Hidden among the scenic Karkonosze mountains in southwestern Poland, deep in the woods and well away from the popular tourist trails, The Shack – as its dwellers tend to call it – is a secret meeting place for a special bunch of people. Despite the lack of electricity and internet, every weekend, regardless of the season, The Shack is brimming with trekkers from various walks of life, who typically don’t have the opportunity to meet or interact. They seek shelter from social conventions and develop their own, unique and intimate, small-scale society and culture.
The Shack is a place with rich traditions. Located off the beaten Karkonosze tourist trails, since the 1970s it has been popular with various groups of non-conformists. Hippies flocked there to escape the oppression of the Communist authorities. During the political transformations of the 80s, some of them joined Fighting Solidarity (Polish anti-Soviet and anti-communist underground organization), and The Shack became a print-and-distribution center of subversive leaflets.
Throughout the years, both political and non-political visitors created a rich set of rules, The Shack’s unwritten code that acts as a tool for introducing newcomers and keeping a low profile. Breaking the code is punished by a system of humorous tasks. Over time, regulars started families and made professional careers, but they handed over The Shack’s traditions to the younger generation of visitors.
There is a position of Shack Keeper, who stays there permanently. He lives alone in the wild, taking care of the building and getting along with its guests. He’s the unofficial leader within The Shack. The Keeper usually changes every few years. The Shack somewhat changes too, as Keeper’s personality influences the atmosphere.Today most Shack visitors come on weekends to escape civilization and relax for a bit. The flock of guests increased significantly during the pandemic; people tried to compensate for the scarcity of face-to-face contacts. The sense of belonging is built by working and eating together, among strangers. Guests forage wood from the forest and chop it, prepare meals on the wood-fired stove, share them with others by candlelight, play guitar, sing and dance – all without modern disturbances of internet and smartphones. The Shack dwellers want to experience the traditional way of life and stay among nature. Most appear occasionally, but there are always some who visit it regularly and enjoy it together.