From the rugged mountains of Southern Poland come a hard-working people who love to sing, dance and celebrate. The tradition has it that Góral men impress their women with their fancy dancing and complicated footwork. This skit is a story of two Góral men in love with the same woman or Góralka. Fierce dancing and fighting ensue until the lonely Góralka is carried-off by a third Góral. The fighting finally stops when the 2 jealous Górals abandon the fight and their woman for a drink together.

History of the Góralski Costume

The mountaineers’ or górale costume from the Podhale Region in the Tatra Mountains is a living attire. The center of the region is found in Zakopane, one of the southern most cities of Poland. This clothing is worn on a daily basis. Men wear white wool felt, heavily embroidered (parzenice) tight pants and hand-made hard soled moccasins (the kierpce), with lacing up the lower leg. A mountaineer hat with a red band and shells would be worn on the head. The width of the brim ,varies according to the taste and age of the wearer. An unmarried “available” mountaineer wears a feather in his cap. A white linen or cotton shirt, usually with a metal pin attached to the chest, can be worn with a black sleeveless vest that is waist length and has small white buttons. This is the “work uniform” of most carriage taxi drivers. For more festive occasions a “cucha” or mountaineer white felt heavily embroidered cape with sleeves is worn over one shoulder and tied with a wide red ribbon Around the man’s waist a wide (12″) ornamented belt is worn. The width of this leather belt depends on the ranking of the mountaineer in his band. A ciupaga which originally was used as a hatchet for chopping and fighting is now blunt and serves as a walking stick and for dancing, i.e., its function is more ornamental. On the back of the ciupaga are small rings. These not only make a pleasant jingle in movement, but also are used to attach insignias of places visited.


The metal pin, originally served as a means of “buttoning” the front of the man’s chemise. It also had religious symbols and a dangling lower attachment which was used as a pipe cleaner.


The women’s dress used to be simpler but now consists of a flowered skirt of lightweight wool, white cotton blouse, with eyelet embroidery all over the collar, the sleeves and the cuffs and a velvet vest heavily ornamented with beads and sequins. The patterns often represent the mountain flowers and plants. A wide red ribbon laces the vest at the front, with its ends reaching the hem of the skirt. Around the neck are 3 strings of red coral beads. Just like the men, the woman also wear kierpce (hand-made leather moccasins) on their feet.

History of the Góralski Dances

Góralski means [dance] of the mountaineers (Góralski is an adjective from the noun góral – a mountaineer). It could signify a dance of any mountaineer people in Poland, for instance, from Zywiec, Spisz, Beskid or Bieszczady regions. In Poland, however, góralski usually means the dance of the mountaineers from Podhale, as this region has the richest folk art and the most intricate dances, and therefore is the best known.


The dance, music and folklore of the Podhale region in the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland is drastically different from the rest of Poland. Podhale is extremely mountainous, the people there have a very different life style from the other regions of Poland, where the land is mostly flat. For instance, the main occupation in Podhale is animal husbandry while in the countryside of the rest of Poland it is agriculture. Also, the mountaineers of Podhale (called Górale, plural of Góral) have been exposed to a different set of cultural influences, the Slovaks and the Magyars are one example of this, but by far the most important influence to reach Podhale from the outside of Poland was during the 15th and 16th centuries when a nomadic people, the Wallachian shepherds, wandered through the Carpathian Mountains. Their culture and folklore were very strong and left a profound imprint on the cultures throughout the Carpathian Mountains. The folklore of Podhale has more similarities to other areas in the Carpathian Mountains outside of Poland than it does to Poland proper.


Góralski is the couple dance of the Górale. Partners however do not dance with each other, but around each other, and touch only during, the turning step, the zwyrt. There is also a men’s dance, the Zbójnicki, which originated from the brigands who roamed the Tatra Mountains in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are the only two folk dances that have been preserved until today in Podhale. Nowadays many dance types have, of course, become popular throughout Poland, like polkas, waltzes and Rock ‘n Roll. This is also true in this region, but Podhale is unique in that the folklore there is still alive on an everyday basis. Many Górale continue to hand-build wood houses in the old style. They continue their form of high altitude shepherding, which the Wallachian nomads brought to this region. The men still work the fields and walk the streets in their traditional costume, and at a wedding or christening celebration, or a party, musicians will play Góralski music and people will dance. This dancing is a natural process, something people learned as children through observation and started doing when they became of age.


The music for Góralski is all in 2/4 time. A Góralski band is composed of 2 or more fiddles and a 5-string cello that the Górale call a bass. There are also numerous pipes played, including a bagpipe called – a goat, although these are all very rare. Góralski harmonies, melodies, phrasing and style of playing is rather unusual and the result is music that sounds very strange to our western ears. Only certain steps can be done to certain types of music. Coordination between dancer and musician is accomplished only because they have probably known each other since childhood. An accented step, a certain movement by the dancer or a shout will indicate a change of music.

3 thoughts on “Goralski

  1. I have got an Goral hat from a polich woman, Danuta.
    To my surprice there was a band with Kauri shells on the hat.
    Could you please tell me how the hat maker got these shells!

    They are used as money by the polynesians in the Pacific Ocean which is far away!
    So how do the Gorals get them?

    • I would guess that the person making the hat did not use “authentic Polish” sea shells for that particular hat. Shells from the Baltic or other inland waters would most likely have been found on older hats.

  2. Pingback: Revista Luceafărul » Călătorii geodezice, Polonia, goralii – românii sau vlahii din Polonia

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