Monday 5 September 2016

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. 

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