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A Little Polish Never Goes Astray

My new years resolution is to learn a little of the Polish language. Why? Because the culture, food and language of Poland, has pretty much intrigued me as soon as I stepped off the plane in Krakow. But this post is not about Krakow, but rather, it is about somewhere a little further south – in the Tatra Mountains and a delightful walk I took through a town called Zakopane.

Rural Poland and the Tatra Mountain Ranges

It has been well over a year since I walked through Zakopane, in Poland. Yet the memory of that day still haunts me in the very best way. [And I am still learning Polish.]

Krupowki Street, Zakopane

Zakopane is a town in Southern Poland, about a two hour drive from Krakow, lying close to the Slovakian border, in the Tatra Mountain range. Communication between Zakopane and other towns was difficult for many years due to the mountainous terrain, and so the locals developed their own dialects, songs, architecture and traditions.

If you are a fan of gabled timber architecture, you’ll have come to the right place. Come and walk with me down the main street of Zakopane.

If you are too tired to walk, there is always a horse and wagon option that will take you to the Funicular station.

These beautiful horses wait for the chance to take you for a carriage ride

Cafes in Zakopane feature seating carved with traditional designs from Lower Silesia.

I found plenty of things to tempt me to open my purse in Zakopane and prices a pleasant surprise.

If you didn’t want trinkets, you can always try some of the delicious local foods from the many street vendors along the way. A specialty in this region is Sheep’s cheese.

If you have ever tasted Haloumi cheese, the Sheep’s cheese has a similar texture, but also a delicate smoky flavour. So very delicious. I could eat it every day if I could. Yum!

Norm’s Thursday Doors fans would appreciate the work in this door along Zakopane’s main street.

Walk through the door to gawk at the ornately decorated church, clearly loved by the community.

The interior of the church

Poised above the town of Zakopane is the summit of Gubałówka. This is my next stop.


That Yellow are in the photo below is the summit and we are going to get there in a mountain cable car. You can find the entrance to the funicular at the end of the main street.

Especially lovely in Summer, the summit lookout is frequented by skiers in winter as Zakopane is a hugely popular ski resort. Here I am enjoying the breathtaking view over the Zakopane Valley.



Time to explore more at the top of the mountain.

Can anyone read Polish? Is it 5 zloty to feed or pat the sheep?
Some traditional huts for smoking sheep’s cheese perhaps?
These bundles are so cute, they look like Cousin It from the Addams family.


The return cable car journey gave me a different perspective on the Zakopane valley.

Ready, Set, Here we go.

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Linking to Jo’s Wonderful Monday Walks

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85 thoughts on “A Little Polish Never Goes Astray”

      1. I love the sound of Polish! But it must be difficult to pronounce all those combinations. And it reminds me of Ukrainian, the language of my country. Some words are very sweet and cozy))
        I speak Russian and Ukrainian, German, Norwegian. And now Spanish 🙂 Stumbling through it :)) I am a lover of languages, so if I could, I would love to learn French, Italian, Polish,… that would be a nice soup in my head :))

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A language soup. I like the sound of that. Mine would be all the Scandi languages, Polish and Japanese! I admire your talents in linguistic ability. Do you work in the language area or is it just a hobby, as it is for me?

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      3. Once you learn one Scandinavian language, the rest is easy. Except that no one understands Danish 😆 but with my Norwegian I can read Danish and talk with Swedes. This is great!
        Oh, thank you 😊 I studied linguistics, and am a language teacher. But I have taught more other stuff than languages. So it is work and hobby, and truly my passion. I would love to work more with it though. It is so exciting to peep into cultures through the language!

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      4. Danish is difficult to understand unless you are immersed in it, I think. Although I do get short sentences ok. You are lucky in your career. Being a language teacher was once a dream, in my youth. Now it is just a hobby. But a fun one. Will Spanish help you understand Portuguese?

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      5. Ehh, hmm, I wonder how much one has to immerse himself in Danish to start understanding it :)) There is this video sketch by Norwegians about how the Danes stopped to understand each other, called “Kamelåså” or “Danish language”. it is in English with Danish accent (done by Norwegians). just for giggles.

        Ui, I would not call myself lucky, but maybe, I am 🙂 I love teaching languages, but I have done everything else more that this. Right now I am in customer service, hope to make my way back to teaching. This profession doesn’t transfer as easy as technical ones, when abroad.
        Spanish would help a lot with Roman languages, like Portuguese and Italian. But all depends on the level of communication, of course, if it is basic or advanced.

