, Vistula River Museum and the Centre of Wreck Conservation. We have to also remember about the Nowe near Vistula , Swiecie or Tlen. All that, plus the attractions of the active tourism: cycling or canoeing and the offers of the holiday resorts and guesthouses with good food can become an alternative for the nearby Kashuby and even the sea side resorts.

Folk sculpture

Folk sculpture

Holy images brought to life by home-grown artists, inhabiting the wayside shrines, and crosses were an indispensable feature of the Kociewie landscape. Traditional folk art flourished in the second half of the 19th Century.
The sculpture of that time served religious functions. Anonymous, self-taught sculptors drew on the religious art they were accustomed to, which is why folk sculptures expose noticeable Gothic and Baroque influences. The sculptures matched the village aesthetics well and were accepted by the people. Iconographic motifs employed in shrines often depended on the motifs for their foundation. If people wished to be delivered from yet another plague, a shrine was dedicated to St. Rosalia, who protects against pestilence, or St. Roch, who also looks after cattle. Other patrons included St. John of Nepomuk, who saves from floods, which is why his images were placed by the water, St. Florian (or St. Agatha in the north) who delivers from fire, St. Joseph who protects families, and St. Barbara - fishermen. Still, the most common are figures depicting Jesus Christ and Mary, who played a central role in worship. Such, and no other placement of shrines, was closely tied to the religious sensualism of the village people. The images of saints were treated literally, as actual beings endowed with senses. If a saint were to look after a certain domain of reality, they needed to be in direct contact with that domain.
With economic progress and increasing interest in "peasantry", folk art, including sculpture, changed its face and functions. After World War II terminological problems surfaced about what should qualify as folk and what should not. The recipient also changed - it was no longer "peasantry", the social stratum of the creator, but residents of towns, and foreign tourists. Numerous folk art contests sprouted up, largely forcing their creators to take up new, secular motifs that were completely alien to 19th-Century folk art. But contemporary folk artists are not bothered by the terminological confusion. Post-war Kociewie gave rise to many excellent sculptors who combined the sacred with the profane. The most prominent masters of post-war Kociewie sculpture included the late Jan Giełdon of Czarna Woda, Stanisław Rekowski of Więckowy, Alojzy Stawowy of Bietowo, and Alfons Paschilke of Smętowo.
Contemporary folk sculpture is thematically diversified. Artists choose the Mother of God, the Pensive Christ, and saints engrossed in prayer, as their themes equally often as they do scenes from Kociewie village life and folk groups, but also the surrounding nature, mostly birds. Contests, particularly in the times of the People's Republic of Poland, forced artists to take on historical figures, and so we can now stumble upon a Copernicus or a Piłsudski. Famous figures are still chosen as themes, which is evidenced e.g. in the works of Zenon Miszewski from Starogard Gdański. Artists bring back to life the Kociewie villages of old, reviving its customs, manners and everyday life. Some artists "specialise" in sculpting birds. One of the most prominent of those was Jan Giełdon. Today this field is being led by the Brothers Zieliński - Edmund and Rajmund. A somewhat-forgotten art is toymaking, one representative of which is Leszek Baczkowski. Also well worth seeing are the works of Regina Matuszewska of Czarny Las, Jerzy Kamiński of Barłożno, Michał Ostoja-Lniski of Czarna Woda (the author of the scene of the crucifixion from the Szpęgawski Forest), whose local Ostoja tavern exhibits the works of folk sculptors. Also, when behind the wheel on Kociewie's roads you can see more and more shrines and crosses (locally called boże męki), created by our contemporaries (such as the shrine in Zblewo or Czarna Woda).