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Only here, on Podkólne Meadow near Jurgów, you can see an unique shepherd village. From old storytellers in Bukowina you can learn where robbers' treasures may be found, and in Białka Tatrzańska you can walk along the royal way, built to commemorate saving King John Casimir from the Swedes by the local people in the seventeenth century. Incomparable views of the Tatras, excellent skiing areas, authentic folklore and delicious kwaśnica or moskol served in the local inns are just some reasons why it is worthwhile to pay a visit to the Commune of Bukowina Tatrzańska. It lies at the foothills of the Tatras, at the border with Slovakia. One third of its area is within the limits of the Tatra National Park. It includes the eastern part of the High Tatras, with the fascinating environs of the lakes Morskie Oko and Czarny Staw, and the valleys of Roztoka or Pięciu Stawów [Five Tarns]. In the Commune territory are all the highest peaks in the Polish Tatras, including Rysy (2499 m.).

The Commune consists of eight villages: Bukowina Tatrzańska, Białka Tatrzańska, Brzegi, Czarna Góra, Rzepiska, Jurgów, Groń and Leśnica. The people use local dialect, observe old customs and ceremonies, and the traditional local costumes are commonly worn on church feast days. Also, Bukowina Tatrzańska hosts one of the best village theatres in Poland.

The region abounds in folklore artists who paint on glass, carve, embroider 'woolen pants' and make fine decorative belts or pins. Most of them are active in Bukowina Tatrzańska. Old crafts are cultivated and taught in the School of Perishing Crafts, which operates in the Folk House.

The shepherd tradition is very vibrant here. There are numerous shepherd families in which the knowledge of this honorable occupation and its secrets have been passed from generation to generation. Each spring and autumn, sheep are led through villages to mountain pastures and back. In summer it is recommended to visit some shepherd's hut (on Rusinowa Meadow or near Brzegi) where smoked cheese, and other local delicacies are made according to old recipes.

The area is also interesting for ethnographic reasons. A part of it belongs to the region of Podhale, and a part to the region of Spisz. They are different in folklore, dialect and costume. A separate group are the Roma people, their largest community living at Czarna Góra.

Numerous slopes and long winter make the area excellent for skiers. They can use about forty ski lifts, mainly in Bukowina and Białka Tatrzańska. Most slopes are lit and maintained with snow making machines, with snack bars conveniently nearby. Białka also has a skating rink which in summer serves roller skaters. A well-known winter attraction are sledging cavalcades organized by villagers.

Visitors who come in summer are no worse for entertainment. Białka Tatrzańska, Bukowina Tatrzańska and Czarna Góra have swimming pools for those who are not fond of the ice-cold waters of the Białka. In Czarna Góra and Bukowina there are also water slides. Bukowina has the first tennis court in the commune. Ideal terrains for gliding are on Gogolowa Grapa in Czarna Góra, while fans of mountain canoeing come to Jurgów. Bukowina and Białka offer riding holidays, and a trip in a cart drawn by a pair is available on the road from Palenica Białczańska to Morskie Oko.

Yet the varied landscape, numerous hills and streams, as well as wonderful views of the Tatras, encourage visitors to make walking or cycling trips first of all. Cyclists will find numerous hard tracks far from settled areas, and ramblers apart from beautiful views woods abounding in mushrooms, wild berries and raspberries.
Tourists should visit the old church in Białka Tatrzańska, the timber one in Jurgów, or in Bukowina. In each village you can find some relics of old regional architecture, such as old homesteads, sawmills or watermills. Particularly interesting are charming small shrines, frequent in this area; they stand at roadsides or in the fields, where they used to be sign-posts for shepherds and travelers.

In rainy weather it is recommended to spend an afternoon at the Folk House in Bukowina, the only cultural cooperative, as well as the largest timber building in Poland.

In the tourist season it serves as the stage for local folk groups, theatre performances and exhibitions of folk art. Three times a year, Bukowina hosts events well known in the whole country: the Highlander Carnival in February, the Folktale Competition in August, and the Meeting of Village Theatrical Groups in July. For several years, fetes have been held in Białka as well.

The Commune of Bukowina Tatrzańska is a convenient point of departure for other areas. Zakopane is near, and so is the famous fair in Nowy Targ. An attractive road leading through villages in Spisz takes visitors to the man-made Czorsztyn Lake and to the castles on the lake, at Niedzica and Czorsztyn. A day should be reserved for a trip along the rocky canyon of the Dunajec, on traditional rafts.

It is also recommended to make use of one of the nearby border passes to Slovakia, at Łysa Polana or Jurgów (there visitors must have a document issued by the Commune Office, confirming their temporary residence in the border area). On the Slovak side of the border are pleasant small towns in Spisz, such as Kežmarok or Levoča, or the well-known resorts, like Smokovec or Tatranska Lomnica. The mountains on the Slovak side are also worth making a trip there.

Accommodation is easily available as the commune can offer about five thousand places, in private homes and guesthouses, varying in comfort standards and in prices.
The ever increasing entertainment offer and tourist accommodation aiming at European standards are largely the result of the character of the local people of their enterprise, openness to novelty, and healthy competition.

The first settlers in the area of the present Commune of Bukowina were people from Wallachia shepherds who arrived from the south of Europe along the ridges of the Carpathian Mountains. They brought their specific culture, which was characterized by seasonal peregrinations of herds to mountain pastures as well as distinctive customs, costumes and vocabulary, the vestiges of which have survived to our times.

As late as the sixteenth century, the Białka valley was covered with primeval forest, and according to legend, the inaccessible areas provided shelter to rebels, and all sorts of runaways, some of whom fled imprisonment, but some of whom loved freedom and were not deterred by hard conditions of living in the mountains.
Most settlements on the territory of the commune were founded in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the period 1589-1624 these territories were hotly contested by Hungarian magnates and the Starosts of Nowy Targ in Poland. Then for a long time the Białka river formed the boundary between Hungary and Poland. In 1920 the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia was definitely drawn. Fourteen villages, including Jurgów, Czarna Góra and Rzepiska, found themselves within Poland's borders.

For centuries, local shepherds lived mostly by tending their herds. Life on the poor soil and in harsh climate was hard, and people often starved. The situation changed when local people began to emigrate to America in search of better opportunities, and when these territories were discovered by tourists. First holidaymakers appeared in summer, in the 1920s and 30s. First Bukowina Tatrzańska was discovered, then Białka and other villages.

After the change of the political system in 1989 and establishing of local government, changes became also apparent in the Commune of Bukowina. In the last decade, roads have been improved and schools better maintained. Tourist facilities have developed as well. The local government adopted two priorities: tourist development and protection of natural environment. Since 1999, the water treatment plant has been working, and the construction of the sewage system has been fairly advanced.
A waste dump has also been planned.

The local government hopes that the geothermic waters which have been found in the area will prove in the future to be the source providing ecological heating to the area.. In Bukowina Tatrzańska a company has been founded, which expects to use geothermic waters in a large complex for recreation and water sports.

© 2002, Beata Zalot, Gmina Bukowina Tatrzańska, wyd. Oficyna Artystów SZTUKA, Kraków
© 2002, tłumaczenie: Jadwiga Piątkowska

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są własnością Wydawnictwa Oficyna Artystów SZTUKA
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