The Museum of Folk Culture of The Sutetes Foothills in Kudowa Zdrój-Pstrążna

The Museum of Folk Culture of the Sudetes Foothills in Kudowa Zdrój-Pstrążna

Kudowa Zdrój, a town in Lower Silesia, is famous for its spa, which has been in use since the 17th century. The Spa Park dates from that period, although its original appearance is now difficult to assess, as it was completely restructured in the 19th century. Kudowa Zdrój, then called Bad Kudowa, was at that time situated within the borders of the German Empire.

Tourists come to Kudowa Zdrój not only to benefit from its healthy climate and curative waters, but also to see its famous Chapel of Skulls. The walls and ceiling of this tiny building are inlaid with bones and skulls of 30,000 people, victims of a 17th-century plague and the early 18th-century wars. The town also boasts some remarkable museums: the “Bajka” Museum of Toys, the Museum of Frogs and the Museum of Crafts.

Having drunk medicinal waters and seen those museums that appeal to their interests, visitors can make the trip to Pstrążna, the rural district of Kudowa Zdrój, in order to visit the Museum of Folk Culture of the Sudetes Foothills, which is the only open-air museum in the whole Lower Silesia Voivodship.

For centuries the Kłodzko Valley was a border region, its allegiance determined in the course of conflicts. In the early Middle Ages the Piast monarchs and Bohemian nobles vied for its possession, and finally the land became a part of the Czech state. Only on the basis of a 1515 treaty and as late as 1525, with the death of Louis II of Hungary, grandson to the king of Poland Casimir IV Jagiellon, the Kłodzko region together with Bohemia and Hungary came under the Habsburg rule. As a consequence, it was drawn into the German cultural sphere and began to be influenced by Austria. Further change was brought about by the Silesian Wars of the 18th century, as in 1763 Silesia and the County of Kłodzko were won from the Habsburgs and annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia. The situation changed again only in 1945, when in the aftermath of the 2nd World War Silesia became a part of Poland. Thus, situated on the crossroads of various cultures, traditions and religions, the Kłodzko region was in the course of its history influenced by Bohemia, Austria, Germany and, to the least degree, Poland. Bearing this historical diversity in mind, the Kudowa museum has constructed its programme around the motto ‘Life above the Borderlines’.

The Museum of Folk Culture of the Sudetes Foothills was established in 1984 as a division of the District Museum in Wałbrzych, and became an independent institution in 2001. The skansen buildings, beautifully arranged on a hillside, are examples of the Kłodzko region architecture. One-storey buildings with long fronts, with residential quarters and utility spaces under one roof, are characteristic for the area. Two such cottages, easy to spot in the museum grounds, come from Nowa Łomnica in the Bystrzyca Kłodzka community and from Kudowa-Zakrze.

The cottage from Nowa Łomnica was built in the first half of the 19th century, while the Zakrze house dates from the turn of the 18th century. Both are rectangular, have dovetailed log walls and shingled gable roofs. A central passage divides the building into residential and utility sections. An oven, with its hearth opening towards the passage, heated the house and was used for baking bread. The oven of the Nowa Łomnica cottage is still operational, so every day the visitors can enjoy freshly baked bread. There are also some differences between the two houses; for instance, in the cottage from Nowa Łomnica only the clay that fills the chinks between logs is whitewashed, whereas in the Zakrze one the whole residential part is whitewashed.

The only in situ building in the museum, i.e. one which has never been moved from its original location, is the farmhouse with a smithy dating from 1856. Built on a rectangular plan with a shingled gable roof, it was located by the road that today still leads to the border crossing between Poland and the Czech Republic. It consists of a blacksmith’s workshop, an anteroom, a passage with the oven, a byre and a day chamber (today the fireplace room). The day chamber was connected with the workshop, where currently an archaeological exhibition is housed. A flight of stairs used to lead from the day room to the bedroom, now converted to exhibition space. Today it also houses the ticket-office and museum administration office.

Another interesting building is the inn from Szalejów Dolny with a characteristic jetty: an overhanging upper storey supported on two pillars. At the top, the jetty is decorated with a balustrade on six ornamented pillars, shading the upper storey windows. The house was built in the early 19th century. The ground floor is made of masonry, while the upper storey is timber-framed.

The 19th-century wooden bell tower from Gołaczów in the community of Lewin Kłodzki is also noteworthy. Originally, it functioned as a watchtower to warn the locals against danger. It has the shape of a truncated pyramid with a lantern on top, crowned with an octagonal helmet.

The museum also boasts a barn from Kudowa-Czermna, built in the 1850’s from spruce and pine in the mortise-and-tenon joint construction. It has two separate mows, a wooden floor and a space for storing carts. The barn has a gable roof covered with shingles. A reconstructed mow from another barn is found elsewhere in the museum.

The only building that does not come from the Kłodzko region is the post windmill from Jabłowo in the community of Stare Bogaczowice in the Wałbrzych district. Renovated in 2007, it served its original purpose of grinding grain well into the 1950’s. It is a post-and-beam timber-framed building covered with planks on the outside. The shingled gable roof is built in the rafter-and-queen-post construction.

Despite its small size, the Museum of Folk Culture of the Sudetes Foothills is very appealing. Its buildings illustrate the most typical architectural solutions of Lower Silesia: shingled gable roofs, front jetties over anteroom entrances, whitewashed rooms, whitewashed fillings between logs, double-axial alignment of chambers with a central passageway running across building, and the symmetrical layout with one part of the building used as residential quarters and the other as utility space.

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