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20060818_P_0056 crop diary pic
Praying up and down the main street of Zakopane
20060818_P_0064 diary pic
Sculpture or playground?

We headed back to Zakopane today, for the highlight on the annual calendar of festivities, the 38th Highland Festival. We had already booked our room at the Sabala hotel and all we had to do was to make the short drive. We filled up with petrol at the Shell just outside Levoča, checked the tire pressure and drove the short distance to the Polish border. This time we had the superb views looking towards the mountain range of the High Tatras straight ahead of us for a long time. We passed through unloveable Poprad, with its Whirlpool and Tatramat plants, and on to the Tatras and into them. It was a fantastic panorama of mountains with a foreground of golden fields and green pine forests.

We wound our way into the foothills, and smoothly crossed the border back into Poland, which we have grown pretty fond of these past few weeks. Coming the other way, out of Poland, or rather, queuing to cross the border the other way, was a long stretch of traffic. The same as it had been for us a few days ago. We took a shortcut on a smaller road, which didn’t make much difference, through the forest and soon we were back in “Zak”, and checked in at the Sabala. We had nice room again, with lots of wood but this time with two single beds instead of a double, but also with a balcony out over the parking area at the back and the concrete block of flats. Most flat inhabitants had livened up their small apartment balconies with flowers, plants, geraniums, etc.

We popped out and from Redolka at the bottom of the street we bought a proper Highlanders hat, to add to the growing collection, and booked a table at the ultra-typical log-cabin restaurant for this evening. We settled at one of the tables in the hotel bar, outside overlooking ulica Krupowki, anticipating the parade that the programme said was due to take place, but nothing happened. Back in our room we picked up emails. We’re a bit worried about the laptop now, which hasn’t been right for some time now, flicking between a/c and battery, clicking unusually, but we thought it was just the different electricity supply, maybe. Anyway, there’s no Sony Vaio dealer in any eastern European country anyway, so we can’t really do much about it.

Remembering the massive queues for the cable car from our previous visit to Zak, we went in search of the tourist agency where we could buy tickets. This was just down the road from tourist information. The apologetic but very friendly and helpful girl told us we were too late to buy tickets as the company that issues the tickets closes at 12.30pm and then for the weekend, so it’s only possible to buy tickets “at the door”!

We resigned ourselves to a mega-early start (actually, I was rather glad for this – it’ll force us to be up and out early, catching the best part of the day). On the way back to the hotel we got some supplies for tomorrow’s walk. Back at the room I noticed that I had left our excellent laminated hiking trails map somewhere. Ness went out in search for it, finding nothing, and I went back to the tourist information and bought another copy of the same map. We spent a bit of time on our room, diary writing, and later in the evening we went out for dinner to the restaurant we had booked earlier.

We needn’t have booked and there was plenty of room, and we settled at a cosy table for two and had some tasty but very cheese-heavy mountain cooking, and both were in a super mood, glad to be here again, and really enjoying this “travel pudding” now. It’s as if we have found that bit of magic from somewhere again and these past few days have been relaxed, even when we’ve been busy or just on “bus days”, and even the occasional fit of temper (like mine this morning at the petrol station when I was getting hassled by a lorry) is over in a flash. The past few days, and almost all of the past weeks, have been a real pleasure, and we keep being amazed at how much, and how many different “sights” we have seen. It takes a little while for impressions to “bed in” before you realise what you have seen and done.