Culture

The region of Podbabiogórze is inhabited by three ethnographic groups: Babia Góra Highlanders (in the south), Żywiec Highlanders (in the west) and Kliszczacy (in the east and north-east). Today such a division is theoretical and reflects only in folklore. The differences are observable, for instance, in regional outfit, nowadays worn mostly by the members of folk ensembles.

The cultural heritage of Podbabiogórze region mostly reflects folklore and old traditions of Babia Góra Highladers (Babiogórcy), described already in early 19th century by Josef August Schultes, an Austrian botanist and professor of natural history from Vienna, and in 1850s by Wincenty Pol, a Polish poet, geographer and researcher of the Carpathian region.

Instrumental music, singing and dance have always accompanied the villagers in the region of Podbabiogórze as an inseparable element of everyday chores, harvests, family celebrations and rituals. The folk music and dance of Podbabiogórze belong to the cultural heritage of Polish Highlanders. Vlach migration exerted an important impact on today’s Carpathian folklore enriching it with Balkan, Hungarian and Russian influences. The folklore of Podbabiogórze is a fascinating fusion of shepherds’ culture with the heritage of farmer settlers who migrated here from the north. The ethnographic groups of Podbabiogórze mingled and created a uniform culture code characteristic for this area.

Among the oldest traditional folk music preserved to our times, shepherds’ songs and couplets prevail, mostly possessing a dancing character. Local folklore dances, like hajduk, obyrtan or siustan, are quick and vivid. Originally, folk music bands consisted of bagpipes (the oldest shepherd’s music instrument) and fiddles but later a typical set of instruments included: first violin (playing a melodic line), two second violins (for accompaniment) and a bass. In the region of Podbabiogórze, a typical folk band was often accompanied also by a helican-horn player and a bagpipe player.

Oral, musical and dancing folklore of Podbabiogórze region often refers to highland robbers’ traditions. Short four-verse couplets, typical for this region, usually describe reasons for joining a robbers’ gang, anecdotes about highland robbers, robbery stories, loot, daily routines or death of a robber. The motif of robber’s death is very frequent in the folklore of Podbabiogórze and the most famous local harnaś (i.e. highland robbers’ gang leader) described in this context is Józef Baczyński of Skawica, executed in Cracow in 1735.

Nowadays traditional folk dance and music are performed by regional music bands or folklore dance ensembles from the area. The oldest and most important such ensembles include:  “Babiogórcy“ and “Juzyna” from Zawoja, “Zbójnik” from Skawica, “Babiogórzanie – Polana Makowska” from Maków Podhalański, “Zbyrcok” and “Zbyrcocek” from Juszczyn, “Ziemia Suska” and “Kapela Mała Ziemia Suska” from Sucha Beskidzka, “Stryszawskie Gronicki” from Stryszawa and “Holniki” from Sidzina. Recently, several new folk bands have been established, e.g. “Budzowskie Kliszczaki”, “Kojszowiacy” and “Zobielsko Gromada”.

Farmer’s wives’ associations and other local organizations also play an important role in the life and culture of local village societies in Podbabiogórze. Many initiatives of such organizations are aimed at protecting and promoting cultural heritage of the region (especially folk art, traditional music and dance, old rituals and regional cuisine) during numerous festivals, contests and other events organized in the region.

Although not resorting directly to folklore, also such amateur artistic groups as brass bands and orchestras, choirs (e.g. “Bel Canto” from Jordanów, “Jasień” from Sucha Beskidzka, “Vox Altisona” from Osielec), early music ensembles (e.g. Gaspare Castiglione Early Music Ensemble functioning in the Castle of Sucha Beskidzka), music bands representing various genres of popular music, theatre groups and modern dance ensembles play a significant role in promoting local culture.

Folk art and artistic handicraft constitute important part of cultural heritage of Podbabiogórze. Around 1850, one of the oldest and most important centers of wooden toy handicraft in Poland, referred to as Żywiec (or Żywiec-Sucha) center for folk wooden toy by ethnographers, emerged in the area, embracing such villages as Koszarawa, Lachowice, Stryszawa, Kuków, Kurów, Hucisko, Przyborów and Pewel Wielka. Nowadays, the center practically functions only within the area of Stryszawa commune. Numerous hand-made toy patterns appeared during the decades of its activity. The oldest folk toys include rattles (called “scyrkowki” in local dialect), horse-pulled carts (called “karetki”), cradles (called “kołybki”) and toy farmer’s carts. They were ornamented with painted or carved geometric and floral motives. In early 20th century, hand-made toy horses, hobbyhorses, horses on wheels, carousels with horses and birds on wheels (called “klepoki”) became very popular. Nowadays, the folk artists from Stryszawa manufacture mostly toy birds of different types and sizes, e.g. hoopoes, waxwings, cuckoos, woodpeckers, pheasants, owls, falcons etc. The hand-made wooden toy birds have become an unofficial symbol of Stryszawa. In 2011, the Beskid Center for Folk Wooden Toy was opened here with the exposition presenting the history of wooden toy manufacturing and a souvenir shop.

Also the inhabitants of the village of Białka specialize in wood handicraft. Local craftsmen and folk artists are famous worldwide for manufacturing carved wooden chess.

Another kind of folk handicraft constituting the local cultural heritage of Podbabiogórze is embroidery. In the late 19th century the National School of Embroidery was established in Maków Podhalański and the local style of white embroidery with delicate floral motifs soon became popular and highly appreciated both in Poland and abroad.

Basketry and wicker weaving has been cultivated in Budzów for many generations. Nowadays, the weavers gradually substitute wicker with tree-bark (i.e. thin, chipped wood straps) and manufacture not only various types of baskets but also beautifully ornamented artistic souvenirs.

Colorful crepe paper compositions, like flowers, bunches or trees, are still manufactured in the local communities of Bystra, Sidzina, Jordanów, Maków Podhalański and Stryszawa. This artistic handicraft has been popular in the region of Podbabiogórze for more than a century.