Sanok Open Air Museum is a wonderful place to visit during the winter. Wooden architecture of old, Subcarpathian villages and rural towns covered with snow, makes you feel like a time-traveler, who somehow managed to get back to the 18th century.
Sanok Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture, also known as „ethnographic park”, or simply „skansen”, covers 38 hectares of the natural riverbank landscape, but the museum activities extend to over 25 000 kilometers squared. It is the biggest museum of this type in Poland and one of the most diversified ethnographically. It stretches over the South-Eastern region of Poland, that borders with Ukraine in the East and Slovakia in the South, and consist of Bieszczady Mountains, the uplands, and the river valley. Different parts of this region were inhabited by various groups of people, whose tangible cultural heritage is now presented in the museum in Sanok – my hometown.
Photo-guide to Sanok Open Air Museum
Folk Architecture Museum in Sanok lies on the right bank ot the San River. The museum is located on the opposite site of the river than the center of the town. The path to the museum is well-marked, so it’s quite difficult to get lost. Today the way beside the river was truly remarkable – I don’t remember seeing a mist moving above the river’s surface in a winter for a long time…
There’s a roofed stage, where folk performances take place at least a few times a year. There’s also an inn, where you can enjoy a Polish traditional meal and a mug of beer. The last photo shows a suburban manor house form Sanok, which is now adopted for the ticket office. A small souvenir shop is located inside the building.
Galician Market Square
The first thing you will see after entering the ethnographic park is the Galician Market Square. It’s a reconstruction of a Galician rural town’s square from the turn of the 19th century. Galicia (do not confuse with a Spanish Galicia) is a historical and geographic region in Central-Eastern Europe, which now is divided between South-East Poland and Ukraine.
In the Galician Market Square you’ll find everything what was necessary in every small, rural town. Twenty six houses are arranged around rectangular square. There’s a hairdresser, photographer, tailor, shoemaker, tobacconist, clock-maker, pharmacy, Post Office, authority office, an inn, fire station, and my favorite – a shop with colonial products, which used to sell imported food and spices.
The Galician Market Square is often open to the visitors without an entrance ticket to the Museum. Although it looks quiet and calm in my photos, it’s rather a vivid venue of many antique fairs, local festivals and folklore events. In December several Christmas fairs are being organized.
A Jewish Synagogue is being reconstructed on the suburbs of the Galician Market Suqare. Before the Second World War, the Jewish minority was a substantial part of the multicultural society of Galicia.
Visiting the interiors
Some of the buildings are open to all visitors, but most of them is available only after booking a guided tour (3 hours, price around 13 EUR). If it’s your fist visit to Sanok Folk Architecture Museum, I would strongly recommend you to book a guide in advance. In the high season most of them are quite busy!
The interior of the clockmaker house in the Market Square. Inside the main, „living” room, there’s a traditional Christmas tree. Behind it – a small, wooden nativity scene.
It was the last place I visited during my trip to the Sanok Open Air Museum. Just after entering the building my camera’s lens (exposed to minus 20 degrees Celsius for last 4 hours) got steamed up – that’s why the photos look a little „misty” 😉
Entering the ethnographic sectors
Over 500 years Subcarpathian region used to be an ethnic border between Polish and Ruthenian (currently Ukrainian) population. Both groups spoke different languages and practiced different religions (Polish were Roman-Catholics, while Ruthenians were Greek-Catholics). The ethnographic park presents the folk architecture of all ethnic groups that once inhabited this region: the Eastern and Western Foothills (Polish), the Boykos (Ukrainian), the Lemkos (Ukrainian) and „the Mixed” (Ukrainian).
When I was a child, I used to spend a lot of time wandering around old houses of Sanok Open Air Museum. More than fifteen years ago, when I was still a teenager, my mom started to work as a museum guide. Back then, we only heard rumors about „this magnificent Galician Market Square that was going to be built”, but no one ever seen it. Back then, the fist building the visitors came across when entering the museum was this poor, tiny smithy. The little house in front of it was added recently, and I have no idea what was it. Maybe the smith’s house? See the interior of this tiny house here.
The people of Foothills
The Foothills was a big Polish ethnic group that inhabited the Subcarpathian uplands. They mainly dealt with agriculture and handcrafting (especially weaving and shoe making).
A parsonage house
Parson (along with the landlord, who was the local authority) was the most important person in the village. He was a literate man, and often the church evidence books he was responsible for, were the only registration documents of the local population. Even nowadays, when people wish to learn more about their ancestors and build a family trees, they often seek the information in the old evidence books kept in local parsonages.
