Mountain Botany, Thunderstorms and Ski Jumping

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May 11th 2018
Published: May 12th 2018
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Day 4 In the Footsteps of a WWll POW in Poland

Boots on for some botany….. up the Straźyska Valley from Zakopane town to the northern wall of Giewont, 1894m high.

With cameras poised we set off uphill following the ‘Red Trail’. First encounter is with white fluffy flowers wafting above large rhubarb like leaves? The camera is out.

Uncle Roland, Marion’s Dad talks a lot of his POW garden, growing veg and flowers. Where did the seed, the tools and the drive to till the land come from? Marion has certainly inherited the agro (as they call it in Poland) gene and I have a small allotment of interest myself (ha).

Soon there are more white fluffy flowers above smaller round leaves (pretty sure these are Alpine Butterburrs). Then the list extends to wood sorrel, primulae and water avons, but the top find of my discoveries was the blue gentian. A rare flower, sometimes making an existence in upper Teesdale, we found a clump of plants growing together on a Polish valley side. A stunning, intense, royal blue, the size and shape of a crocus.

It’s a high vis world. And parties of Y5s were competing for nature space with yellow beanie hats on. We held our ground and smiled at their reticence.

The trail eventually opened up into a glade, or meadow, where shepherd’s huts (these are substantial log cabins) offered winter shelter.

Onward to the yellow trail (perhaps named to encourage the youngsters with that branding).

This led to a charming vertical cascade, streaming in a graceful arc from the top to the bottom of a granite face. Had there been more rain we might have snuck behind it and taken selfies with the merest of a sprinkling.

The descent was more demanding on the hips and knees but we were rewarded by view of chimneys and pinnacles of stone on the hill tops, as yet unseen.

We stopped at the junction with the sub-alpean trail at a piwa palace to replenish body fluids with Polish amber nectar.

Then east along the trail (black markings) to ‘The Hanger’ Zakopane’s famous ski jump.

Wielka Krokiew is the one - the biggest - of ski jumps built on the slope of Krokiew mountain here. It was opened in 1925 (!) From 1989 the ski jump bears the official name Wielka Krokiew im.

The height, precipitous incline and immensity of the challenge beggars belief.

Then down into the town’s high street Krupowki. A strange juxtaposition of Chamonix, Northumberland St. Newcastle, and Scarborough sea front. Ski wear is fully available, youngsters strut in insubstantial clothing from bar to bar, and vendors sell tat to whoever is wishing to take home a souvenir of the street’s bizarreness.

Just as we treated ourselves to a toilet break and ice cream, the heavens opened and a ‘dance of the rain filled awning’ started in our chosen bar. It is remarkable how much downpour can gather in a sheet of plasticised canvas. Waiters gambled with a true soaking as they pushed the swollen fabric with makeshift tools and swiftly dodged the results.

Many punters reappeared from shops wearing plastic pixie outfits in yellow, pink and purple, bought in a moment of precipatory (?) panic.

Eventually in what remained a steady torrent, we walked though flashes of lightning and thunder and made our way home.

Marion’s phone says we’ve walked 22974 steps today, 12.5 km.

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