What is a highlander household is? It is a hut made of wood logs: natural, wooden, stuffed with moss.
Highlander houses traditionally built of spruce logs, sometimes fir or larch wood was used. These logs were stacked on top of each other and joined in the corners with special indentations. Depending on the weather, the wood differs. So the gap between logs increases or decreases depending on the temperature and humidity. For the house to be isolated from gusts of wind and not to lose heat, logs get sealed. Initially, moss was used for it, now it is not, but interestingly the process of sealing logs is just filling gaps between them — the gap filled with wood wool resulting from planing spruce logs. After braiding the wooden wool, it gets stuffed between logs closely so that neither the wind nor the cold will impact the hut.
Traditionally, the highlander’s hut covered with wooden shingles. Chopped boards gave a very natural look to the house. Nowadays, their use is not often. Their production is expensive – wood should be impregnated and regularly maintained. Therefore, it gets substituted with the imitation of shingles, for example, bituminous.
The shape of the roof allows it to withstand heavy rain, mountain gusts, or snowstorms. The characteristic decoration – a radiant sun often put at the top.
Former Highlanders’ huts, as in other regions of the country, had two main chambers. You could enter them from the hall. One, called black, was used for cooking and everyday life. Dogs, cats, or chickens also stayed here. During severe frosts, other animals stayed there, for example, weak once just after birth. The walls of the room blackened with smoke from the stove, hence the name – black.
The white room was hardly used, mainly for ceremonies such as funerals, weddings, or the reception of more important guests. It was a representative room, so the glass paintings where there as well as woven scarves, painted chests, and more valuable items. Characteristic for the white room was also a richly decorated log supporting the ceiling with a date of foundation of the house on it.
Around the house stood farm buildings – a barn for cattle and farm animals and a barn where hay and grain were stored.
One of the most famous villages in the Podhale region is 15 km away from Zakopane, and it is worth going on a trip there. Plenty of traditional highlander’s houses there, that’s why the village is called a living open-air museum.
It is worth noting that Zakopane is a young city. Although now called the winter capital of Poland, it is famous only from the second half of the 19th century. In 1889, it had barely 3,000 inhabitants.
Kuznice is one of the oldest parts of Zakopane. In the 18th century, iron ore discovered in the area. It was stored in Kuznice and transported along the “Droga pod Reglami” to the smelters in the Koscieliska Valley. In 1875 the smelters were closed. However, there are still buildings from that period – a coach house, an inn, and old buildings.
Currently, Kuźnice is associated with the cable car station to Kasprowy Wierch, opened in 1936.
Koscieliska Street, stretching next to Krupowki, allows you to admire the highlander style. Houses built on it come from the nineteenth century.
In 1890 Stanislaw Witkiewicz settled in the house in Zakopane. He is considered the creator of the Zakopane architecture. He modeled on the traditional highlander style, folk, enriched with secession elements.
The first house designed in the Zakopane style was the Koliba villa at Koscieliska Street. It had a wing for an ethnographic exhibition and another wing for residents. Currently, there is the Museum of the Zakopane Architecture in the name of Stanislaw Witkiewicz.
The Zakopane architecture was trendy, but after Witkiewicz’s death, it began to disappear, and currently, the houses built in this style can be seen practically only in the Podhale region.