Shepherds’ Hut, Museum of Mountaineers and Brigands, Rabka-Zdrój

While travelling from Southern Carpathians, the Wallachians brought with them not only their colourful culture, music, decorations and outfits but also a system of collective sheep grazing called ‘szałaśnictwo’. It is thanks to them that we have a few types of sheep cheeses such as ‘oscypek’ today. The ‘baca’ or the leader of the shepherds was responsible for cheese production. He was usually a well-respected landlord who took care of the organisation of sheep grazing, ensured that the shepherds followed the ‘shepherds’ etiquette’, which meant not swearing by the fire, rounding up the sheep with a wet stick and not breaking sticks on a knee because it could cause bad luck. The majority of work was done by a ‘juhas’ (a sheep shepherd in Hungarian) who guarded the sheep day and night and by a ‘honielnik’ who was usually a young boy learning the ins and outs of working with sheep and had to run the most. A herding dog, the Polish Tatra Sheepdog was their helper. Unexpected visits of brigands were frequent in the shepherds’ hut and a wounded brigand could hide there pretending to be a juhas attacked by a bear. In addition to an alibi, he could also be helped by the baca who was also a healer.

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