The year was 2008 and I was ready for new adventure. I didn’t have so much time and nobody to go with, so I chose one of my favourite places, Zakopane, where I feel almost like at home. Zakopane is a wonderful little town in southern Poland and it has it all. Skiing in winters, hiking in summers. It has culture, very special architecture and very special people. In a good way. And it has very many tourists, but that’s OK.
I’ve been to Zakopane many times, first time as a 4-yrar old learning how to ski, later many times skiing and hiking, celebrating Christmas, watching ski-jumping competitions and just exist. And you can find some of the world heritage sites near Zakopane, the wooden churches of southern Poland. The architecture in this region is very special. The roofs are very steep, since the winters are very snowy. That can be seen on churches as well. They are not huge and magnificent, but small, warm, wooden and very much like local folklore. And that makes them magnificent.
And one of these churches is in Zakopane. It lies next to central parts of town, near a top called Gubalowka and many people pass tit every day. Next to the church there is an old cemetery, where you can find graves of famous Polish people, like artists, doctors and other well known people from this region. As a small kid I was both fascinated and scared by this place. I liked to walk here and look at the very old dates and dreamt terrible nightmares during the nights. And come back few days later. It’s not so scary now, but the church is as beautiful, if not more.
This time Zakopane welcomed me with beautiful sunny spring weather. I stayed here many times, so I knew where I could find a room in the town and I did this time as well. I always stay in town and make day-trips hiking. This way I don’t need any sleeping bags and other heavy stuff, only some snacks for the day, hiking shoes and rain gear. Perfect!
The first day was time for Giewont. It’s a mountain pretty close to the town, that looks like a sleeping person. Locals have built a steel cross on top of it in the beginning of 20:th century. It’s not a good place to be in a thunder storm. From top of Giewont there is a wonderful view of Zakopane ansd the surrounding mountains. Giewont is 1952 high and, besides the last part, is an easy mountain. And everyone climbs it: guys with small children and women in high heels. Not because it’s so easy, it’s not, but because it’s so close to the town. It’s still dangerous to be in the mountains and accidents do happen.
At the end of the trail, when you almost reach the top of Giewont, there are iron chains that you can hold on to, making the way up a little easier. The weather was nice when I got there, but suddenly dark clouds showed up, so it was time to leave the mountain behind and seek cover in town. I don’t remember if I got very wet this time. And it doesn’t really matter. It was a nice whole-day hike.Not too tiring, just good day walking. And water to drink? Well, you can fill your bottle from the creeks, the water is crystal clear.
The second day of the adventure I decided to go yo Morskie Oko, The Eye of the Sea. It’s a beautiful lake situated in the Highest part of the Tatra mountains, the High Tatras. There is a nice mouintain cottage there, where you can eat a good meal, have some tea. And they have just the perfect apple cake. To get to the lake, you take a bus from Zakopane and go almost to the border with Slovakia, near the Lysa Polana. From the last bus stop it’s about 10 km easy walking to the lake. It’s easy, quite many tourists, but it’s totally worth it. The scenery is beautiful. The mountains are majestic. There is another wooden church in the woods in this area. I’ve been here a few times before and even if it’s a bit hard to reach, it’s really worth it. The place is called Jaszczurowka, the place of lizards.
I skipped Jaszczurowka this time. In stead I went to Morskie Oko. In the crystal clear water it’s easy to sea trouts. It takes abot an hour to rond the lake. At the far end the trail continueas to Polish highest peak, Rysy. I thought about going there, but I got to the next lake, a bit above Morskie Oko, called Czarny Staw, the Black Pond. The view from there is magnificent. This time a year there was still a lot snow in the area, so I decided to head back.
The day was still far from over. I now went to the Valley of five lakes. There was lots of broken trees on the way, a sign of avalanche. It’s quite common wintertime. I got there and thought that maybe I should go back to Zakopane over the mountains, passing Zawrat, one of the more difficult passages, at least for a normal tourist. I headed for the passage but the weather changed. The thick fog came from nowhere and a guy I met on the way told me that he was heading for Zawrat, but turned back, since the visibility there was terrible and there was lots of snow. Well, I turned back as well. We went back to the bus at Lysa Polana. It’s been a long day, good day. As a lst perfect thing, soon after we took off, the bus driver hit the breakes. Why, A bear mother was crossing the road with her cubs. There are a lot of brown bears in the Tatras.
I decided to take it easy the next day. After all, I did two long days already, so the third day was going to be short. I went to the Koscieliska Valley. It’s a very beautiful valley in the Western Tatras. I took a bus from the town to the start point of the trail and started trekking up towards the end of the valley. On the wayI went up to a cave in the Valley, and a nearby lake with a beautiful view, where water is like a mirror with images of the mountains. In the end of the valley there is a tourist cottage as well with great bigos, a beer or why not the apple cake.
Not far from the Koscieliska Valley, I thought, there is another valley, Chocholowska, why not go there and go back that way instead. And so I startedto ascend up the passage to the other valley. The passage was through the woods and much longer than on the map. Much longer. And when I came down in the Chocholowska Valley it was starting to get dark. But I went by a wooden chapel (not church), that former Pope, John Paul II used to visit, and continued out of the valley. The valley is also much longer than I remembered. At the end I bought some local cheese, oscypek, and took the bus back to town. And was I tired.
Forget nice and easy, this last day of my visit to the mountains was going to be long, hard and even longer. I decided to go on a trail that I never tried before, but it looked long, even on the map.It went over the passage Krzyzne to the Valley of the Five Lakes, a long and esausting trekk, but very very beautiful. I started out from the town, no bus this time, and was up ion the trail pretty soon. I passed the cottage Murowaniec pretty early and continued on. The trail was quite empty. I didn’t meet a single person, which is quite unusual in the Tatras. The day was sunny and quite warm, winters snow could be seen at the shady places, but was melting fast.
After a few hours I reached a passafe that I was heading for. The view of the Valley of Five Lakes was magnificent. I went down to the Valley. There is a cottage there as well, but I didn’t have time to stop here. It was almost evening. I continued to the bus at Lysa Polana ans was in town quite late, very tired, very happy, loving it.
The next day I went to Cracow and got sick. Fever and no energy. Maybe it was because of the hard four days in the montains? Well…
The woden churches of southern Polans became world heritage in 2003. The link to the site: Wooden churches of southern Little Poland.