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It is hard to imagine Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains without tourists. They cross the town and mountain trails with great enthusiasm. The landscape attracts crowds wishing to rest in the shadows of the cool mountains, as well as artists who find an inexhaustible source of inspiration in the overpowering nature. It is assumed that the first painter of the Tatra Mountains was Jan Nepomucen Głowacki (1802–1847) and the first Tatra-related painting is the “View of the Carpathian Mountains from Poronin”, dated 1836. Later this theme was taken up by other painters, like Aleksander Kotsis. It was with him that in 1860 Walery Eljasz took his first trip to Babia Góra from which he saw the Tatra Mountains. A year later he managed to visit them. Since 1866 the mountains became his true passion. Eljasz came from Kraków, from a family where painting and art were the order of the day.

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What one should wear at the Tatra trail

It is hard to imagine Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains without tourists. They cross the town and mountain trails with great enthusiasm. The landscape attracts crowds wishing to rest in the shadows of the cool mountains, as well as artists who find an inexhaustible source of inspiration in the overpowering nature. It is assumed that the first painter of the Tatra Mountains was Jan Nepomucen Głowacki (1802–1847) and the first Tatra-related painting is the View of the Carpathian Mountains from Poronin, dated 1836. Later this theme was taken up by other painters, like Aleksander Kotsis. It was with him that in 1860 Walery Eljasz took his first trip to Babia Góra from which he saw the Tatra Mountains. A year later he managed to visit them. Since 1866 the mountains became his true passion. Eljasz came from Kraków, from a family where painting and art were the order of the day. His father was also an artist. He was educated at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts where Professor Władysław Łuszczkiewicz instilled historical interests in him. The Tatras became his second love. Apart from his activities aimed at the construction of shelters, marking out new tourist trails and writing, as well as the constant updating of his guidebooks, he created dozens of drawings and engravings of the Tatras, which were used as illustrations for his publications and contributed to the propagation of knowledge about the Podhale landscape. Upon his initiative, the first series of Tatra photographs were created by Awit Szubert and Stanisław Bizański.
The works of Walery Eljasz are characterised by the illustrative accuracy, so they are an invaluable document of an era long gone. An excellent example here is the “Tourists in the Tatras” painting depicting two women accompanied by a highlander guide hiking in the mountains, most likely at the Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea) Lake. The artist used his own photographic studios for painting. The models were the painter’s daughters and Jan Byrcyn, a Tatra guide. Dressed in city clothes of navy blue and in dark red dresses, the women are leaning on alpine tourist sticks. Tourist accessories to the smart dresses include binoculars and a highlander vest which was fashionable then among the “lords” who came to the Tatra Mountains. The guide is dressed in a typical highlander outfit of cucha jacket, vest, trousers and kierpce leather boots. He is describing the details of the surrounding landscape to the interested tourists. The painting strikes one with its photographic accuracy and contrasting juxtaposition of colour. The viewer’s eye is particularly attracted to the carmine dress of one of the women, as opposed to the cool navy blue of the other, as well as the greenery of the scant plants against the many shades of grey and beige of the Tatra rocks.
Walery Eljasz was a very prolific artist. Many people who came to Zakopane definitely wanted to preserve their impressions of their mountain trips in their memories for as long as possible, so his works must have been very popular due to his care for the tiniest details of reality.
He was one of the best experts on the Tatra Mountains. He wrote excellent guidebooks including plenty of highly practical information, starting from how to get to Zakopane to advice on how to dress and where to eat in the Tatra Mountains. His works could not have been omitted when the collections for the Tatra Museum were being gathered. One of the best-known exhibits is the above-discussed painting that is on display at the Museum of Zakopane Style in the Koliba villa.

Elaborated by Julita Dembowska (The Dr. Tytus Chałubiński Tatra Museum in Zakopane), © all rights reserved

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Walery Radzikowski — about the way the Tatra Mountains were conquered in the late 19th century

The beginnings of tourism in the Tatra Mountains date back to the 2nd half of the 19th century. In 1873, Galicyjskie Towarzystwo Tatrzańskie [The Tatra Society in Galicia] was established with its aim of marking out routes, building mountain shelters, doing ethnographic research and describing the uniqueness of the area (maps were created and meteorological phenomena were observed). All this brought tourists to the mountain trails.

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The beginnings of tourism in the Tatra Mountains date back to the 2nd half of the 19th century. In 1873, Galicyjskie Towarzystwo Tatrzańskie [The Tatra Society in Galicia] was established with its aim of marking out routes, building mountain shelters, doing ethnographic research and describing the uniqueness of the area (maps were created and meteorological phenomena were observed). All this brought tourists to the mountain trails.
A mountain guide leading two young ladies wearing gowns — what did he say while standing on the lakeside of Morskie Oko? Maybe he told them the story about a man who lost a chest containing valuables during a sea expedition as a result of a shipwreck. After some time, while he was resting by the Morskie Oko Lake, did he notice his loss floating on the surface of the lake.
Walery Radzikowski was not only a painter of mountain views but, above all, a precursor and propagator of Tatra tourism. He created one of the very first guide books — Ilustrowany przewodnik do Tatr, Pienin i Szczawnicy [An Illustrated Guidebook of the Tatra Mountains, Pieniny and Szczawnica], in which he included the following description of the charm of the Morskie Oko Lake:

“The colour of the water resembles the sea, it’s blue-black in general, but bright yellow from the shore and turns emerald green, then blue which becomes darker along with depth. (…) The Morskie Oko Lake is the only one among the Tatra lakes which feeds its fish; that is why it is also called the Fish Lake. (…) The main beauty of the Morskie Oko Lake is its surroundings and location within the tree line thanks to which the shores are decorated with beautiful trees”.

In a book published in 1870 he also gave some practical advice and guidelines:

“At first, those who want to take part in a trip can meet together and form a loyal group for the duration of the trip. One person among them is elected to be the manager who is in charge of the group’s business. When a plan and direction are premeditated, a reliable guide, who knows the path of the trip, is reserved. Apart from this, each person takes one mountain dweller as a helper whose duty is to carry food and clothes for a given person, take care of him or her and serve them day and night.
The worst gowns should be taken for the trip, bearing in mind that it is impossible not to tear them. One should wear short, light clothing and if necessary add a jerkin or a coat. The head should be covered with a wind protection hat. A second pair of underwear, as well as a second pair of shoes, and several handkerchiefs will be needed; the latter useful for a cold compress in case of a contusion. However, the most important item is a rubber coat.
When going on a long trip into the heart of the Tatra Mountains, one’s legs should be protected against abrasions or blisters on feet, which is often very troublesome and may become a reason to return from the trip without success. The remedy for such problems may be seemingly unpleasant, however great in practice; that is, one has to place suet into their socks and set off on the trip without the worry of any leg injury even during the longest march”.
While reading this advice today we may get an impression that it concerns an expedition to exotic, mountainous places. Though much of that is still valid, nobody thinks about taking an individual guide while going to the mountains. The Tatra Mountains have been tamed, which, of course, has the effect sometimes in the form of tourists wandering trails wearing high-heeled shoes and clothes unsuitable for weather conditions, which can be erratic in the mountains.

Elaborated by Anna Berestecka (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See “Przy Morskim Oku” (“Turystki w Tatrach”) [At the Morskie Oko Lake – Tourists in the Tatra Mountains] painting by Walery Radzikowski in the collection of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums.

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Painting “At the Morskie Oko Lake” (“Tourists in the Tatra Mountains”)

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