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  1. Oh, fantastic! I went to Kraków and Zakopane last year, but sadly didn’t know I could have got to the cablecar by horse and cart! (It was too far to walk) But I had plenty of adventures anyway

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    1. Oh how lovely that you visited this pretty town, Sue. It did seem a long way down the street but you could perhaps visit again, perhaps? What was your favourite part about Zakopane? Did you stay in the city area?

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      1. Krakow is a marvellous city. I loved it too, but also Wroclaw. Gosh there is so much to love about Poland. Did you go to the huts where they smoked cheese, near the Slovakian border? I was only there for a short while so am unsure what other excursion opportunities there was. Tell me more!

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      2. Yes, went to the cheese smoker, visited an old wooden church and visited a wood carver. One evening we went to see traditional mountain people and saw them dance…

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      3. Oh Yes, Sue. I must have seen the same group dance. They were traditional mountain dancers. It was a very hot night and the men had woollen trousers on, (suitable for winter weather) but they did have fun and it was very entertaining. I didn’t get to see the carver though. Lucky you! Was the carver selling his goods? I would have been very tempted to buy something.

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      4. Nice! I was also tempted by the wooden products. I bought a tray with fold out legs for breakfast in bed, or maybe with the laptop? Lovely mementos from a fantastic holiday.

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      5. I had to be quite restrained in Poland, as I had a suitcase full of wooden things I had purchased in Norway and we are trying to downsize at home ( somewhat unsuccessfully). I should have taken an emptier suitcase when I went to Poland. Did you notice they really encouraged you to buy local products when you were there? They appeared to be hoping to stimulate their economy with foreign income and the tourist dollar. I tried to be supportive of that eating all the paczki that came my way!! lol…

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  2. Oh, great! When your Polish is good enough, we can speak I in Slovenian and you in Polish and see how well we can understand each other. Both are Slavic languages, it shouldn’t be too hard. 😉 I have never been to Poland but it doesn’t look so very unlike Slovenia. You can find a bit similar houses and mountains in Slovenia. I know there is a famous ski jumping event in Zakopane each year, as is one in Planica, Slovenia. I haven’t seen the Addams family structures anywhere yet though. 🙂 A fun post!

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    1. I think it will be years before I can speak intelligibly in Polish, Manja! But I will try. I didn’t know that there was such a connection between the languages. That is interesting. Ineke – blogger in New Zealand (Dutch but from South Africa) also can understand some of the Danish/Norwegian words I have posted. I guess there is a common thread of origins through some of the European languages. The houses in Zakopane appeal to me very much. I wonder if this style is particularly suited to the mountainous climates in that area of the world. There seems to be an abundance of timber, anyway. I can also see comparisons with Norwegian stave or Dragon style architecture, and someone else commented on this when I was there. But the Zakopane locals scoffed at the suggestion! And now you must go to Poland one day. For you, it is not so far to go. You can then tell me of more similarities.

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      1. The pleasure is mine, Kristiina. I look forward to reading some more of your posts. Timber houses are so very cosy, in winter, especially with a fire it is very cold. I even had a wood heater here in Australia in my old house, but I rarely used it more than about 6 weeks in winter.

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  3. I’ve never been to Poland, but from this post and others I’ve seen, it’s a beautiful and fascinating place, somewhere I’d go if I had the chance. I love the mountains, the architecture, and I love to try the cheese and other foods.
    janet

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    1. I think you should look into going, Janet. Especially if you like the sort of things you do find at Zakopane. It is a fascinating part of the world, and although there are tourists, it is far from flooded with them. It is not such an expensive holiday destination either. The Polish exchange rate is very favourable. Have you tried Haloumi cheese before? I had some friends from New York who had never tried it.

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  4. I loved this post. We went to Poland last year for the first time in quest of my Polish ancestry, but never made it to Zakopane. Which was a pity, as although we loved everywhere we went, we came away saying ‘Very flat, Poland’.

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    1. It is interesting that you thought Poland was flat. I guess some parts are, but the southern part is not. Zakopane is not hard to get to, so it might be time for a return trip? What cities did you visit?

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      1. Mainly Gdansk and Poznan. And actually, we thought Poland was flat when we witnessed it for ourselves by travelling everywhere by train. Yes, I do want to go back. I need to visit Poznan. My father came from near there.

