Zakopane Style

The Jaszczórówka wooden church constructed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in Zakopane

The Tratra mountains in Poland aren’t just beautiful nature, but as well an important epicenter of Polish culture. The origins of the Zakopane Style go back to the late 19th century, when the Arts and Crafts Movement was in full bloom. It was created by Stanisław Witkiewicz, who settled in Zakopane in 1890. The Zakopane Style was the first Polish national style that went beyond the framework of theoretical postulates and could be carried out in practice, not only in Zakopane, but also in many other places in Poland, particularly in the Austrian and Russian partition zones. Stanisław Witkiewicz came across this idea in 1898. The inspiration for the Zakopane Style was therefore more the Ruthenian Style, which the artist could have encountered in 1868–1872 during his studies in St. Petersburg. In 1886, after his first trip to Giewont, he wrote: “…the highlander hut is a higher sort of construction in which the practical features are decorated in an expression of certain aesthetic needs. This is less raw material than a fairly developed style from which one might evolve a new and independent type of building.”

The first home in the Zakopane Style was Zygmunt Gnatowski’s Koliba Villa, which Witkiewicz built in 1892–1894. Witkiewicz considered the highlander carpenters and woodcarvers to be co-creators of the architecture he designed. The Koliba Villa was meant to settle all doubts as to the possibility of reconciling folk architecture with the requirements of the more complex and refined demands of comfort and beauty. According to Stanisław Witkiewicz’s precepts, the Podhale hut was to be the model for the Zakopane Style villa, which the Polish artist sought to make the Polish national style. Furnishing the hut with stylish furniture and other everyday items of his own design was his point of departure. His main task was to use the characteristic attributes of folk furnishings, “artistically employing” the constructions themselves. Ornament was shifted to background, though in many cases it was an important element. Podhale folk ornament, much like that of other regions, was mainly limited to geometrical and plant motifs. In the Zakopane Style this repertoire was expanded with motifs of the flora of the Tatra Mountains.

Willa Koliba

Willa Koliba

Willa Koliba & Willa Oksza

The first attempts to use Podhale ornament in artistic crafts involved carving ornament on wooden furniture – chairs, beds, and a screen. Based on designs by Magdalena Butowt-Andrzejkowiczówna and adapted by Franciszek Neužil, this furniture was produced by the Professional School for the Wood Industry in Zakopane for Countess Róża Krasińska in the 1885/1886 academic year. Beginning in 1887, this decorative movement was promoted by the school and was called the Zakopane Style. Stanisław Witkiewicz was critical of this furniture, mainly for its construction “without regard for the shapes of the original highlander pieces.” The failed attempts of the Wood Carving School inclined him to adopt the “highland style” himself. In the course of five years the first villa furnishings in the Zakopane Style, some to his designs, emerged in the Koliba, Oksza, Zofiówka, and Pod Jedlami villas. Attempts were made to harmonize the furnishings with the villa architecture, while “every detail” was to be “covered with highlander ornament or given highlander shape” to fill the interiors, while also creating designs “that had never been seen in highlander huts.”

The Zakopane style dominated architecture in the Podhale region for many years. Although the cutoff date for buildings designed in the Zakopane Style of Architecture is usually held to be 1914, many new pensions, villas and highlander homes are built according to the architectural model devised by Witkiewicz to the present day. The museum of the Zakopane Style of Architecture located in the Villa Koliba provides visitors with information on the Zakopane style.

Willa Oksza

Willa Oksza

Willa Oksza (Witkacy’s paintings), store with local craftsmanship & Bachleda Resort Hotel.

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Tatry Detox

Going to the brisk, breezy mountains in the middle of summer is exactly what I needed. Tatra, the highest mountain range in Poland, is a dream. The whole area covers around 800 km² and its protected by two national parks (Polish Tatrzański Park Narodowy and Slovakian Tatranský národný park) – full of untouched wildlife. Tatra mountains are exceptional for many reasons. They have an exciting exploration history and growing popularity both among tourists and explorers. Here, you can practice hiking, climbing, skiing as well as mountain biking. Our goal this time was Morskie Oko – the largest and most beautiful lake in Tatra – which needs a rather intense walk through the humid forests and gorgeous cliffs. Thanks to the cultural sheep pasturage program, tourists can taste original oscypkis and drink zéntyca (sheep milk whey). They can also hear genuine podhale highlander dialect – and eventually see them in their regional outfits. Tatra area is also important because of its historical perspective. These mountains inspired numerous artists and poets, like Stanisław Witkiewicz and Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, whose body of work contributed to the so-called Zakopane style – which I will post about very soon!

Here are some of my favourite Tatry moments…

Photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Santorini – Where to Eat?

The view from Aktaion.


On islands as well-travelled as Santorini, you might expect to sacrifice substance for style in local restaurants. Well, a lot of restaurants here are overpriced and rather ordinary But between the traditional tavernas and smart supper spots, travellers can find fresh seafood, family-run restaurants and modern Mediterranean dishes in the less known places. Many tables are angled just so to watch the sun set over the caldera, making every evening meal something quite special. Here are my top three addresses!

Metaxi Mas

This is the best restaurant on the island – and the best proof of that is the fact it’s locals’ favourite. The most delicious recipes of the Santorinian and Cretan cuisine, the freshest ingredients from the kitchen garden, refreshing raki (the iconic grape-based pomace brandy of Crete) and unique wines, this place will please you with its laid-back atmosphere and high quality dining. Reminiscent of an island house porch, and an atmosphere full of the Aegean Sea’s colors and aromas, Metaxi Mas serves authentic and original dishes: fava (the famous yellow split pea dip) and white eggplant in the oven, beef fillet in Vinsanto sauce, and boneless pork chops in orange sauce with baked potatoes. Don’t forget to try their octopus, it’s amazing. Maybe the restaurant doesn’t face the sunset, but the food served here definitely does the work.

