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New Europe

Day One Hundred and Six: Bialka Tatrzanska

Traditional Górale wedding 
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Beata and Mariusz on the way to tie the knot.
Michael Palin - New EuropeThe pytaci are despatched to fetch the bridegroom from his house. He's expected to put up a token show of resistance, but within the hour they're back, not just with him but with a covered wagon with a band in it and ten horse-drawn coaches.

If Beata looks long-suffering, Mariusz, in thick woollen trousers, wide leather belt, grey, ermine-trimmed waistcoat and round-brimmed black hat with a white feather in it, looks plain terrified. I'm not surprised. Two fiddlers and a cellist are stood by the fence singing, the pytaci are improvising their witty quips and he has to go upstairs to the bedroom for the public removal of his shirt by the bride, and its replacement by a new one. Like much of the ceremony, this little ritual seems to be about renouncing old links and endorsing others.

After all this is completed, a horse-drawn carriage takes the happy couple down the road to the church for the wedding ceremony. This is a comparatively simple matter, though with ten bridesmaids and ten pages the photocall seems to take longer than the service. By mid-afternoon the guests are filing back to the upstairs room of the big, three-bayed, pointy-gabled fire station to eat and drink.

By eight o'clock the vodka, specially distilled for the wedding and bearing the names of the happy couple on its label, is beginning to take its toll, as the final moves of the day's ceremony are played out and the pytaci try one last time to keep the bride and groom apart.

Unfortunately they're now a little over-relaxed and losing the plot somewhat.

I feel enormous relief when Beata, deemed to have passed all the tests, is given a bonnet to replace her cap and can at last become Mrs Budz without further interference. The bridesmaids and the pages trade blurrily sung insults with each other, arms linked and weaving about like a rugby scrum on ice. I discover a potently pungent combination of vodka and oscypek, the smoked goat's cheese made in heaven, which I first tasted at the Podhale restaurant in Warsaw. The band, two violinists and a three-string cello, then takes over and fast and fierce and slow and decorous numbers tumble over each other in quick succession, and often at the same time. Outside the cold night air begins to tighten its grip and by midnight we're all tucked up in bed at the Daisy, completely and pathetically unable to keep up.
Traditional Górale wedding 
click to enlarge 
file size
Mariusz and the bridesmaids – one last fling.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day One Hundred and Six: Bialka Tatrzanska
  • Country/sea: Poland
  • Place: Białka Tatrzańska
  • Book page no: 251

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  • Eating
  • Day 5 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 3 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 6 
  • Pole to Pole