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      2. oooh! Near Poznan, you say? Do you know the name of the town? My people were from Sulechow/Zielona Gora, and west of Poznan/Wroclaw. I will post about my time in Poznan one day soon. And Gdansk, is another favourite. It really is a magical place. Such history and lively feel.

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      3. Sadly, it’s all a closed book. My father’s been dead for years. His father died when he was 12 and his mother re-married – new name unknown. We could never travel to Poland in the years after the war, so so very many stories were left untold.

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      4. It is such a shame. You are like me on that you may never get any further with that line of the family. DNA matches in the future are one’s only hope.

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      5. No birth records, only a marriage record which has not details of parents. Birth records were destroyed during WWII. There might be something in the main registry in Warsaw, but it would be in Polish, hence another factor why I wish to learn the language.

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      6. Of course. Happy to do so. Thank you. The marriage record I referred to os in Danish, (he was working in Denmark when he got married). I am able to understand Danish butso far have not found any birth records for his Polish history online.

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  5. My companion sings a in a German-Polish chorus, and she has really done a lot for learning Polish. But this is really not an easy task, in the Slavic world Polish is a very antique language as it was forbidden for long time and then only spoken in the underground. Wishing you much success in this regard!

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    1. Thank you Banactee. I know I face an uphill battle in learning Polish. Particularly as I don’t have much immersion in it. I wasn’t aware that it was a very old language, but I did have some inkling that many Polish traditional ways were subverted during the years when Poland as an entity disappeared from the world maps. It has been a long struggle for that country in self-determination it seems. They finally have independence now, and the language has persisted. Is the German – Polish chorus for immigrants from that part of the world, or open to anyone interested in the languages?

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      1. A lot of Polish people are living in Germany, here with us in Berlin alone 100,000, the 2nd biggest group of immigrants and most of them want to stay. Anybody is welcomed to this German-Polish chorus, but actually it is consisting mainly of Germans and Polish (more Germans) with the aim of connecting both countries and improving relationships. So each year they make also a trip to Poland, which I have accompanied from time to time. In Germany there is only existing a 2nd chorus like this one. This is a bit strange due to the many Polish people here. But in public they do not appear much in big contrast to the Turkish living here. Nice weekend @ Ulli

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      2. Thanks for coming back to me on this Ulli. It is interesting that the Poles are living happily in Germany now and yet do not seek each other out. That speaks to how easily they might integrate into society. I suppose the German and Polish people have a common history stemming back centuries. My own great great grandfather was German/Polish from Zielona Gora, not that far as the crow flies, from Berlin, I believe. But of course, this was a very long time ago when it was one country, Prussia and then he immigrated to Denmark.
        A singing group is a wonderful way to connect culturally and linguistically. I believe to a Scandinavian group of Singers from all the Scandi countries, and I have learnt so much from being a part of that group. It was difficult for me to get used to singing in another language, as most second/third generations Australians speak only English, but I guess I am improving with practice.
        I guess I can also see why the Poles might want to stay in Berlin. It is a wonderful city, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it like I did. It had unexpected appeal. I hope your weekend is equally lovely. We have finally received some rain here. The first good rain in six months! Yay!

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  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this, Amanda. 🙂 🙂 It must be 10 years since I was in Zakopane. We stayed in a nearby village for a silver wedding celebration and blessing at a beautiful, old church. It was September and quite chilly up at Gubalowka, but very beautiful. The 5 zloty charge is for photos of the animals. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

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    1. Thanks for clarifying about the photo charge, Jo. I can imagine the winds could be quite strong up at Gubalowka. How lovely to celebrate a wedding celebration. That must have been special. Was that at the old wooden traditional church in a forest just outside of the town?

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  7. Looks like a lovely place – I love Poland. Since school, about 50 years ago, I still believed Poland to be filled with smoke from coal and lots of poor peasants…But wow when I finally visited some years ago, I found it completely beautiful and charming. And lovely people, good food and all their restored cities knocked me off. We visit every year now, different places. I guess I will put Zakopane on my list too!

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  8. I have not been to Poland but you make me want to visit. I love all that architecture and the green valleys. It feels more like home to me than this modern stuff all around. I think Polish might be a little like Russian? My niece was there many years ago while in college. She loved it. I understand more German than I speak because I learned so little but no longer pursue the learning of it. Too many other things top the list. Thanks for taking me along on this trip. Love it.

