Sunday, January 10, 2021

Zakopane, Tatra, and its Beautiful Wooden Buildings

 Zakopane was on my bucket list for about 30 years, from the day on when I read about the wonderful wooden buildings for the first time.  And I finally made it to this attractive place!

Tatra Mountain Tops

Zakopane is a resort town in southern Poland, at the base of the Tatras Mountains - part of the Carpathian Alpes.  It’s a popular departure point for winter sports and summertime mountain climbing and hiking.  I drove with my rental car from northern Slovakia towards the Tatra Mountains - late in the afternoon and this was my first view, a bit obscured by clouds.

Most Polish travel itineraries start in Warsaw and end in Krakow. However, venturing two hours further south brings you to one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe – Zakopane, which borders the Tatra National Park.  I had booked a place in one of the traditional built Bed&Breakfast places where even the interior was completely made of wood.  The only pieces made of plastic in this house were the shower curtain and the coffee maker.

Zakopane Style (or Witkiewicz Style) is an art style, most visible in architecture, but also found in furniture and related objects, inspired by the regional art of Poland's highland region known as Podhale. 

Drawing on the motifs and traditions in the buildings of the Carpathian Mountains, this synthesis was created by Stanisław Witkiewicz.  He designed a number of original buildings in Zakopane, including the "Dom pod Jedlami" in the Koziniec district, the chapel in the Jaszczurowka district, Villa "Oksza" on Zamojski Street, the building of the Tatra Museum, the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the parish "Church of the Holy Family" on Krupówki Street, and the "Korniłowicz Family Chapel" in the Bystre district.  Learn more about this in Zakopane's "Tatra Museum" of the history, culture, nature, and ethnography of the Polish Tatras.

Best place for Brunch in town...

As the Podhale region developed into a tourist area in the mid-19th century, the population of Zakopane began to rise.  The new buildings to house these new well-to-do inhabitants were built in the style of Swiss and later Austro-Hungarian chalets.

Many new pensions, villas, and highlander homes are built according to the architectural model devised by Witkiewicz to the present day - at least the front part of the buildings...

See more of Zakopane in this video (text in German):  "Sagenhaft - Die Hohe Tatra - in Polen und der Slowakei"

Hiking in the High Tatra Mountains:

Discover Zakopane:

Zakopane is nestled right next to the Tatra National Park and trails are abundant.  Most trails are day-long hikes. Try a full day hike up to a peak, then a return to town to relax with a mulled wine in hand.  Hot Mulled wine, or "grzaniec galicyjski", is prevalent throughout the mountains. When the temperatures drop, it’s perfect to warm you on those cool fall evenings. 

Try the Smoked Cheese
"Oscypek" is a delicious smoked sheep’s milk cheese. It is a local staple and you will find stands selling the stuff all over the town of Zakopane and various mountain lodges throughout the region.

See One of the World’s Most Beautiful Lakes
Lake Morskie Oko, or the ‘Eye of the Sea’, is the largest in the Tatras at 862 meters in length, and it will require a bus ride to the base of the trail. From there, it’s about a two-hour walk through the area’s impressive permaculture.

Follow the trails up the mountain and you'll pass through wildflowers and lush green mountains.  After a while, you will come across the Murowaniec Tourist Shelter where you can get refreshments and delicious food and sweets.  The "emerald lake" (Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy) is only another 30 minutes from the shelter.  The round-trip hike to the lake and back to Kuźnice (south of Zakopane) is about 12.5 km and will take 4-5 hours.

Soak at the Thermal Spas
Especially popular in the wintertime, the hot pools at Terma Bukowina are a nice place to rest after a day on the slopes!

Enjoy your trip to Zakopane - and take at least a week to explore the town and the mountains around!




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