I have to admit to being on a Polish kick. In fact, I write from Poland where I have come to review plans for our upcoming May 2019 trip. A hunch that Poland might defy all expectations is proving to be spot on—and in all the most wonderful ways.
In the coming weeks, I look forward to posting on the individual cities on our itinerary—Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk—but I want to start with a smaller, more out of the way spot—Zakopane, a beautiful mountain village two hours from Krakow that was suggested to me by a local Krakovian. I’m not sure why—Krakow is rich in day-trip options—but I suddenly felt an urgent need to go to Zakopane—and so I happily did.
The village is in the Tatras region of the Carpathian Mountains. The Tatras are a vast wilderness area, beloved by Poles in much the same way as the Black Forest is by Germans—and Zakopane is this region’s unofficial capital. Since the fall of Communism there has been the inevitable commercial development which seems to be the fate of many attractive spots. The town center is now full of tony shops, restaurants and other amenities but its essential soul is still there and this is a soul based solidly in its Goral—or highlander—heritage. The most well known expression of this heritage is the ‘Zakopanian Style’ of architecture, though in truth this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Much like the Arts and Crafts Movements elsewhere, this style grew out of a desire in the early 20th century to marry the local and indigenous with concepts of then contemporary design. The resulting buildings seen throughout Zakopane are charming in the extreme. Much is made these days of the Danish concept of ‘hygge’, beautifully executed expressions of coziness. I would say in Zakopane I found this concept practiced at its highest level. It made me want to stay on. Settle in. Get ready for the holidays and wait for the next snow.