Exo Gonia, Santorini PC 84700

Dimitris Taverna

In a unique spot, the bay of Ammoudi, you will enjoy the warm hospitality and the delicacies of the Dimitris Taverna established in 1989. In this dreamy corner on the extreme, north part of Santorini, below the famous village of Oia, nestled in the imposing red rock, the tavern prepares fish and sea food dishes inspired by the mediterranean cuisine to accompany ouzo, beer or the famous Santorini wine. Dimitris and Joy, the couple that are the owners of the restaurant, decided ito open this taverna in a small, abandoned warehouse, where locals used to store the boats. More than twenty years later few things have changed. The love and passion for the fresh seafood, the Greek and Mediterranean cuisine remain the same and are shared with the visitors of Santorini.

Ammoudi (Oia), Santorini 84700

Aktaion

This 80-year-old taverna is a quaint spot to try traditional, reasonably priced dishes such as fava with capers, mackerel fritters and white-aubergine pie. Their loukoumades (fried feta cheese balls with tomato sauce) is heaven!

Firostefani, Santorini 84700

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

The “Old” Santorini

There’s the “fancy” Santorini, which faces the picture-perfect sunset. But there’s also the raw part of the island, which has its unique and very intriguing charm. It is here, inland, that you will find traces of the “old” Santorini. In the subdued villages of Megalochori, Pyrgos and Emporio, at religious festivals in blue-domed chapels surrounded by vineyards, among the ruins of ancient Thera on the summit of Mesa Vouno, a giddying rock-face flanked by the black beaches of Kamari and Perissa. I found Emporio the most interesting. The village is built in the lowlands, at the foot of Profitis Ilias Mountain. The village was probably named Emporio (“trade”), because it used to be the center of the commercial affairs in the past. Nowadays, Emporio is a peaceful settlement with beautiful houses and yards, many of which have been renovated, making the place very attractive. You can find plenty of shops, cafes, bars and traditional taverns with savory dishes and fine wines. There are some luxury hotels and villas or charming traditional houses and rooms for your stay. An asset of Emporio village is the fact that it is close to the volcanic beaches of Perissa and Perivolos. The medieval Kasteli, one of the five fortified castles of Santorini, is located in the heart of Emporio, and while you walk on streets, you realise the whole village is built around it. Inside the castle there is a church that dates back to the 16th century or earlier. Meanwhile Pyrgos, strategically built in the heart of the pre-volcanic hinterland, affords panoramic views, yet located that bit further from the famous caldera, it has been spared from the terraces, balconies, infinity pools and master suites that adorn the much glossier Oia. Pyrgos is not swamped by sunset spotters, nor is it the first choice among the hordes of cruise-ship passengers. For a great lunch and stunning view at the entire island, visit Franco’s Cafe!

One of the most underrated Santorini spots is the lighthouse. In the lovely, tranquil village of Akrotiri you can find the lighthouse located on the extreme southwest part of the island, 18 kilometers away from Fira. It is considered one of the best and most beautiful lighthouses in Cyclades. Attuned to the rest of the island, it is an admirable building with whitewashed walls standing on the edge of a high cliff right above the sea. It is, by all means, an idyllic setting. The lighthouse is situated in a peaceful place, surrounded by sea, ideal for blissful, romantic moments. It is highly recommended that you visit it during sunset when the warm light of the sinking sun floods in the lighthouse. It is an excellent sunset-watching spot and the fact that it is not commonly-held makes it more special. It is the spot the locals prefer to spend their evenings and cherish this magical hour. All these, along with the scenic view it offers, will fill you with nothing but entrancement…

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Santorini – Oia, Thira & Firostefani

Ammoúdi Bay dinner setting.

Santorini, if done right, is the ultimate setting for a carefree holiday. First thing’s first – and this may be controversial – avoid staying in the most well-known town of Oia. It’s by far the most touristy spot on the island, regularly flooded with cruise ship day-trippers – even in the post-pandemic world. It also has a large swath of cliffside, couple-filled boutique hotels. Rather than settling in the area, just meander over there for an afternoon or a dinner. In general, Thira, Firostefani and Oia, which are located on the western side of Santorini, are three towns which you can climb through within two hours. There’s no way you can’t spot the sunset from these three, so it’s really worth reserving a table at one of the local restaurants (I will share a few great addresses in the upcoming posts!). Thira, Santorini’s biggest city, has some lovely designer outlets and there are a fair number of cool bars and nightclubs here, too. If you’re looking forward to a calm ambience, stay longer in Firostefani (which neighbours with another adorable village, Imerovigli – that’s where we’ve stayed!). Oia, Santorini’s star, is the ultimate Greek Island village – all white houses and domed churches tumbling over the lip of the caldera. It’s also the most postcard-ish of all. From Oia, it’s worth going down to the Ammoúdi bay, where you will eat the freshest fish with the finest view.

From top left to bottom right: mules and donkeys are regular sight on the roads of Santorini; the postcard view at Oia; sun-bathing octopus down the Ammoúdi bay; one of the vintage boutiques in Oia.

Wherever you sit down for a coffee or refreshing cocktail in Oia, there’s a view. A spectacular view!

One of many domed churches in Firostefani. Sadly, most of them were closed…

If you’re looking forward to some local shopping, forget Oia, and go down to Thira. We bought some gorgeous ceramic plates and tsarouchi slippers made from wool. Very Loewe!

Somewhere between Thira and Firostefani… the villages are so close to each other that it’s difficult to distinguish between them. The blazing sunset and the view at the deep blue sea unites them all!

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.