Chocholow church, Poland
Sunday in Poland. In the small towns and villages of the countryside, Sunday means church. If it’s not something the locals want to do, it’s something they’re expected to do. As one person explains it to me, the communities are so small that it’s noticed if you don’t attend.
This Sunday morning I’ve ended up in the small town of Chocholow, on the outskirts of Zakopane in south Poland. It’s approaching the time for the service and the town’s residents are making their way to join the congregation.
Zakopane itself – maybe 15 minutes drive away – is a holiday resort. Its religion is snow and in winter it hosts international ski jump events and is a Mecca for ski enthusiasts. Like most ski towns, it has a thriving nightlife and an over-representation of in-demand hotels. It may not be geographically far from Chocholow but socially it is miles apart.
The houses in Chocholow are modest and all made of wood. There’s an eerie similarity to each of them and I wonder if any of the two thousands residents sometimes end up on the wrong doorstep. One particular house is pointed out to me because it’s made entirely of a single tree. A tree house, in the purest form. From each of these abodes, the residents leave at this time every Sunday morning to walk the short distance to the local church.
Some men – and it’s only men – have gathered at the bar across the road from the church to have a few drinks before the service. From my experience in Poland, I assume it’s vodka and not communion wine. Perhaps it’s part of the social ritual or perhaps it’s to make the following hour more bearable. Either way, I hope for their sake they’re not the ones who are going to have to stand outside in the cold.
The houses of worship in this part of the country are beautiful in their simplicity. They are numerous too. But they are not necessarily spacious. Clearly they were built for the community at the time, not the community of the future, and many of them can’t accommodate everyone these days. Driving through this area, I see a lot of churches with a spillover.
The traditional work for these people is in the fields. They grow potatoes and ‘horse food’ (as it was described to me). Some of the houses double as shops and if you are looking for something in particular it seems you need to know where to go. For the few tourists who pass through, there’s also a sculptor’s store (with everything made of wood, of course!).
There are certain expectations in a town like Chocholow. You work in the field, and you pay your duties to your religion. It stands in stark contrast to nearby Zakopane, which, for many Polish, is an escape from all those things.
Time Travel Turtle travelled to Poland as a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.