Zakopane is one of the most famous mountain tourism centres in Poland. Located near the Slovakian border, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, it’s a great starting point for anyone looking to enjoy the beauty of mountain nature and the richness of highlander culture.
The beginnings of Zakopane date back to the time of King Stefan Batory, who granted its settlement privilege in 1578. In the 17th century, an ironworks was built in Kużnice, which became the biggest metallurgical plant in Galicia in the 19th century. In 1824, Zakopane, together with part of the Tatra Mountains, was sold to the Hungarian Homolac family. In the second half of the 19th century, the village started to gain more and more popularity due to its particular climate characteristics and it was officially recognised as a health resort. Many people then began to go to Zakopane on doctor’s orders as the climate there was believed to be helpful for people suffering from one of the most common and dangerous diseases of that time – tuberculosis. Soon, as tuberculosis was also considered the “romantic disease” due to its association with poetic qualities in its sufferers, many artists began to stay in Zakopane, and not only for health reasons. They were also looking for muses among the sick women residing there. The large number of artists in the village further fuelled Zakopane’s fame, and in 1933 it received town rights. The popularity gained by the town in the 19th century remains unchanged to this day, both on account of the proximity of the mountains and also due to the unusual wooden architecture and wide entertainment offer available for visitors.
Unfortunately, over the years successive owners of the Tatra Mountains carried out systematic felling of the forest, leading to the destruction of vast areas of woodland. At the same time, however, laws were also passed that were decades ahead of their time – in 1868, for example, the poaching of animals in the Tatra Mountains was forbidden and former poachers were employed as forest rangers since they knew the paths and methods used very well. The Tatra Association, established in 1873, also helped to protect many plant species. In 1889, the Zakopane estates and a large part of the Tatra Mountains were bought by Count Władysław Zamoyski, who laid the foundations for the establishment of a national park, modernised the town and recommended exploitation of the mountain slopes. The Tatra National Park was officially established in 1954.
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