Monday, 12 September 2016

Hygge On The Horizon

I was listening to the radio at the weekend, and came across the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced HUE-gah).

Hygge is one of those words for which there is no direct translation into another language, but one definition I found describes it as:

“the Danish ritual of enjoying life’s simple pleasures, friends, family, graciousness, contentment, good feelings, a warm glow. Certainly, hygge is intrinsic to the Danish lifestyle, but this feeling of well-being, so deeply satisfying and cosy, is something we all experience, each in our own way.

The hygge tradition includes sharing stories about ideas and history, culture and the things we create. Celebrating happiness is important to us. Our goal: more hospitality, more warmth, more respect for each other and the environments we share”

All this sounds fantastic, and definitely something I’d sign up for. Perhaps there is an inner Dane in me somewhere.

It’s thought that the long, cold Danish winters distilled these ideas of companionship, bonhomie and the good life into the concept of hygge, and with the nights beginning to draw in and autumn just around the corner, it reminded me that one of the great things to look forward to in the coming months is a bracing walk by day followed by good food and friendship by night.

Satisfaction guaranteed in my book, as the accompanying photos show.  

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A Dash To Dentdale

We have always enjoyed our trips to Dentdale, a beautiful part of the country we have been visiting regularly for over 25 years.

In recent years, our visits have become rather fewer and further between, but the August Bank Holiday weekend provided the perfect opportunity for a brief re-acquaintance and, although more succinct than we would have liked, it was just the tonic we needed after a busy few weeks.

We did a bit of pottering about on Saturday afternoon after the drive up in the morning, but during the next two days we managed a couple of decent outings. On Sunday, we walked from our digs along the Dales Way to Sedbergh and back. 

Rosehips ripening

The rivers were full after heavy overnight rain

Cloud just lifting from the top of Middleton Fell

Although August by date, there was clear evidence that Autumn was fast approaching. Rivers were swollen from recent rains, blackberries were already ripe in the hedgerows, we picked wild raspberries as we went. 

Looking towards the Lune Valley

From the hillside on the way into Millthrop, we could see the restored
Pepperpot building in the grounds of Sedbergh School

Returning through Dent village

Nuthatch on the bird feeder

Monday dawned rather brighter, and we chose a walk that gained height above the dale, affording great views to almost all points of the compass.

Denthead viaduct on a brighter morning

Picking up the Pennine Bridleway

It's a National Trail!

Looking back towards Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent

View from near the top of Arten Gill

Soaking up the far-reaching views on a perfect day for walking,
with the mountains of the Lake District in the far distance

Dentdale laid out below us in all its glory

Back in the dale, the rivers are quieter today

Sunlight catching the peat-stained waters of the River Dee

Monday, 5 September 2016

A Long Weekend In Poland - Part 4

Day 4 – Zakopane and back to Krakow

Monday dawned somewhat overcast, with a light mizzle in the air and low cloud and swirling mist obscuring the mountain views. Not to worry - being British and intrepid, we are used to a bit of rain!

After a hearty breakfast, we set out for a stroll down the main street and look around the market for souvenirs.

Read all about it! Sam visits Zakopane!

We decided to take the funicular railway up Gubałöwka, the low hill overlooking Zakopane. On a clear day you get great views of the main mountain range, but today it was not to be – Giewont, the “sleeping knight”, stayed resolutely beneath his cloudy bedclothes, having a duvet day. Naughty Giewont, the lazy so-and-so.

On Gubałöwka

We walked along the road as far as Butorowy Wierch and back, avoiding the traffic both horse-drawn and petrol-driven, looking in all the gift shops and resisting the food stalls (although Tom bought some berries picked from the nearby woods, which were delicious). 

But after a stop for drinks, it was time to descend the funicular and make our way to the bus station ready for the coach back to Krakow. At lower levels the sun was shining, and despite the fact the mountain tops were hidden in cloud it seemed a shame to leave. It's been over six years since my last visit, rather too long I think.

We'd only had a day or so in total in Zakopane, but hopefully it was long enough for Tom and Sam to get a flavour of the mountains and the walking available, and to see a different side of the country to cosmopolitan Krakow.

Kids performance of highlander dance in traditional dress, Krakow 

We all had a bit of a nap on the journey back to Krakow, testament to the busy days we had been enjoying. 

We arrived mid-afternoon, giving us time to do a bit of souvenir shopping in the Cloth Hall market and grab some lunch at the pierogi festival. 

