Zakopane – once an artistic melting pot, today “Podhale’s Las Vegas”. And although the inhabitants do not stop fighting for the shape of their city, they still lose to entrepreneurs and investors who want to increase their wealth mainly thanks to mass tourism. His book is a story about Polish capitalism and its pitfalls, and a report on one of the most visited regions in Poland, where everything is for sale. Just add a parzenica (from the publisher’s description).
We thank publisher Czarne for making the fragment available for publication. We recommend that you read the entire book.
Stanisław Witkiewicz wrote about mass tourism in Podhale in Na Przełęcz. He did not spare the locals: “Regardless of the instincts of greed that throwing handfuls of money into such a poor people could ignite, the highlanders were flattered and flattered without measure.” He also criticized visitors: “A guest who wants to get everything as cheaply as possible does not see that he is doing the same as a highlander who wants to take as much as possible with him. It is very characteristic that the people of Warsaw are better known among the highlanders than the Galicians. Apparently the Varsovian, and the man from this side of the border in general, brought more enthusiasm and it was easier to have cash at hand’.
Witkiewicz worked at a time when it took two days to travel from Krakow to Zakopane. It was a tough expedition, with tourists dependent on horse-drawn carriages. Since then, tourists have embraced the image of a highlander as a representative of a noble people, in touch with nature and almost untouched by civilization. This stereotype of the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Podhale, both highlanders and faggots, owners of countless businesses, can cash in to this day.
For example, because of the so-called premium highlander, as my friends from Zakopane call various extra paid, often absurd services. Such a premium works, for example, in the parking lot in front of the Strążyska Valley, where shaded areas are offered. And you don’t even have to pay extra for this shade.
You have to pay extra for it in the parking lot a few hundred meters away. That’s what premium service is all about… rollback. A narrow street, as trucks and coaches go too far, has no choice. If they maneuver in the parking lot, they pay ten zloty.
The tourists who wanted to get Gubałówka through the meadows along the fence of the railway did not enjoy it. In the hut in the middle of the slope there was a fee – three zloty – to walk through the private property. Payment was also accepted by card. The Polish cable cars did not allow free passage along the fence until 2021.
One winter, near Gubałówka, someone had a creative fantasy. In an ad for a tripod, I saw a drawn cat sitting on a toilet bowl with a flame sticking out from underneath. The icon means that the entertainment center under Gubałówka has heated toilets. In winter – premium service.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a limit that the highlanders will not exceed to earn. Then I remember a story.
On the main promenade on Gubałówka, on a broken spruce, there is a plaque commemorating that event in the form of a warning: “Passer-by! Tourist! You were born and the sentence has already been pronounced! Live in harmony with God and conscience, because it is not known when you will be called. In the 21st spring of life, struck by lightning, on July 17, 1968, Maria Ignasiak, Halina Skrzypkowiak, both from Rogoźno Wlkp., passed away.”
One of the first people at the accident scene was a resident who made his living taking pictures of tourists with teddy bears. He photographed the dead women under the tree, and then… he sold the photographs to Maria Ignasiak’s mother, when she came to collect her daughter’s body. If not, the story was told to me by the relatives of one of the victims.
The tourist traffic in Podhale generates huge profits in various industries.
One of these are souvenirs, which Witkiewicz also paid attention to. “The souvenirs that the guests from Zakopane bring, these small wooden furniture, apart from the inscription “Zakopane”, has nothing that resembles the Tatra Mountains. Sorry! A highlander’s head on a book-cutting knife, and that eternal, dull breadboard, which is at least Polish from the inscription — that’s all”. If Witkiewicz walked around the stalls in Krupówki or near Gubałówka today, he would probably grab his head.
Angry Birds, pokemons, flamingos, unicorns, skulls, plastic balls on feathers, plastic rainbow hair, styrofoam planes, fridge magnets with armor or ciupaga, pink plush sheep, socks with a cross printed on Giewont. Bags with the symbol of Fighting Poland, kitchen aprons with the model’s half-naked body printed, hasidim painted on plywood, with a penny in their hands (and underneath the slogan: “When he beats, to a jew”, or: “Jew in the hall, money in his pocket”). Battery-operated glowing balloons, shark and dolphin cushions. You can even buy imitation African masks in elephant, giraffe, and zebra versions.
