First associations with highlanders?
Highlanders have a wide smile to welcome their guests and the power like one of the mountains where they live. The unique outfit, not to be confused with any other region and the music that warms the heart!
We come to the Podhale region expecting good fun, cheerful people, and a great atmosphere. All of this is here, but let’s not forget that this is a difficult region to live requiring a healthy body and strong spirit. It was the mountains that shaped its first inhabitants, and they made friends with them and loved them.
It took a long time. It wasn’t until around the 13th century that the colonization of the Podhale region began. Then first poles started to migrate to the Tatra Mountains to establish their new headquarters and cultivate the land. It was a difficult time. It took almost a hundred years to build several villages… After them, in the following centuries, more groups came to the Tatra Mountains. Among them were shepherds from Wallachia, Hungarians, and Slovaks, also Germans, Ruthenians, Jews, and Gypsies. The fields took the place of forests, more and more sheep started to be pastured, and the peoples began to mingle with each other.
Harsh conditions forced cooperation, meant that the inhabitants became solidarity, helping neighbors, often dependent on each other in terms of one’s health and life.
Traditional highlander costumes are widely recognized, and significantly distinct from other regions of Poland. In their full beauty, you can see them during church celebrations, during national holidays, or at family ceremonies such as a traditional highlander wedding at the forefront.
The traditional costume of a highlander girl includes a large, colorful shawl with beautiful embroidery, an embroidered shirt made of a lawn, on which a velvet corset usually laced with a red ribbon. And of course, a skirt, richly decorated with floral motifs. The culmination of the outfit is the highlander boots and beads as red as wine.
The highlander’s costume consists of a hat made of black felt, often decorated with shells. Also, a white linen shirt with wide sleeves and a characteristic cuff at the neck. The white pants or trousers cut on the sides with stripes, decorated with rich embroidery. The highlander belt is wide and decorated. Additionally, the chain on shoulders and a highlander ax once used as a weapon and now as a dancing attribute.
Characteristic for the Podhale region, where people speak it every day, not only for the needs of tourists but widespread like no other, mainly due to highlander bands that spread the dialect throughout the country.
In highlander’s dialect, the so-called honorable plural, that is, returns, especially to the elderly.
Highlander’s dance is very spectacular and full of energy. Especially when it is dancing in regional costumes, it looks thrilling – swirling, colorful skirts, heels hitting each other, and the highlander stuff.
The dance goes like this: it starts with a song, followed by a demonstration of the highlander’s agility, jumping, strength, and energy. It can be solo or double, with the woman’s role mainly boiled down to responding with blocking to the highlander’s courtship and
“Zbójnicki” is a group dance performed by men only. It started with the command, from a leader of the band and followed by an energetic dance. You can find traces of old war dances and battles in it. It is filled with squats, jumps, throwing, and shifting highlander stuff. It ends with men grabbing one another under elbows and spinning around.
When visiting the Tatra Mountains, it’s worth spending time getting to know the native inhabitants of this region just as it is worth to admire the beautiful views of the mountains.
They are full of love for their hometowns and tradition. They are not ashamed of it. You can meet them not only at tourist stalls and those playing in taverns. They are also shepherds who graze sheep and make traditional salty oscypek cheese in shepherds’ huts. They are inhabitants of many villages scattered around the Podhale region, willing to share with the visitors a kind word and a story about highlander life.