We left Krakow and headed south to Zakopane, near the Tatra mountains that separate Poland and Slovakia. We had planned to see the Tatras is Slovakia, but the weather turned cold and rainy (with snow in the Tatras), so we went to Krakow instead. We came to Zakopane with the hope of seeing some of the Tatras, regardless of the weather.
Zakopane is nice little mountain town that is a big tourist destination for Poles who want to go skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer. The peaks of the Tatra Mountains can be seen south of town, with thick spruce forests on the flanks of the hillsides. The main street is lined with tourist stalls selling wool slippers, sweaters, leather sandals, wooden utensils and oscypek (a traditional salty sheep cheese that is smoked and pressed into decorated shapes with little molds, made only in the Tatras).
Stanisław Witkiewicz is a locally famous architect known for his work in the Zakopane Style and the many buildings he built in the area, including Vila Koliba, which is now a musuem. Being a town in the mountains, the Zakopane architectural style consists of well built wooden houses with elaborate wood carving decorations, especially on the main beams within the house and in the fitted beams in the interior doorways. The houses are made of rough hewn logs with rope between each log to make the seal airtight and have large gabled roofs. Many houses are built in this style in the area around Zakopane, known as the Podhale, or the Polish highlands. Even the hostel we are staying at (Stara Polana) was built in 1905 in the Zakopane style, and is a really nice wooden house. We have seen many new buildings under construction, many with elaborate wood carving work so the style and craftsman ship is still popular.
We did some very nice hiking in the mountains around here, it would be really nice to be here with good weather, but we had the chance to see the mountains through breaks in the clouds. We even saw a red fox with a gaggle of tourists taking photos. Next we’ll head back to Slovakia to make our way to Budapest.
***click to enlarge***