|Just a colourful picture|
We had expected to make a quick dash southwards from Krakow towards Zakopane for a couple of days in the Tatra mountains. After calling several hotels and getting the “we’re fully booked” reply (except for one but that was too pricey for us), we started to question the wisdom of heading for busy touristic Zakopane at all, and in the knowledge that this was going to be one of the busiest weekends on its calendar. Next Tuesday was Assumption Day and many Poles would be making a long weekend of it. But then we got lucky at the Sabala hotel and were off. Oh, another tasty breakfast of groats pudding!
We checked out of the expensive Cracovia and drove out on the smooth roads … After no more than ten kilometres we hit a wall of traffic, masses of Poles on their weekend exodus to the mountains. There was nothing we could do. No other route and all there was for it was to sit it out. We switched off the engine, listened to the górale CD, Polish highlanders music, and continued to make slow progress. The congestion was caused by a combination of traffic overload and road works. Anyway, we progressed, slowly, and saw the landscape around us change, first it became more hilly and rural and later it started to become mountainous. The scenery became alpine, the trees, the fields, the brown cows, the houses in typical Zakopane style, and so on.
Zakopane was bigger than we had expected, and busy with cars and pedestrians. Long before we actually reached the town itself we noticed many hotels and places offering pokoje, rooms. There was a definite holiday atmosphere in the town. We found our hotel and were very pleasantly surprised at what a great find it was, a lovely wooden building full of mountain cabin charm, smack bang in the centre along the main pedestrianised street. The very friendly welcome we received just put us completely at ease and in a great mood. Even better, we got a nice large room with lovely wooden furniture and a proper double bed (after changing from the one with superb views but only air-con, no opening windows), free internet in the room, and there was a pool and sauna on the top floor, and we got a 10% discount as we were staying for three nights. Definitely rated this as one of our best finds to date, and the addition of the crowds of tourists actually only made it more appealing as there was a distinct “buzz” about the town, the overwhelming majority Polish.
We dumped our stuff and went downstairs and had drinks sat on the balcony overlooking the busy crowds on ulica Krupowki, the stalls selling tourist tat, the street entertainers, and just watching people, like the kids with the cones of Polish lody (ice cream), tall twirly cones of chocolate and vanilla soft ice. We walked up the street and to tourist information where we bought a guidebook and a map of hiking trails. A Brit helped us out with some trail recommendations. The girl at the counter in the log cabin was only helpful up to a point, which did not include recommending or suggesting a suitable walk. Still, we came away with useful information and returned to our hotel, doing a bit of shopping for picnic ingredients along the way – local cheese on sale from the stalls along the street; a simple but decorative log of smoked cheese; and a few other bits and pieces which we could store in our own fridge in our room, along with the water and berry juice we already have; a Polish sausage, bread, tomatoes, raisins, from a mini-market.
Then we returned to our hotel and had drinks on the balcony (yes, got that wrong – not before going to tourist info, anyway…) Then we changed into our swimsuits and went for a relaxing session in the sauna and cool down in the cold pool. I chatted with a Swedish family. Husband, looking rather “gypsy”, does business with Russia and Ukraine. Later Ness came up too after having done stuff in the room. Total chill-out time. Afterwards we both felt bloody good, tingling. We had a tasty dinner in the lively hotel restaurant, where a górale band was playing inside, but we only managed to find a table outside again, under the awning. Just as well, as it was looking rather grey and raining steadily.