Fresh mountain air!
15.08.2013 - 19.08.2013 20 °C
To make our way to Poland involved a 4 hour train ride to Poprad, then a bus for 2 hours to Zakopane, which we had no idea where to get it from or where to buy tickets so once we arrived we had a frantic 10 minutes figuring it out just in time for the coach to depart. However the fun really started when we arrived in Zakopane, with only a few pictures of bus timetables from our hostel but no real instructions we had to figure it out for oursleves. We had established we needed a mini-bus from and that it was across the road from the bus station, however there were no signs on the minibuses or any obvious system (even the locals seemed unsure of which mini-bus they needed!). Eventually after showing the name of the bus stop to several drivers we managed to find the right bus...
...however had no idea how to pay for a ticket, how the journey would be and when we needed to get off! By this point is was virtually dark (not a good time to be on a bus headed for god knows where). After a tense 10 mins, we asked a fellow passenger who luckily spoke perfect English and fought his way to the front of the bus to ask the driver to shout and wait for us when we reached our stop. (If you head to Zakopane you pay for buses or mini-buses when you get off) From there it was seconds to our hostel; MTB Hostel [link] a wooden house at the foot of the wooden mountains and only a 100 yards from the road. At first Nick seemed a little disappointed, he said he had been expecting something much more remote from the description (this soon changed though).
Again we had arrived late so we made good old pasta and pesto then Skype’d our friends Dave and Amy to catch up. It was only 21:30 and our whole room (6 other people) were already in bed which is very unusual for a hostel - very early the next morning we realised why as everyone was up between 05:00 and 06:00 to go hiking.
We decided to have a “lay-in” getting up at 08:30 by which time the hostel was deserted. We had already decided not to go hiking that day but to instead explore the town of Zakopane. Our host Michal and his lovely wife recommended walking into to town via the trail along the edge of the forest. An hour later after a gentle walk we emerged next to the Ski Jump which even in Summer was a hive of active with food stalls, fair rides and even competing ski jumpers on the dry slope.
From there we walked the short distance to the main street in the centre of town which was packed due to it being a national holiday and festival weekend. By this time our stomachs were rumbling so we went in search for food (as usual it took us a while to choose a place) we settled for a traditional looking Polish restaurant, where I had a pork steak in a mushroom sauce with potato pancakes (amazing btw) and Nick had the Polish version of Chicken Kiev.
Once our bellies were satisfied we decided to take the funicular railway to [Name] which gave spectacular views of the Tatra Mountains. At the top there were lots of market stalls with the usual souvenir tat (randomly lots of Russian dolls and a disturbing amount of fur) so we soon decided to stop for a drink (beer of course!) to take in the views.
Whilst in town we purchase a hiking map and that night we planned a route for the next day, to our surprise all routes took a minimum of 4 hours to complete so it looked like the we would have to be up early to do a good days hiking. Now the early nights of our roommates made sense.
06:00 the next day we were up ready for breakfast and a day of hiking approx. 9hrs and by 07:00 we were on the trail to the Ridge. The trail started going up hill from the very start and after 2 hours we had climbed our way out of the woods and into the rocky mountains. Still climbing we had to navigate our way up gigantic rocks which was actually really good fun. We even came to a section which had metal chains attached and had to pull ourselves up. Unfortunately this was a hike with several false peaks, so when we came to a section which looked like the top I was not happy to see there was still 40 minutes of steep up-hill hiking to do. By this point I was very hot, hungry and snappy so was not a good hiking partner. The last bit was too much for me and I felt like it was a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Nick on the other hand wasn’t out of breath and was making it look easy, hence unfortunately he ended up with having to deal with a few tears and my wrath when I started having a go at him about how unfair it was! Ever the dutiful husband he calmed me down and kept encouraging me all the way to the top. (However he still won’t stop telling everyone about it)
The view from the top was stunning with perfect blue skies making it well worth all of the pain I had put myself through to get there. We took our time eating our lunch soaking up the scenery before realsiing that we had stumbled into the middle of a Mountain Marathon which was taking place that day. Unbelievably people where running along the trails I had just been struggling up! Our route followed their route for a short time and we kept having to jump out of their way before we diverted off. The next bit of the route was a tricky steep climb down, filled with large rocks the size of my legs, so therefore took nearly the same time to descend. We finally made it back to our hostel about 15.30 after nearly 9 hours of hiking, for a much needed shower and relaxation in the evening sunshine.
The next day we decided to go for a smaller (although just as tough) hike in the foothills of the mountains through the forest. I ended up having a further strop at Nick who was already not enjoying the walk anyway as he thought the walk was boring and did not offer any views (See Lesson Number 10). After about 3 hours of walking we reached a point where our host Michal had told us you could hire bikes for the final part, so 20PLN we were riding bikes down hill weaving our way in and out of hikers and stopping for the occasional photo. We had not realised that once we handed back the bikes we still had an hours walk back to the hostel which felt even harder than the actual hike itself!
That evening we decided to treat ourselves to a meal in Zakopane town so after a quick shower we dolled ourselves up and caught another random min-bus into town. We finally found a really nice looking restaurant and tucked into so well earned steaks followed by warm chocolate cake with cream for Nick and an enormous “Eton Mess” style dessert for me, which Nick had to finish (after already polishing off his cake!). Including beers and coffee the whole thing came to a grand total of £36!! An absolute bargain! By night time the buses hadn’t gotten any easier, we stood on the side of the road along with lots of locals who were equally confused jumping on any mini-bus type vehicle that pulled up asking if it was going to our town. Finally an hour later one was going in the correct direction and even surprised ourselves by finding our stop in the dark without having to ask anyone for help!
Our final morning we had to be up early to catch our coach to Krakow. On our way out of the hostel we stopped to chat and say goodbye to Michal’s wife who said how nice it had been to meet us and gave us loads of tips on where to go and what to do in Krawkow even hugging us before letting us leave. Another crazy bus ride later and we were boarding our coach bound for Krakow - although this one had no personal tv set or free tea and coffee! Doh!