Zakopane (Poland) and Slovakia: part I

I can sometimes be painstakingly lazy. This is a late entry about my May weekend in Zakopane and Slovakia but here it goes.

After almost 16 months of living in Poland, I finally made it to Zakopane. That picturesque mountainous town that had been on my dreams ever since I moved to Poland.

We took the long trip from Lodz to Zakopane, about 360 km south of Lodz, on motorbike. I was unsure of the idea at the beginning, but the trip to Warsaw a few weeks before on the motorbike had changed my mind. We headed to Zakopane right after work, so I couldn’t even take a nap on the motorbike. That was probably what I hated the most about it, the need to be alert all the time. Yes, as a passenger too. The journey was okay, I was especially thankful about not having to wait in the unbelievable traffic. May weekend is when many Polish people take vacations and the motorways are crazy busy. The motorbike did save us a lot of time.

After we passed Krakow, the roads changed into spiral and uphill as we approached the hills and mountains. I had very much missed the sight of hills and mountains from Nepal, and the journey along such road reminded me of Nepal so much. It was starting to get dark, but the thrill of riding uphill along those winding roads was refreshing. I even managed to forget about Nepal, my family and earthquake for a whole 10 minutes or so. Since the earthquake, I had Nepal on my mind every second of the day. I needed a break for the sake of my mind. I was really enjoying the road trip, but it was also starting to get dark and cold. After fixing a light issue with the back light of the motorcycle that took us about half an hour, we finally reached to the apartment in Zakopane.

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The house was very comfy. Wooden, beautiful and clean. The host, a Polish woman and her friendly puppy, were very welcoming. It was also very close to a popular ski point in Zakopane. In the morning, we took a stroll around. We went to the ski point from the mountain and took some photos. The area was a cluster of shops, restaurants of all sorts. Unfortunately it started to rain and we bought some cheap plastic covers designed to be worn over your body with a little hat. The rain didn’t last for too long. We then decided to go to Kasprowy Wierch, a popular ski mountain in Poland. They had a cable car that would take travelers to the top. There was also possibility of trekking all the way, but we knew we wouldn’t be able to manage it. Despite the unfavorable weather, Zakopane was buzzing with tourists everywhere. Within 10-12 minutes through spectacular mountains, the cable car dropped us to the summit of almost 2000 meters mountain. It was evident that not many of the tourists were prepared for the snow and cold. It was difficult to stay outside in the cold for more than 10 minutes, as it was also very windy that day. But the views were spectacular and we tried to ignore the cold and wind to enjoy the views and to get good shots. A lot of people were skiing down the mountain as well. I was however taking baby steps as I walked and becoming extra careful to not slip and fall down the slopes.

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After returning to the town again by cable car, we decided to walk to the famous Krupowki street in Zakopane. We found a good restaurant along the way, and had the famous sour soup from Zakopane along with apple pancakes and beer. My feet were already a bit sore at that point, but we still had a lot to see!

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Krupowki street was lively with all sorts of shops, restaurants and cafes. Holidaymakers seemed to enjoy what the commercial street had to offer. The street was actually quite long, and we went all the way through till the end. We ate some delicious mountain cheese made from sheep/goat and explored the vintage market nearby. It started to rain lightly as we were walking but we decided to sit on the bench and enjoy the buzz. I had been very affected by the news of great earthquake in Nepal and enjoyed more if there were a lot of people around. We decided to return back to the apartment as we had planned to visit Morskie Oko, the remote lake famed for its pristine beauty. The hike to Morskie Oko would take about 5-6 hours (both ways) and we had to prepare our legs for that. Back in the apartment, we checked the pictures of the day and enjoyed hot tea before going off to sleep.

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When we woke up the next morning, it was raining. I didn’t want to miss out on the anticipated Morskie Oko lake at all, so we quickly set off to the bus station. The small bus station was similar to one of the small bus stations in Nepal near the hills. There were a good amount of tourists wanting to take the minibuses to Morskie Oko despite the bummer weather. In the bus, some people in the back had already began drinking vodka right from the morning. Soon after they started making a lot of noise and singing and clapping etc. I was getting a little irritated but luckily they decided to get off a bit before the final stop. We reached the station in an hour or so. Getting to Morskie Oko is actually quite easy, just go to the central Zakopane bus station and you will drivers of the minibuses calling out ‘Morskie Oko’. After reaching there, you can either walk 9 km or take a horse cart deep into the Tatra park where the spectacular lake lies.

We had beforehand planned on walking because horses are one of my favorite animals, besides dogs and rabbits. My Asian nature hasn’t totally allowed me to relax around pets, but I do like them, despite getting occasionally scared of them and hopefully I will get better because I so want to have a dog at some point of my life. Anyway, we hiked for about 2.5 hours all the way uphill. The sights were nothing special, mostly due to the foggy/rainy/shitty weather. We saw a few waterfalls, springs and river along the way. The road almost all the way to the top is paved with concrete. After walking about 7 kms of the way, only pedestrians were allowed. From that point, we started to see snow and warning signs for avalanches.

We reached to the lake after a difficult journey through the rain. But turns out Morskie Oko was FROZEN! That was the last thing I had imagined it to be. Morskie Oko was what I looked forward to the most in this trip and the view was a bummer! A big lake, frozen enough for people to walk on. And if that wasn’t enough, the area was covered in low clouds. I had read that there’s another lake further uphill from Morskie Oko from where breathtaking views of both lakes can be observed but my enthusiasm completely died after seeing the frozen lake. It was one of the most disappointing travel experiences of my life. We didn’t stay there for such long as there was nothing to see. We descended 1 hour faster and by that time my feet was completely wet and I was cold. It hadn’t stopped raining. I bought a postcard of the lake and we took the minibus back to Zakopane.

Morskie Oko frozen

We were extremely tired from the long day. After reaching back to the apartment, we decided to take a nap before going out to the store. Later in the evening, we went to a Carrefour nearby and devoured some Polish dinner and delicious mountain cheese (oscypek). I still couldn’t believe I was in a town surrounded by mountains, just like my Kathmandu! I do miss home terribly sometimes.


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