Highlanders MusicThe Górales, Highlanders, mainly farmers, are a group of people indigenous to Polish, Czech and Slovak mountain regions located along the Carpathian Mountain range in Europe. The Carpathian Mountains arch across eastern Europe from Romania to Slovakia and are inhabited by traditional peoples that share many similar cultural customs in keeping with the mountains they live in.

There is also a significant Górale scattered population in the area of Bukovina in western Ukraine and in northern Romania, as well as in Chicago, the seat of the Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America.

Poland’s Górales or Highlanders are an independent group of Poles living in the Tatra and Beskid mountain ranges of southern Poland who keep old Górale customs alive in their villages. Some where around 600,000 populate the area which in the past have been cut off from mainstream culture and foreign influence and are an ethnically distinct group thought to have descended from migrating Balkan shepherds. Górales are part of Carpathian Slavic highlander groups, including Hutsuls, Lemkos, and Boykos.

One aspect of their culture that sets them apart from other polish people is their dialect, which is understood by Poles, but includes a number of words not normally used in standard Polish. Their language, music, customs and cuisine may even differ slightly from village to village.

Highland culture produces objects like traditional carved timber furniture or their distinct folk costumes including cotton blouses, embroidered pinafores, felt hats, thick woollen socks, sheepskin slippers and woollen shawls.

Their music performed on flutes and crafted string instruments. Their traditions have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. You may find Highlanders performing in Polish restaurants with their distinctive music or hear Tatra songs and see whirling dance at Polish folk festivals such as the Festival of Mountain Folklore in August at Zakopane.

Górales very much enjoy their own brand of cuisine including dishes containing ewe’s cheese, potatoes, sauerkraut, mutton and oscypek (smoked sheep’s milk cheese).

Some still live in log cabins, some of the examples I have seen are 300 hundred years old. These are quite simple structures made from thick felled trees and would contain chunky furniture with stoves for heating in the long cold winters up in the mountains. 

Górales - Poland Travel Guide

Tatra Mountains in southern Poland