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    1. I think you would like Poland Marlene. Their summery lifestyle is enviable. They like to dine outdoors and watch the goings on on the city squares. The cost of living is low and the younger people are very friendly. Then you have the wonderful architecture. Historic castles, old wooden chalets. It is cliched to say but I think it is a hidden gem. There are of loads of churches but even those can be architecturally interesting.

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      1. It’s on my list if I get to travel. My daughter said the Germans were putting their elderly in care in Poland because it was less expensive and the care was better. Who knows. I sure don’t want to find out though. 😉

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      2. A lot of things are very much cheaper in Poland and the border is so close to Berlin, I guess it makes practical sense. I am not so sure about the level of care, if Australia is anything to go by. There is very good, medium and very bad. We are just having an investigation into the aged care sector, because of elder abuse. It is awful what could happen to our senior citizens.

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    1. I think I have chosen two difficult languages – Danish and Polish. I must be a glutton for punishment, Sabine! But anyway, I will have fun trying. You should hear what my husband turns my attempts at Polish words into. It would make you laugh! I am glad you liked the funincular ride. Do you have any aspirations to travel over that way?

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      1. We have no plans of traveling to Europe right now, but we’re planing on taking some road trips around the Pacific Northwest and I’ll be heading to California in the spring. We’re still working on putting our house back together after the renovations and have been preoccupied with a family crisis. So we’ll stay close to home for the time being.

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      2. Totally understandable and more beneficial for the environment. I can’t say that I would be able to restrain myself if I lived that close to Europe, Sabine. But that is only because it takes forever to get there from Australia. I hope everything works out with your family. Crises aren’t fun. The Pacific Northwest sounds lovely and I am a big fan of road trips. Are you doing it in one of those self-contained motorhomes?

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      3. It’s about 10 hours to fly from Portland to Amsterdam. That’s our favorite hub because you can get there nonstop from here, and Amsterdam offers easy connections to all of Europe. Flying is no longer that much fun, as tickets are expensive, passengers not always well behaved and the screening at the airport highly invasive. For road trips we just use our car and stay in reasonably priced hotels along the way. A big part of the fun is to NOT bring along all your stuff in an RV. I like to travel light! 😉 I would like to visit Australia and New Zealand sometime! There are a number of places I’d like to explore there!

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      4. It is good to hear you haven’t entirely given up the travelling. After some years of travelling on solo trips, I also like to travel light. The lighter the better. Most of the time my suitcase is filled with gifts for overseas friends! And woollen clothes if I travel in wintertime to snowy places. Amsterdam is an excellent hub. I have travelled through there several times. The second last flight I did from Japan was a horror flight. I will stay grounded for a while now. I have far too much to do at the moment to fly anywhere, although we will be taking beach breaks here and there. Nice white sand beaches are within an hour’s drive but it is nice to stay over a few nights and get a break from the routine of home life. Our dog thinks differently of course.
        As for Australia and New Zealand. It would be great to have you come visit sometime. We are a big country and you will need a good bit of time to see a lot, and you will need to fly or allow a few days travel time if you drive or take the train to go down the east coast. It is not like Europe distance wise. Do you have some special places that are of particular interest in Aus/NZ?

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      5. We too enjoy getting away to the beach here. It’s about a two hour drive. It’s always refreshing to get a little time off from regular life.
        As to Australia, I’d like to see the rainforest and the area around the barrier reef. I’ve seen some footage of a spectacular stretch of coastline I’d like to explore. New Zealand I’d just go and explore I think. But right now, we too are staying close to home.

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    1. Well, Lisa, I have to say I am a little envious. I am not sure if you like to buy things on your trips, but I like a few mementos and I like to help the local economy, so I am giving you my best tip. The traditional ceramic dishes/merchandise with the Boleslawiec patterns can be found in a fantastic shop on the main square. Fantastic Polish art. I have a glasses case and lanyard with the Boleslawiec patterns printed on it that I use every day. And ceramic tableware for special occasions. The city museum and story of Warsaw was also a memorable and sobering place to visit. There was also free daily tours leaving from the intersection where Hitler’s assassination was foiled. Enjoy your trip.

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    1. I think hiking in a countryside such as this would be really energizing. Coming across little villages and farms smoking that delicious sheep’s cheese. How fun. Do you do much hiking yourself, MammaSquirrel?

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    1. I think you are getting to know me quite well, Chris. European climate, conifer trees, lots of old style wooden buildings – of course it is for me! Lol! I think Poland is quite an underrated destination. Maybe you might consider it one day?

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