Parsons were receiving a tribute from the local societies (cereals, potatoes, rarely money) on the regular basis. People from the village also were obliged to cultivate the parson’s land. His living conditions were drastically different from the conditions of the common villagers.
Where’s parsonage, there’s a church. This one is even two centuries older than the house!
Bee-keeping was not such a good business back in the old times. A single bee-house was able to deliver only about 2 kg of honey each year. Moreover, the old bee-houses, made from the hollowed tree trunks, made honey harvesting more difficult. Below, an apiary made from bee-houses collected from the whole foothill region. My favorite one depicts St Francis with a small bottle.
Different types of footprints that can be found in the park. I found rabbit’s „jumping” footprints (photo on the right), cat’s paws, horseshoes, dogs, and of course tourists. No need to mention that I „took the path less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost) – Ha! See what I did there? 😉
The Dale Dwellers
The Dale Dwellers was a mixed Polish and Ruthenian group living in the area of Sanok. They specialized in farming and wood-crafting (e.g. making wooden spoons). The villages of Dale Dwellers were usually located along the riversides. After the Second World War some of the Dale Dwellers were relocated to the Soviet Union and to regained after the war, Western territories of Poland.
Open Air Museum of Folk Architecture in Sanok is a good place for… a birdwatcher. I’m totally serious! Almost no dogs, a few cats, away from the city – it’s a perfect bird sanctuary.
A Manor complex
The manor sector consist of a huge, 19th century wooden manor house, a manor granary, some ponds and a farmstead, which will be reconstructed in the future. The complex is planned be surrounded by reproduced park and garden layout.
Take a ride in Sanok Open Air Museum
If you don’t feel like walking a lot (the park has 38 ha!), you can always rent a horse carriage or horse sledges and go from one ethnographic village to another. One horse open sledges (just like in the „Jingle Bells” song) are quite popular this winter. And they look quite awesome!
One horse open sledges in Sanok Open Air Museum
Looking through the fern frosted glass
In the temperature as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius you can easily observe the fern frost growing on the window’s glass. I remember it from my childhood, but I haven’t seen any window frost recently. It was a pleasure to see this winter flowers covering the glass once more 🙂 Also, when looking inside the houses, frost created beautiful, decorative frames. Take a look!
The Boykos’ village in the Sanok Open Air Museum is located uphill, in the forest. As it’s always partially covered with the shadows of surrounding trees, it is not as popular among tourists as foothill villages. The Boykos were a specific group of Ruthenian (Ukrainian) people inhabiting the Bieszczady Mountains. They mostly dealt with cattle breeding and shepherding on a high mountain’s meadows. This ethnic group became nearly extinct after the mass displacement that took place after the Second World War.
The Lemkos (Lemki) is one of four legally recognized ethnic minorities in Poland. Lemkos are the most famous ethnic group of this region of Poland, because of their specific culture and strong identity. They made their living on agriculture and breeding domestic animals. Wooden and stone-related handicrafts were common. After the Second World War Lemki, similarly to the Dale Dwellers, were displaced to Ukraine and to the Western, regained territories of Poland.
In the Lemki village, there’s a beautiful Greek-Catholic church dated 1801. I also managed to find „something new” (by „new” I mean – something I didn’t see before) – an outdoor Stations of the Cross. Stony figures were even more interesting when covered with a layer of white snow. I particularly liked a statue of Saint Veronica wearing a snowy cap, scarf and a pair of mittens.
Last weekend I visited a similar museum – Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, but unfortunately there was no snow there 🙁 During the trip to Riga I bought a pair of Latvian ethnographic mittens. I like them so badly, that I couldn’t resit taking a photo session of them 😉 Aren’t they lovely?
If you ever wonder how a tourist looks like in the temperature 20 degrees below zero? Here you have – this is me during my 4-hour walk. Thanks to my warm clothes, high shoes and a patch with an adhesive body warmer I basically didn’t feel any cold. With my touch screen gloves I was able to operate my smart camera without any problems. When I was just walking, I put on my Latvian mittens on the top of the gloves. Worked perfectly 🙂
I even didn’t mind when my hair got frozen. But when my sandwiches got frozen – that was really a big deal!
Sanok Open Air Museum, where is it?
Gallery of Sanok Open Air Museum in Winter
(click to enlarge)
- 1-30 April from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- 1st May – 30 September from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- 1-31 October between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- 1st November – 31 March from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Adults: 14 Polish Zloty
- Youth: 9 Polish Zloty
- Guided tour (in Polish): 50 Polish Zloty
- Guided tour (in English): 60 Polish Zloty
- Booking a guided tour in English: +48 013 493 01 77 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- the admission to the Galician Market Square during the events is free of charge
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