Updated: Oct 27, 2019
September and October is a time when in the Polish mountains you may be surprised by an unusual view - redyk.
Redyk is the ceremonial passage of shepherds with their herds of sheep.
The first one is organized in spring, when herds are driven to mountain pastures (hale in Polish), while the second one is organized in autumn, when they return to their owners. It's one of the biggest village holidays ever.
In spring, before the landlords give their sheep to the shepherds for the whole summer, official marking, counting and sometimes “magic treatments"; are carried out to ensure that the herd returns healthy and undiminished.
The sheep are gathered at the foot of the mountains, after which the large herd is led high up to the mountain pastures, where it has abundant plant food. Also in there sheep are milked twice a day and also in shepherds’ hut (bacówka in Polish) manual production of oscypek takes place.
Once I was at a photography workshop by Nikon School led by a fantastic Polish photographer Krystian Bielatowicz in a mountain shepherd's hut in Pieniny. And though I've been to the mountains more than once, this time the contact with nature and tradition was amazing.
In order to be able to see the first milking, we had to go to a shepherd's hut before dawn. Juhasi (shepherds who are working for baca - senior shepherd) get up at 4 a. m. and before they rush into the mountain pastures they milk their sheep to have milk for cheese production during the day.
While some shepherds are busy with making oscypki others watch herds. They are accompanied by special mountains dogs - Podhale Shepherds (which by the way very much resemble sheep).
It happens that the shepherds do not return to the shepherd's hut for the night and then have special portable constructions for sleeping!
Baca occasionally comes to the shepherd's hut with provisions and check if there is anything what shepherds need, but he usually sleeps in his own home. Whereas juhasi spend the whole summer in the mountains, without contact with civilization, alcohol, or woman. . .
The only pleasures are tobacco, coffee, tiny debilitating radio and the power of fresh mountain air.
Sometimes tourists come to the shepherd's hut. Then they buy bundz (sheep's cheese), żyntyca (sheep's whey) or ready-made smoked cheese -oscypek.
Shepherds themselves admit that these oscypki are the most real ones, because some people can add cow's milk to sheep's milk and “then it is no longer oscypek, but it costs the same ;-)";.
Juhasi are reluctant to talk to strangers. They have a closed circle and it takes a long time to gain their trust. They're tough people with character. Sometimes, after the whole summer, are so tired and don't want to go back to work for another year, but with the spring something starts pushing them back into the mountains.
If you ever try delicious Polish highlander oscypek, you should understand how much work and heart juhasi have to put into that manufacture production.
Make sure to watch amasing Krystian's photocast about Shepherds:
And if you want to make a time travel to a mountain hut, write us at email@example.com