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Folk handcrafts and the Tartar Trail
Traditional handcraft, such as carving wooden spoons, making clay pottery or blacksmithery are nowhere to be found in the city of Białystok but just outside its limits, in Czarna Wieś Kościelna, one can start on a tour called "The paths of Folk Handrafts", marked out by the ethnographic department of the Podlaskie Musem and the Bialur tourist agency. The trail leads through Łapczyn, Zamczysk, Janów to Sokółka, where it links up with another interesting "Tartar Trail".

When approaching Czarna Wieś Kościelna from the direction of Wasilków and Czarna Białostocka, one should have no problems noticing the first house with a forge next to it. The balcksmith, a true artist, is not only well known in his own neighbourhood.
The exterior wall of the forge is decorated with two cartwheels and ornamental bars, while in the front yard one can see the meticulously decorated fences, gates, pokers, chandeliers and iron roses. To see how these beautiful objects are made, all one has to do is enter the forge.
A hundred metres down, stands the house of one of the three pottery makers in the village. His jugs, mugs and vases are the so called "siwaki" due to their specific grey colour. The potter is often accompanied in his work by his wife, who prefers to make the smaller jugs.
We travel on to Łapczyn, to see the spoon-maker, one of the last people in Poland to have such a profession. In the two decades between the two world wars, the village was inhabited by several spoon makers and each of them had no problems selling his products. After the war only the one remained, selling his wooden utensils on the local fairs. For those who are interested, the spoon maker is happy to show how to make a spoon from a piece of wood with just a few chops of an axe.

In Janów one can see how a double-warp fabric is woven as there are several weaving workshops in the village. Their owners weave their fabrics without the use of any type of pattern.

However, owing to the great imagination and experience of the weavers, their cloths present the traditional ornaments and colours. There is great demand for these fabrics throughout the whole country. It should be added that the is a Local Double warp Weaving School in the local Culture Centre.

The trail ends in Sokółka where one can visit the sculpture shop and the regional chamber of the Association of Folk Artists, organised in a private house. There we can see the sculptures of the local artist: wooden birds, chapels, figures of saints, relieves, as well as straw baskets, wicker objects, clay pottery, hand-woven fabrics and other folk artefacts.

A different trail starts in Sokółka. One of the interesting characteristics of the region of Białystok is the presence of Moslems in the area. Some are of Arabic decent (mainly students), however most of them are the Tatars who inhabited the land as far back as the 14th - 15th centuries. The beginning of Tatar settlements in the vicinity of Sokółka nad Krynki dates back to 1679. Now two tourist trails have been marked out there: the Big Tatar Trail (marked in green) and the Small Tatar Trail (marked in blue). These trails are meant for hikers, and are therefore located far from the main roads. Unfortunately, not everybody is a walking enthusiast, thus another Motor Tatar Trail has been prepared.

When in Sokóka it is worthwhile visiting the classicist church of St Anthony, an Orthodox church of Alexander Nevski, as well as the Sokółka Culture Centre where one can obtain all sorts of detailed information about the trail and about the tartars themselves, as well as visit the museum dedicated to Polish Moslems. The next stage is the village of Bohoniki which is accessed through another Tatar village, Drahle. There is a mosque and a Moslem cemetery in Bohoniki (in fact there are two cemeteries here, however the older one has been neglected and it is now difficult to recognise). Both mosques in Bohoniki and the next village of Kruszyniany are similar in style to the sacred architecture of Podlasie. From Bohoniki the trail leads through Bobrowniki to Kamionka Stara. From there one can take the Big Trail to Wierzchlesie. The landscape is dominated by thousands of small fences, separating the small farms. Those who choose to hike, are then exposed to the beautiful views of Knyszyńska Wilderness, where one can even encounter a European bison in the spring time. If travelling by car, then it is best to drive to Słójka, then to Szudziałów and Ostrów Północny and then to Krynki. On route one will have the opportunity to admire the beautiful landscape of this area. From Krynki one should take the road to Kruszyniany, passing a road sign to Górka village. The Górka mansion once belonged to the Tatar Krzeczkowski family. The biggest building in Kruszyniany is the mosque. As is the case in Bohoniki, there is also a Moslem cemetery in Kruszyniany, however it is much older. Here the Tartar Trail ends.


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