The place was heaving. It would appear pierogi is a serious business, and the competition winners had just been announced. Queues were long and stocks increasingly short, but eventually we availed ourselves of a selection - some meat, some cheese and a few spinach - and a drink to wash them down with.

Souvenir shopping in the Cloth Hall

After a final coffee stop on the edge of the main square, our time in Poland was nearing an end. We boarded the train back to the airport and readied ourselves for the journey home. We’d packed a lot into just four days, which goes to show what you can do if you set your mind to it.

Where shall we go next?

All I can say is that if Tom and Sam enjoyed themselves half as much as we did, they’d have had a blast, and I’d like to thank them for being great company.

It's said that travel broadens the mind, and I think this is undoubtedly true. Experiencing other places, landscapes and cultures can be so rewarding, and I hope their first taste of foreign travel has left them keen for more. 

To get a glimpse of another way of life, to delve into a different culture, brush past an unfamiliar history and cross paths with a new geographgy helps to foster a greater understanding of the world when back at home, which can only be a good thing. 

After all, we live in a Global Village these days. 

A Long Weekend In Poland - Part 3

Day 3 – Zakopane

After another early breakfast, we set off for the bus station to catch the coach to Zakopane, the mountain resort at the foot of the High Tatras.

Coaches run frequently between Krakow and Zakopane, and prices are good value - about £3.50 per person one way. Heavy public holiday traffic delayed our arrival slightly, but everything went smoothly enough and we all enjoyed a bit of a snooze on the way.

On arrival at around midday, we headed straight to Kuźnice and the start of our planned walk to the Murowaniec hut at the Hala Gąsienicowa.

Like everywhere this weekend, Kuźnice was busy, with bars and cafes spilling out onto the pavement and lengthy queues for the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch. But, for the more active visitor, it is from here that paths lead willing walkers into the mountains, and on such a beautiful day it was hard to resist.

On the path out of Kuznice, searching for wild raspberries 

Now although they have done plenty of walking in the UK, this was Tom and Sam's first real mountain walk, and we had no real idea of whether it would be doable or not. 

The High Tatras are a compact rannge and may not rank amongst the highest peaks of Europe, but they are most definitely "proper" mountains, with jagged summits, knife-edge ridges, plunging valleys and mountain lakes to rival the best the continent has to offer.  

Walking through the Jaworzynka valley

So it was a tough proposition - with 500m of vertical ascent to contend with, we took our time and gradually rose through the Jaworzynka valley before making the steep, zig-zagging climb up to the pass and more level ground.

It was a long climb out of the valley, but the views would be worth it ....

.... Giewont, the "Sleeping Knight" from the south ....

.... and the view north over Zakopane towards distant hills

Given good weather and the number of people out and about on this holiday weekend, it was somewhat surprising that the route wasn’t busier. There were plenty of folks about, but we managed to get a brief sense of the "wilderness" these mountains represent - wild boar, lynx, wolf and bear inhabit theses wild, wooded slopes.

Approaching Murowaniec - the hut sits in a bowl surrounded by high
peaks and wooded slopes - a real mountain experience
(Image from hut website)

We reached Murowaniec around 3.00pm in time for a late lunch. The hut operates a slightly weird system of service. You queue up at one desk to order and pay, then get a paper slip to take to the serving hatch to queue again for your food. You show them your slip, and they go and fetch your order – one bit at a time! With several items on order (food and drink for 4 people) it can be a lengthy and confusing wait!

Outside Murowaniec
(Image from hut website)

Anyway, by the time we got it, we were ready for our Bigos, Fasolka (spicy bean soup) hot dog and chips. 

Once we were all suitably fed and watered, we set off back down again, taking a slightly different descent to Kuźnice where Tom bathed his aching feet in the ice-cold river. It doesn’t really easy the pain, just replaces it with another sort of discomfort. But it is refreshing, and I'm assured they did feel better afterwards! 

Soothing aching feet in an ice-cold mountain river, Kuznice

After checking in at our hotel, we set out again, wandering between the shops, snack bars and entertainments of the busy main street, ul Krupowki. We ate in a traditional restaurant, and Tom was most impressed with his Golonka – stewed pork knuckle – but Sam’s potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane) were good, too. 

Happy holidaymakers, ready for dinner!

Finally, we walked down to the bottom of the street and all chose different flavours from the ice-cream shop before heading back through the busy streets to the hotel.