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Published: August 14th 2012
When we arrived at our guesthouse on Saturday evening, there was only 12C outside! What happened to the Polish summer??? I have to say I might have overestimated the weather a bit and quickly scanning through my bag in my head I realised that I might need to buy an extra long sleeve around here somewhere… But then we checked the forecast and it was meant to get better the next day so postponed shopping for now… that’s right, it was MEANT to get better! Ah well… I guess there’s no guarantee with the weather anywhere nowadays…
After unpacking (meaning me dumping my bag next to the bed and my parents folding their clothes in the closet), we headed to the centre of Zakopane, Krupówki Street. You can find all sorts of shops here, quite a few with hiking equipment for that matter, so in case you still need something before heading to the mountains, the choice is wide. Also plenty of souvenir shops as well as restaurants and bars with traditional highlander music (muzyka góralska
) and some typical Polish food around. Since Zakopane is quite small, on Krupówki Street you will find all the tourists as well –
during the day and night, so be prepared for some big crowds here at all times.
We had dinner in one of the restaurants at the top of Krupówki (Karczma Bacówka). Very pleasant evening that was – there was a band playing folk music (musicians were dressed in folk clothes and so were the waiters actually), we ate some typical Polish food and lovely Polish beer – I guess we ticked all the boxes on our first night already! 😊
We decided to take it easy the first day and chose a shorter trail – through Dolina Białego & Dolina Strążyska, just to work off the stiffness in our bones and get used to some serious walking again. Since we were only 3km away from the entrance of Dolina Białego (Białego Valley), and the sun was about to come out any minute now (never did obviously), straight after breakfast, we started our trek right from the guesthouse. Until you reach the entrance to the valley, you pass by some beautiful houses – perfect examples of Zakopane style architecture. This style was created by Stanisław Witkiewicz (Polish painter, architect and writer) in the late XIX century and
at Polana Strazyska
with a view of Giewont
was inspired by the art and traditions of the highlanders of Podhale region. The first house designed in this style by him was Villa Koliba which you can still see on Koscieliska Street in Zakopane. In this house you can find The Museum of the Zakopane Style actually, which is definitely worth a visit (http://www.muzeumtatrzanskie.com.pl/index.php?strona,menu,pol,glowna,1445,0,1445,the_museum_of_the_zakopane_style,ant.html
Stanislaw Witkiewicz once wrote on the idea of the Zakopane style:
The idea was not to build yet one more beautiful, typical house. The focus was something else entirely: to build a home which would settle all existing doubts about the possibility of adapting folk architecture to the requirements deriving from the more complex and sophisticated needs of comfort and beauty. To design a home that would inherently withstand all common grievances and undermine all customary prejudices. To erect a house that would prove that one can have a home, a dwelling in the dominant style of Zakopane and yet be confident that this home will not disintegrate, that it will effectively protect one from storms, gales and the cold, that it will possess the full range of comforts yet simultaneously be beautiful in a fundamentally Polish way.
I really love this style of architecture. It’s a shame that some of the houses are really neglected and are therefore slowly deteriorating but there’s no funding to renovate them – it looks like people prefer to build new houses in the old Zakopane style rather than take care of the old ones and the local councils don’t seem to have money for renovations either… I just hope that Zakopane won’t become one of those modern cities with tall buildings full of glass windows (which seems to be happening slowly around Krupówki area already) and will retain the old style of architecture for many years to come as it’s truly exceptional!
Walking through Zakopane to the entrance of the valley turned out to be a pretty good warm up before setting off on the chosen trail, it was
so good actually that I had to put some plasters on my feet as the first blisters started appearing already! I guess I praised my hiking shoes a bit too early, ah well… a few blisters ain’t that bad! 😉
The trail through Dolina Białego starts just a few hundred metres from Wielka Krokiew (The Great Rafter – ski jumping venue in Zakopane) and leads along the stream among the limestone walls. After strolling a while through the valley you pass by a cave (or at least that’s what it looks like at the first glimpse). It actually used to be an entrance to the uranium mine, which was active in the early 1950s. USSR wasn’t aware about rich mineral deposits on their own territories at the time, therefore started looking elsewhere… During the excavation years, the valley was shut off for tourists and very heavily patrolled. Now the entrance to the mine is closed with strong wooden bars.
