Zakopane

Zakopane In Your Pocket

Occupying a valley between the fearsome Tatra mountains and the hillside settlement of Gubałówka the town of Zakopane owes its status to one man – Tytus Chalubinski. Visiting for the first time in 1873 our protagonist was knocked out by the mountain scenery, crisp air, strange jodhpur-wearing local chaps and picture book beauty. He returned to Warsaw full of the glories of the Zakopane, and couldn’t wait to let the cat out of the bag. Within years what had been an obscure sheep-rearing community had been transformed into Poland’s favourite mountain spa – the first wave of visitors were looking to cure their breathing ailments, and they were swiftly followed by artists and authors searching for inspiration of both a spiritual and liquid kind.

Composers Szymankowski and Monuiszko and literary figures like Tetmajer and Witkacy all kept quarters here, as did a pre-revolutionary Lenin, adding to the avant-garde legend that was growing around the town. By the outbreak of WWII it had become one of Poland’s most high-profile destinations, and it’s a reputation that it still enjoys. The year round population of the resort stands at 28,000, but the three million visitors who arrive annually do a good job of making it feel there’s a couple of zeroes missing from the figure.