Tatra district is situated at the foothills of Tatra Mountains, in a subregion of Podhale, called Skalne Podhale. People from other regions of the country discovered Skalne Podhale in the first half of the 19th century. A few decades later, the area became one of the most important cultural centres in the country. It was a mecca for the most famous artists and a bridgehead of independent Poland.
Zakopane is the oldest city located at the foothills of Tatra Mountains. The city received it's location privilege in 1578. However, colonization of Skalne Podhale began as early as in the 14th century. Shepherds and hunters were the first who started the settlement process. They established traditions and pastoral customs from the Balcan Peninsula. In the 15th century Tatra Mountains were investigated by miners (the last mine was opened in 1876). However, over centuries, cultivating soil was the main job of mountain people enabling their existence and trading in stolen things was their main source of income.
More and more Poles became interested in Subtatran region, due to beauty of Tatran nature and characteristic spiritual and material culture of the mountain people. Therefore, since the end of 16th century, a colonization process of the region began, and, as a result, urban agglomeration was formed around Polish Tatra. The agglomeration includes such cities as Bukowina Tatrzańska, Zakopane, and Kościelisko.
In 1998 it was the first time when Zakopane became a residence of the authorities of Tatra district.
In Skalne Podhale ethnic culture has been widely promoted. Mountain people from Tatra can be proud of that! Stanisław Witkiewicz treated their traditional architecture as a national style. He transformed it into "styl zakopiański" ("Zakopane style"), adding some art nouveau ornamentation. Very characteristic music of Podhale includes eastern and Balcan elements. The music was an inspiration for such famous composers like e.g. Karol Szymanowski or Mieczysław Karłowicz. Stanisław Witkiewicz, Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, Henryk Sienkiewicz and many other Polish writers were inspired by numerous stories and legends of the mountain people. Even nowadays their local dialect includes archaisms which cannot be found anywhere else. Characteristics of the mountain people are reflected in their dance and singing. They are lively, violent, and, at the same time, very emotional.
Mountain people cherish their traditional clothes; men wear white trousers made of broadcloth with traditional ornamented ferrules called "parzenice", white linen shirts, leather mocassins called "kierpce", sleaveless jackets, round felt hats with sea shells around the edge, and broadcloth cloaks called "cucha". They have many customs and traditions, sometimes originating even from the 19th century.
Tatra district plays a very important role in Polish culture. First regional museum in Poland was established in Zakopane. The collection of Muzeum Tatrzańskie im. T. Chałubińskiego (T. Chałubiński's Tatran Museum) consists of geological, ethnographic, floristic and faunistic exhibits from Zakopane and subtatran region. There are such things like e.g. a hut of mountain people from the 19th century, clothes of mountain people, musical instruments, tools, glass paintings, and an excellent collection of belts of highland robbers. Tatran fauna and flora are exhibited in Muzeum Przyrodnicze Tatrzańskiego Parku Narodowego (Natural Museum of Tatra National Park). Ethnographic exhibits and items designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz are in a detached house called "Koliba" (in Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego [Museum of Zakopane Style]). On Harenda there is Muzeum Jana Kasprowicza (Jan Kasprowicz's Museum) exhibiting numerous things associated with life of the poet. In a detached house called "Opolanka" there is Muzeum Kornela Makuszyńskiego (Kornel Makuszyński's Museum). He wrote many famous books for children and was a honourable citizen of Zakopane. In "Atma" (on Koziniec) there is Muzeum Karola Szymanowskiego (Karol Szymanowski's Museum) in which you can listen to many classical concerts of very famous musicians from Poland and other countries. In Zakopane there is also Izba Pamięci Bronisława Czecha (Bronisław Czech's Memory Chamber) (a Pole who took part in three olympic games). This famous skier and Tatra mountaineer died in Auschwitz.
Everybody wants to see performances in Teatr im. Witkacego (Witkacy's Theatre) in Zakopane. The theatre is famous for courageous, innovative staging of plays of such dramatists like Gombrowicz, Ionesco, Dostoyewsky, Shakespeare, and, of course, Witkacy.
In Zakopane there are also about a dozen of galleries. The most famous are Galeria Sztuki im. W. i J. Kulczyckiech (W. i J. Kulczyckis' Art Gallery) and Galeria Władysława Hasiora (Władysław Hasior's Gallery).
Every year (in the last week of August) in Zakopane Międzynarodowy Festiwal Folkloru Ziem Górskich (International Festival of Mountain Folklore) is held. It is the biggest and the oldest folklore festival in Poland. Until now, over 350 foreign bands from 60 countries has participated in it. The program of the festival also includes many additional events, e.g. a contest for the cabman of the year, wedding of mountain people, exhibitions, camp-fires, and colourful procession of bands. Another famous folklore festival is "Tatrzańska Jesień" ("Tatran Autumn") arranged by Association of Podhale Inhabitants. A great number of concerts arranged in Zakopane is the best evidence of musicality of mountain people. In March "Marcowe Wieczory Kameralne" ("March Chamber Evenings") is held, in May - "Muzyka Karpat" ("Carpathian Music"), in July - "Dni Muzyki Karola Szymanowskiego" ("Days of Karol Szymanowski's Music"), in October - "Jesienne Spotkania Muzyczne" ("Autumn Musical Meetings"), in November - "Muzykanckie Zaduski" ("Musician Souls' Day").
