Polish Mountaineers - Folk Costumes, Tradition and History

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In the tourist area of Polish Mountains people wear regional costumes on a daily basis.

Cabman from Zakopane (Podhale)
Podhale is probably the only region in Poland where folk costumes are used commonly. It is partly due to a rich tradition of this region, partly to attract tourists. All horse cabmen wear traditional folk costumes. Here wearing a folk costume help with the business since the business rely mainly on tourists.

Mountaineers called in Polish górale, are well-known not only for their regional pride but also for their patriotism and even… anti-communism. Gorale allegedly saved a life of a Polish king Jan Casimir when he was escaping Swedish deluge invasion in XVII century.

Mountaineers (highlanders) are also great artists, they carve wonderfully in wood - see here. They also sing much better than... a general sample of Poles, even when they are drunk. Just go to one of a beautiful wooden church in mountains on Sunday morning service and listen to them.

Before tourism industry was developed - many regions, especially in the highest mountains were very poor, since the climate here is too harsh for agriculture. Many mountaineers were just shepherds, since sheep were the only animals which survived this climate well. So the percentage of people who decide to emigrate to America was especially high among mountaineers at the turn of XIX and XX centuries. Read more about Polish emigration. In a long run it helped this region to develop better since people who emigrated abroad were helping their family which remained in the mountains.

Folk costumes differ from region to region since some of the villages in the mountains were so isolated from the other. For instance there are three distinct regions just in Tatra mountains region ( Tatra is the highest chain of Carpathian Mountains ) - Podhale, Orawa (Orava) and Spisz (Spis). To complicate it even more - some villages, especially in Orawa and Spisz belong to Slovakia and some to Poland.


Pants with parzenice

The most commonly known is a costume from Podhale - the same as on the picture above but you can see more details. The most popular among tourists parts of the goral' costume are characteristic folk shoes - so called kierpce and a cane called ciupaga. Kierpce (a foodwear for men and women) are made from leather (sheepskin, pigskin or cowhide). The handle of ciupaga, walking stick ("chew-pa-ga") was functioned as an axe; the pointed tip doubled as a spear. Parzenice are decorated embroideries on highlander's woolen pants (se above). Look at some other costumes - from Orava or a part of Beskidy Mountains called Cieszynski region.

As we already mentioned - mountaineers are very proud of their roots and old traditions. Some last names are characteristic only for certain regions. For instance last names - Bachleda or Gasienica are specific for Zakopane - a biggest town in Podhale region. In order to distinguish different families from the same clans mountaineers were using nicknames which eventually became hyphenated with their last names - Bachleda-Curuś, Bachleda Księdzularz or Gąsienica-Ciaptak.
There were several Polish famous skiers with a last name Bachleda or Gąsienica and everybody know that they come from Zakopane area, no wonder everybody had to learn ski there to survive. Recently a beautiful young lady from a clan Bachleda-Curuś became a starlet by playing an important role in Polish national epic. Her pictures are here.

Dress up a Polish paper doll and a gipsy doll.

Check Polish Folk Costumes - Internet Stores and Portals and Polish folk costumes - Internet Resources.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, October 26, 2003 (article #134)

I recommend you a Guide to Poland which is ON SALE
The Rough Guide to Poland by Mark Salter, Jonathan Bousfield

I have this guide and is very helpful

Read Polish Mountain legends:
The Glass Mountain: Twenty-Eight Ancient Polish Folktales and Fables
by W. S. Kuniczak (Editor), Pat Bargielski (Illustrator)

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