Introduction

Chełm (pronounced khelm) isn’t experiencing the same sort of facelift as other towns in the region. While there are a couple of decent places to stay, Chełm is best explored as a day trip from Zamość. Visitors come to experience its proudest asset – the chalk tunnels. The centre is compact and easy to explore on foot.

Chełm is about 70km east of Lublin, 25km from the Ukrainian border. Interestingly, the town sits on an 800m-thick layer of almost pure chalk, a natural phenomenon that has both wreaked havoc and been the source of the town’s economic development. It has since been tamed into a tourist attraction. There is also a cathedral sanctuary, which is a pleasant place for a stroll.

Though Chełm’s Jewish population was lost during WWII, the Jewish community has left its legacy in various ways. Curiously, the people of Chełm once played the role of the good-natured hick in the rich tradition of Eastern European Jewish humour. Back in the day, many a joke sure to end in lots of laughter would start out ‘there once was a rabbi from Chełm…’.