Tatra Mountains & Zakopane

The Tatra Mountains

”The Tatra Mountains are a part of the Carpathian Mountains, the most eastern part. It is a group of mountains which are the most beautiful amongst the Carpathian Mountains, for their loftiness and wildness. In their upper part they are all almost bare, and covered with ice or snow: here the Alpine-like glaciers can be found.” This is how Seweryn Goszczyński described the Tatras on 1 May 1832 in his ”Tatras Travel Journal”.

Seweryn Goszczyński (1801-1874) a Romantic poet, one of the Belvedere assaulters on the November night, conspirator during the Russian and Austrian Partition of Poland. He visited Podhale for the first time in 1832. The Rysy Hotel is situated at 7 Seweryn Goszczyński Street.

The whole Tatras stretch out for ca. 785 km2. The Polish Tatras take up ca. 175 km2, a little more than a half of per mill of the area of the country. But in the Polish culture of the last two hundred years, in our consciousness and subconsciousness, the Tatra Mountains and the Podhale region take extremely important and absolutely exceptional place. It is not only a biosphere reserve, but also a reserve of Polish atavisms, hopes, myths, passions, a symbol of tradition, where the values that count are selfless friendship and noble rivalry, physical immunity, willpower, dignity, patriotism, sacrifice.



A mountain lying on the border between Poland and Slovakia, in the High Tatras. It has three peaks, the highest of which is the middle one and lies in whole in the territory of Slovakia, and the northern peak is the highest point of Poland (2 499 m above sea level). Rysy is the most frequently visited peak of the High Tatras. For the last century the view from Rysy has been considered the richest view in the whole Tatras, overlooking more than 100 peaks and 12 most important lakes.

The name Rysy should not be derived, as commonly assumed, from the slanting gulley visible in the mountain massif (so called Rysa (Scratch)), but from the furrowed mountain slopes of the whole complex of Niżne Rysy, Żabi Szczyt Wyżni and Żabi Mnich. Later, the name was given to the peak which bears this name today. Rysy is truly unique for the richness of its flora; at the level of 2483-2503 m there are still 63 species of flower plants, mainly the alpine family plants. Rysy is included in the Crown of Polish Mountains (Korona Gór Polski) and the Crown of Europe (Korona Europy) list.

The first known ascent – in the summer – was made by Eduard Blásy and his guide Ján Ruman Driečny Sr. on 30 July 1840, an in winter – by Theodor Wundt and his guide Jakob Horvay on 10 April 1884. In the years 1886-87 the Tatra Society (Towarzystwo Tatrzańskie) started marking, and then installed the step irons on the trail from Morskie Oko Lake to Rysy. In 1899 Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Piotr Curie climbed Rysy.





Zakopane was established as a settlement in the place of seasonal shepherd settlements. The first (lost) settlement charter was granted probably by king Stefan Batory in 1578, which was then approved by king Michał Wiśniowiecki in the settlement charter of 1670. In 1676 the village had 43 inhabitants (including Olcza and Poronin villages). Originally the settlement belonged to king, and then to the imperial and royal treasury of Austria. In 1824 Zakopane and a part of the Tatras was sold to the Hungarian Homolacs family. The full bloom of Zakopane started in the second half of the 19th century when the climatic conditions of Zakopane were popularized by Tytus Chałubiński. In 1886 Zakopane was recognized a health resort. In 1899 it was purchased at a public auction (together with a significant part of Tatras) by count Władysław Zamoyski – a "providential man" of the Polish Tatras who laid foundations of the current national park. In 1933 Zakopane was granted municipal rights.

The Tatras and Zakopane are also called the Polish Piedmont, Polish Athens. Zakopane, which from the end of the 70s of the 19th century until the outbreak of the World War I, i.e. for more than thirty years, was one of the most important, and in some respects the most important, the most thriving centre of the Polish culture. For the generation who, after the defeat, sang in hushed tones ”There are no rays of hope for us”, the Tatras were a shock therapy. The newcomers admired everything, the nature which seemed primeval and virgin, wonderful nation with its archaic, Old Polish dialect, apparel, tribal pride, affection for freedom, beautiful and at the same time practical buildings.

One may say, and there will be no exaggeration in it, that in Zakopane another Polish rebellion, this time not military but intellectual, artistic and moral took place.


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