Known as the first folk architecture in the world Čičmany is a village located in a hilly, forested countryside in the Žilina Region in northern Slovakia. This small village lies in forested valley between the Strážov Mountains and very close to Rajčianka River and it has a population of about 204 people. Čičmany is one of Slovakia’s most famous places and even though it’s so small, tourists come from all over the world to see the timbered houses with ridge roofs, galleries and pointed or linear wall decorations. The local tradition of painting white geometric patterns on the dark wooden cottages goes back to 1272 when it was recorded as a newly built road. There are some theories about who founded the village and perhaps the most common is that the original inhabitants were German settlers, or Bulgarian immigrants fleeing from the Turks. In 1921 there was a fire that destroyed most of the village but thankfully it was restored to its original appearance by the state of Slovakia.
The village is very picturesque and apart from the beautiful display of houses you will be surprised to see how many old traditions have been carefully preserved there. Čičmany can brag with unique folk costumes, song and dances and the perpetuation of its culture from one generation to another. There are dances and musical events throughout the year and a number of cultural events organized in the summer months. Until the mid 20th century the village was known as a sheep raising centre. Among the traditional occupations of Čičmany residents there are records of farming, sheep herding and selling cheese throughout the region.
Through the centuries the village had many feudal lords but by the start of the 20th century most of the land was owned by two Hungarian families. Because of the harsh life and the difficulties for the peasants to make a living, many original inhabitants immigrated to other countries. Living in what is now a sign of old tradition and culture, these pretty cottages were not always comfortable as it was quite common to have three, or even four, generations living under the same roof. The gingerbread-style decorations covering the wooden beams of the cottages were intended to conserve and protect the wood in addition to its attractive appearance. The white paint is a lime varnish applied to protect the wood from natural decay. The custom began more than 200 years ago. The inspiration for the patterns came from the same patterns embroidered into local folk costumes.
The lower part of the village is a protected folk architecture reserve with 110 listed heritage buildings, 36 of which have the status of national museums. There are two cottages open to the public as museums and there are also several accommodation options. Though widely known by tourists and travellers Čičmany is an authentic village that preserved a great deal from its old tradition. Outsiders are allowed to spend a few days in the village to ease into the relaxed rhythm of Slovak village life. The village can be visited throughout the year and is equally impressive no matter the season. I can only imagine that during winter it becomes a tiny corner of fairytale and the local ski resort of Javorinka on a nearby hill becomes a popular destination among locals and tourists altogheter.