Podhale – Polish Mountains

Among many of the tours that our company offers, we organise a trip to Zakopane. This
town is one of a few that are situated in the polish mountains – Tatras and this is a thing that
we hear the most about this town. But what to do if during a conversation we hear a word
Podhale? What is it? Don’t worry, we hurry up to let you know more about that term!
Podhale is a cultural region in southern Poland, which is located at the northern foot of the
Tatra Mountains. This is a definition from an encyclopedia, however Podhale is a very
interesting region, full of traditions and legends. And these are the curiosities that we would
like to tell you more about today.
Let’s start with the traditions. While being in Zakopane, you will for sure pay attention to
some colorful and atypical costumes that are most seen on people called “górale” – the
people from the mountains, who are a native-born inhabitants of the Podhale region. The
costume of women had been updated during the times and all of the corrections have been
made because of the trends from abroad. Headscarf was a daily headgear that is informally
called “szmatka”, which is something like a dishcloth. In the summer, girls used to plug
flowers in their hair. Women who were married had to wear their headgear every day. The
amount of them was denoting of their social status. They wore a white shirt with an
embroidery and a corset with colorful embroideries, in shape of ornaments.The corset was
binded at the end of it with a red band so it could be seen very well on a traditional skirt with
a motive of flowers. Mountaineer moccasins called “kierpce” and a red necklace with
elements in a round shape were the rest of the costume.
The attire of men did not really change much and is pretty much the same as its original
form. On their heads, there usually were hats made of felt. Their linen shirts were white with
wide sleeves. Trousers were made of white fabric and had some rips. The top of these pants
was decorated with colorful embroideries. The complement was a trouser belt with metal
studs. They were wearing a black sheet with embroideries and mountaineer moccasins just
like women. Something unique is that they also has a wooden hatchet with them.
What is also very traditional in Podhale is cuisine – you will not find their dishes in any other
part of Poland. The most characteristic and available food in this region is a traditional
cottage cheese called “oscypek”. This cheese is entered to a list of regional products, so the
only people that can produce it are the ones who are certificated.
Another dish that is typical is a soup called ‘kwaśnica’. It is made of sour cabbage with a lot
of sour juice. You can add meat but you will not find any other vegetables in this soup. It is
usually served with potatoes or bread.
Legends are stories that usually are with us for our whole life. They are here to entertain us
but also teach a lesson. Most of them we pass on to younger generations, also as an
admonition sometimes.
One of the Podhale’s legends is about the founding of Zakopane town. It is about a man
named Peter, who after moving out from his family house, found an empty glade right next to
mountains, where he decided to stay and live. He was working hard every day, cut down the
trees, built a house and grown vegetables. In the neighbouring villages, they called his
property “Kopane” which means something like “Dug”, because of how the area looked. One
day, his brother visited him and told him a story about a woman that he decided to introduce
him. When Peter and Kasia finally met, they fell in love from the first sight. They got married
and lived in his new house, so their neighbours started to tell that she “came to Kopane”.
The name of the village – Zakopane stayed and soon became a town, because their children
also lived there.
There is a lot more to tell about this kind of stories and legends. If you find it interesting and
want to know more, we encourage you to go to a trip with us. See you then!

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