Anna Wende-Surmiak has serenity inherent in her personality. In 2019, together with their deputy Katarzyna Para, they decided to change something. They had an idea of how to start supplanting the tacky kitsch traded by the highlanders.
We’re going to Krupowki. From behind the stalls you can barely see the main building of the Tatra Museum, a jewel of architecture, a monument registered in the register. One of Stanisław Witkiewicz’s latest projects. Together with the former School of Wood Industry and the Tatra Railway Station, it creates an architecturally noble quiet corner.
We look at the stall.
– I’m offended by these mascots. Animals that do not even live in the Tatras. – Wende-Surmiak points to pigs, werewolves and Minecraft characters. There are few wooden souvenirs. – I’m not talking about cutting down forests, but wood is still the basic material – he adds.
We navigate between the vans. The bells on the carriages are ringing. In the stands, highlander slippers mingle with plastic crocodiles.
– Or look at the Lowicz patterned mug with the word “Zakopane”. And this parzenica that legitimizes everything …
Wende-Surmiak is not a highlander, but she was born in Zakopane. Dad, Tadeusz Pawłowski, from Warsaw, loved the Tatra Mountains. Before the war, he moved to study in Krakow to be closer. He went through the battle path with Anders’ army, fought at Monte Cassino. When most of his colleagues stayed in England, he returned directly to Zakopane in 1947. And he became the head of TOPR.
Anna’s mother went to work in Germany from Vilnius, where she met her first husband. After the war, she came to Zakopane, divorced and met Tadeusz.
Their daughter studied Romanticism in Warsaw. She laughs, because then she met a Tatra guide. They tried to live in the capital, but he “got lost out of sight”. They returned to Giewont. She started translating and taught French at school. She applied to the museum’s promotion department and became director in 2012. Today the Tatra Museum has eleven branches where more than fifty people work.
At the next stall we look at the classics: ciupags, scarves and shells with shells. – I hope it is produced in our house – I hear a sigh. We look at the tag: “Made in the People’s Republic of China.” – You can’t see highlander wool socks or gloves…
In 2019, the museum announced a souvenir competition. It aroused a lot of emotions – almost three hundred works from all over Poland came in – but also discussions by jury members. Among the projects submitted were for example: ciupasol, ie a cross between a ciupaga and an umbrella, cups, key rings, mobile phone cases, photo frames, shopping bags, T-shirts, slippers, raincoats and some jewellery. The template.
Finally the winner of the Ghost Houses project of Łukasz Leśniak, a high school graduate in Zakopane. kenar. Haunted houses are three decorative candles imitating: villa Monte (before reconstruction it was called Macabril), villa Ros-Ami (before its random demolition) and the old highlander cottage Tea on Słowacki Boulevards (now falling apart).
After the match, Leśniak read in online comments that he was encouraging the destruction of monuments.
– I don’t think everyone understood that this is the user’s dilemma. Since it is a decorative candle, you can put it on a shelf to make it look beautiful as a decoration for your home. You can of course also light it, but then you will lose the keepsake. There is a choice – he notes. And he adds: – On Facebook I read that fire above a wooden house has bad associations. However, I didn’t mean that anyone would see their house on fire, but that people would notice that there are pearls of architecture burning in Zakopane.
Some employees of the Tatra Museum told me that the decision to award first prize to this project was a bold one. Why? A burning house, and even the symbol of fire itself, in Podhale evokes associations with the tragic history of Józef Kuraś’s family, who murdered his relatives by the Nazis in retaliation for partisan activities. His house and the bodies of his seventy-three-year-old father, wife Elżbieta and two-year-old son Zbyszek were doused with gasoline and set on fire, people were forbidden to put out the fire. It was after this crime that Kuraś took the pseudonym “Fire”.
Leśniak hopes his project will give architects, monument owners and developers food for thought. They also face a choice: to demolish the monument and instead create an object of pure residential function, without expression, which will bring a high profit, or to care for the heritage, preserve it and incur financial costs for its unique value. for themselves and the city.
Anyway, the winning souvenirs – Ghost Houses candles, Zakopane pins and the Giewont Grań curtain – will be produced and sold at the stalls. As long as the highlanders want. Projects can be used for free under an open creative commons license. The museum authorities are thinking of promoting them to hotel and guest house owners. They hope that the new souvenirs will replace the Chinese waste. However, they realize that this is a plan for decades.