Apart from that, there are also such events like "Sabałowe Bajania" ("Sabała's chats") and "Karnawał Góralski" ("Carnival of Mountain People") (organized in Bukowina Tatrzańska), as well as "Poronińskie Lato" ("Poronin Summer"). In early spring, in Kościelisko "Przednówek w Polanach" ("Preharvest in Polany") is held and in Biały Dunajec borough there are such attractions for tourists like "Parada Gazdowska" ("Parade of Farmers of the Tatra Mountains Region") or "Podhalańskie Zawody w Powożeniu" ("Podhale Competitions in Driving a Horse-drawn Vehicle"). In the borough there are also surveys of nativity players and Christmas carol singers, reciters, story-tellers, as well as Miss of Podhale contest which is called "Najśwarniyso Górolecka" ("the Finest Mountain Woman".
Sports and Tourism
One of the best sportsmen in Poland was a ski jumper from Zakopane, Wojciech Fortuna. He won the gold medal during Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo in 1972. The first Polish medallist of winter olympic games, Franciszek Gąsienica Groń, also lived in Zakopane. He was third in Nordic combined during the Olympic Games in Cortina d Ampezzo w 1956. Józef Łuszczek won the gold medal (distance - 15 km) and bronze one (30 km) during Classical Skiing World Championships in Lahti in 1978. Zakopane is also proud of Andrzej Bachleda, one of the best slalom skiers in the world. Two Polish sisters, Majerczykównas, took part in olympic games (running) and lived in Zakopane too.
Zakopane is a cradle of Polish skiing. Here, this sport has been widely known for over 100 years. In Zakopane the championships of the best world quality are held: world championships, universiades, biathlon world championships, as well as world and Europe cups. Since 1946 Memoriał im. Bronisława Czecha i Heleny Marusarzówny (Bronisław Czech's and Helena Marusarzówna's Memorial) is also held here; this event is of a FIS rank. In 2002 in Zakopane Winter Universiade will be held.
At present, in Tatra district there are over 30 sports associations and about 20 pupil's sports clubs.
Tatran district is one of the best places for mountaineering and is the biggest winter sports center in Poland. Tourism blooms here usually throughout the year. For high mountain climbers there are about 300 marked tracks of various levels of difficulty. There are also normal tracks which are useful even for the elderly and children who just want to take a walk.
You need only a few minutes to reach the top of Gubałówka in cable car. A cable car also takes tourists to the top of famous Kasprowy Wierch. There are 17 cycle tracks in Podhale and 5 ones in Tatrzański Park Narodowy. The first Polish map of tourist routes and cycle tracks for mountain cycling has been prepared. If you want to paraglide, you can do it e.g. near Gubałówka and Czarna Góra. One of more sophisticated sports is survival. Mountain canoeing in Białka is very attractive too. Special courses are organized for those who would like to learn how to ride a horse. In Zakopane there are as many as 50 trapeze and chair lifts, and in Bukowina Tatrzańska - 34. For "lowland sports" fans there are 4 indoor swimming pools in Zakopane. In summer, they can also use a swimming pool on Antałówka slope, which has thermal springs (36.8"C). In the capital of the district there are 6 tennis courts.
In this region, tourism has become more common than traditional farming and shepherding. In every borough many inhabitants earn for living by renting rooms. At present, only one fourth of the inhabitants of the district are farmers. A number of sheep has also decreased; in 1990s it decreased 4 times.
Building industry plays a very important role in subtatran economy. Timber industry is very important too. There are many craftsmen, particularly artistic blacksmiths and people dealing with handicraft. Business trips to USA are also helpful in earning money (for decades, it has been the traditional migration route of mountain people from Podhale).
The district is characterized by great economic activity of the inhabitants. There are over 7,000 economic subjects, most often small companies employing up to 5 persons. It is worth to note that in subtatran district there are two times as many private enterprises as in Poland on average.
The district has an economic self-government of a complex structure. It consists of Tatrzańska Izba Gospodarcza (Tatran Economic Chamber) (formed in 1992), Cech Rzemiosł Różnych (Guild of Various Craft), and Zakopiańska Rada Gospodarcza (Zakopane Economic Council). The following institutions are associated with business: Bank Przemysłowo-Handlowy, Pekao SA, PKO BP, and Bank Śląski. First Polsko-Amerykański Bank and Podhalański Bank Spółdzielczy. In Biały Dunajec, Bukowina Tatrzańska and Kościelisko boroughs Bank Spółdzielczy has its branches.