I was in Krakow, Poland and running out of time as I wanted to move forward with my traveling because I had few cities ahead of me in less then a week’s time. Usually when tourists visit Krakow they take a day tour to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to learn about the horrors of the Third Reich in Polish areas and the efficient extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II. It was a tough choice not to visit the camp, but instead I drifted into a beautiful mountain town called Zakopane by word of mouth from the streets of Krakow.
I took an easy, comfortable, cheap bus-ride for two and a half hours.
I figured I could go have a relaxing trip in the mountains opposed to being swamped with the depressing education of War at Auschwitz.
Zakopane is a small, artistic mountain town that the Polish call their winter capitol as it is a prime destination for mountaineering, mountain biking, and skiing. It’s in a beautiful valley between the Tatra Mountains and Gubalowka Hill near the border of Slovakia in Southern Poland.
This town gets lots of Polish tourism during both the Summer and the Winter and there are many shops, markets, restaurants where the family crowds slowly wander.
And let me tell you, the Polish love their meat, barbecues, and formal, traditional dancing. Needless to say, I found myself a dancing partner and enjoyed some laughs – although she spoke absolutely no English.
Zakopane has a waterpark with an indoor slide and a pool that connects to the outdoor pool with a nearby rest area. I swam a few laps and had fun on the waterslide.
There are extensive hiking trails in the mountains and a lodge at a higher elevation so hikers can go further, deeper along the trails and come back to a nice bed.
I met an adventurous Polish girl, Basia, and her father who were up here for a week, hiking everyday from 8 am until sunset at 9 Pm.
They hike about 10 hours or more, almost nonstop, everyday with little rest to maximize covering the gorgeous terrain. First, biking riding to hiking routes as fast as they can to access trails faster before they hike up other routes not accessed by bicycle. They drop over the side of mountains as some trails are so high and dangerous and become inaccessible so they have to adjust routes. We met on my way back with me riding on the horse carriage like a dumb tourist.
However, this was the fastest way I could get up the mountain and cover the area I wanted as I had little time as I was traveling so much – I didn’t have enough time to hike up before sundown but the serenity of the ride by myself was priceless. My driver was drunk and would grunt at my requests to go further before sundown.
Basia, her father, and I made our way into town in a taxi together from the hiking endpoint and then walked on the main drag to choose a place for dinner and a beer. They hiked all day and then ate big pork kebabs with a gigantic beer.
I had some vegetables with cheese. The live music right in front of us was wonderful.
Basias dad and I reviewed their routes on the map. It was a very exciting night for me to be with such amazing company.
They weren’t the only wonderful group I met in Zakopane; I had another night with some locals that was special as well. I had a late-night after party at my wonderful wooden home.
It was quite a lovely stay in Zakopane. You can’t help but fall in love with the rustic, wooden, creative architecture with a dreamy mountain backdrop.