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Published: August 28th 2010
Day trip to Zakopane, Poland & the Tatra Mountains
Mom and I both slept great last night and in fact Mom slept so good she didn't wake up on her own like she normally does. I had my alarm set for 7am since we needed to board the bus by 8am. Mom jumped up when my alarm went off and asked what time it was. She normally woke up by 6am on her own...got ready and went down to breakfast and ate leisurely and I would be awake by the time she got done with breakfast...but not today. She was rushing around and had to eat her breakfast quickly in order for us to make it to the bus on time. We made it thankfully and shortly after began our journey to Zakopane.
An expected trip of 2 hours quickly turned into a 3+ hour trip do to road reconstruction that our tour guide was not informed about. The roads leading up to Zakopane are 2 lane windy roads and a bridge was being reconstructed and only 1 side of traffic at a time was allowed to proceed. Once we finally made it we picked up our local guide at the rest stop we took at the combination gas station and McDonalds. Halina tought us one thing about what the Polish people call McDonalds...the American Embassy. We thought that was funny. After our break we started our tour of Zakopane. We stopped for a photo op of the Tatra mountains and also another stop at a cute regional church. The last stop we made was of the town's cemetery and I love to take pictures of old European cemeteries...the headstones are so elaborate and this place did not dissapoint me! We continued walking into town and towards the market where we said goodbye to our tour guide Andrew. Halina walked us through the vendors and up to the base to catch the furnicular. Along the way she urged us to try the sheep's cheese that was for sale everywhere. All different shapes and sizes and colors (some grilled...some smoked...some fresh). I don't think I've ever seen that many different types and total number of slippers anywhere! Many vendors made/sold them from their stand. Wood carvings...fur pelts...fur rugs...leather goods like jackets and gloves...tableclothes were just a sample of the items for sale. Mom and I browsed but of course didn't get anything. Halina helped us get our tickets for the furnicular and we boarded the smooth riding "car" up the side of the hill. It was quite a view when we got to the top. I asked Don to take a picture of Mom and me with the Tatras as our background. We walked around and looked at the vendors at the top of the hill and watched the kids as they played with the games setup for them. It was time to head back down to the bottom so we could meet Halina on time at our meeting point in the center of town. There were alot of screaming kids today and way too many people in Zakopane for my tastes. Kids are still out of school in Poland and most likely their parents were bringing them in for a last fun family time before they reported back to school next week. That was my only complaint of the town.
The bus picked us up at 2:15pm and Martin drove us straight to the restaurant for our late lunch/early dinner. Highlander folk music was provided and they played in the center of the restaurant for us during our meal. First course was grilled sheep's cheese...passed on it (didn't want to be sick on the long drive back to Krakow). 2nd course was mushroom soup...man am I really batting zero today...They brought me a different soup instead that they called country soup. It was really good. Not sure what was in it except that there were no mushrooms! Salad plate next of shredded carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. Main course was mashed potatoes and veal schnitzels. My veal wasn't very good...alot of grissle had a hard time even cutting it with my knife. Mom said hers was great...I ate my potatos and was fine. Dessert was a really nice raspberry cobbler...very tart but good. Couldn't finish it even the portion was so large. And how could I forget the vodka...it was never ending that day since it was our last day in Poland.
When dinner was finished we walked out of the restaurant to horse drawn carriages waiting for us to take us through the Tatra Mountains National Park. 4 people to a carriage...Mom rode in the back with John and Jean and I got to ride next to the driver...Casey. He was funny and kept me very entertained during our ride. It was pretty cold after you got going and I had short sleves on today...the goosebumps were all over my arms. It was a very pretty ride and we had a good time talking with our driver Casey.
The carriage ride ended at another little restaurant with Halina waiting for us. She said she couldn't let us leave Poland without having authentic Polish sausage. (what i call Polska Kielbasa) There was a fire made and they gave us skewers with pieces of sausage cut up and we roasted our own sausage. That was so nice of her...I couldn't believe I was going to eat something else but I did...must eat Polish sausage when in Poland! They also served us a hot spiced wine. It was a very good ending to a great day in the country.
Martin "flew" back to Krakow a different way than our construction route up. Halina told us jokes and we sang songs...she really goes out of her way to make the trip special and enjoyable for everyone. I can't forget the Ho ho ho joke she told us about a sleeping compartment on a train from Warsaw to Moscow. We laughed and laughed and laughed...it made the trip seem even shorter than the 1.5 hours. After getting back to our rooms, Mom was tired and stayed back at the hotel while I grabbed my tripod and turned right back around to photograph the Market Square at night. I stayed out for an hour or so and ran into several of our tour members also enjoying the square on our last night in Poland. Tomorrow will be a very long travel day...sleep tight hopefully!
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