Once the trail reaches the forest, you are leaving the valley behind and start going up through the Ścieżka nad Reglami all the way to Czerwona Przełęcz (Red Mountain Pass). It is quite a gentle climb, but
our home for the week...
well... a very small part of it at least
having said that… I was pretty exhausted when we reached the clearing! It was drizzling all the way and the stones on the trail were becoming pretty slippery, and we were quite unlucky to be walking along a huge group of youngsters that just couldn’t decide whether to overtake us or just walk behind us – we were passing each other by constantly! But then let’s be honest – whatever the conditions on the trails, I was simply and totally out of shape! Ah well… thank God we chose the easy path at the beginning???
After a small break, a few sips of coffee and a sandwich, we were ready to walk again (my parents were ready long before me actually, shame on me!!! Did I mention already I was out of shape? Actually maybe I was never IN shape in the first place? Hmmmm….). It’s only 10 minutes walk from the clearing up to Sarnia Skała (1377m), but then we came across the same group of youngsters again and since the last few metres you have to climb a bit up a huge rock, you can only go one by one, so it took a bit longer
At our guesthouse
the little guard was pointing straight at the reception :)
than expected to reach the peak. From Sarnia Skała you can see a beautiful panorama of Zakopane and Giewont on the other side, on a clear day that is... We could see the side of Zakopane with heavy clouds hanging just on top of it, but unfortunately no sign of Giewont. It gets pretty crowded here, so we decided to move forward and followed the trail through Ścieżka nad Reglami to Dolina Strążyska. Very pleasant descent through the forest, some of the stones very slippery again, so really had to watch out where I was stepping, but it didn’t slow down our friends (yep the group of youngsters again!) as they were basically almost running down the path and pushing everyone out of the way...
After a while we found ourselves at the end of the forest trail and entered Dolina Strążyska (Strążyska Valley). There is a short trail leading to Siklawica from Polana Strążyska (Strążyska Clearing) and that’s where we went next. Siklawica is a small waterfall (total height 23m, it seems much smaller than that though as you only see clearly the lower wall, which is 13m high). The stream is very narrow also, so it’s
typical houses around
this one was quite neglected actually... a shame...
not exactly the most impressive waterfall ever, still it is quite charming... We came back to Polana Strążyska and treated ourselves to some herbata z cytryną
(tea with lemon) and szarlotka
(apple crumble). And we had an unexpected guest joining us at the table (well I guess it was quite a surprise for us but I have a strange feeling that he’s actually a regular guest around there and so are his buddies also). A little zięba
(chaffinch) decided to join us for crumble 😊 Polana Strążyska is a good place for a little break – there is a herbaciarnia (tea shop) right there and a couple of wooden tables and benches around it, so you can sit, have a snack while admiring a beautiful view of Giewont right behind you. After a pleasant break, it was time to head back home through Dolina Strążyska. It’s a very picturesque valley, a stream runs right next to your path crossing it a couple of times. It can get pretty crowded as it’s quite a popular route, mostly because there is a red trail leading all the way to Giewont from Polana Strążyska.
The worst part of the
waiters in typical folk clothes
at Karczma Bacówka on Krupówki St
walk turned out to be the last 2km once we left the valley and just started walking through Zakopane. Funny how just thinking about getting home, suddenly makes you feel totally exhausted and your feet seem to start swelling up at the same moment… Still it was a very pleasant route after all and perfect for our first day. The visibility was pretty bad throughout the day, so if we went higher, probably we wouldn’t have seen much anyway, so definitely a good choice.
After refreshing up at the guesthouse, we headed to Krupówki again – some nice beer(s) well deserved! It turned out to be a nice, sunny evening so the beer tasted even better! And so did the vodka! 😊 We were on our way home already, when we came across an odd bar, they were playing some old Polish music and someone was singing pretty badly in there – yep, Polish karaoke it was! First we stopped by and just looked from the outside trying to figure out what this place was all about. And it seemed as if we went back in time, quite a bit for that matter also, as the bar looked
as if it was taken out straight from PRL
(communist Poland that is – PRL meaning Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa
– People's Republic of Poland). The place was full of posters and other collections from these times, but then the menu was indicating it as well – the main item on the menu being a shot of vodka (4zl – 1€) but then you could buy some typical snacks (zakaski
) to go with it as well, for example sledzik
(harring). So eventually we decided we just couldn’t pass this occasion (you definitely don’t see bars like this anywhere!) and popped in for one (well, two actually 😉). We tried some lovely orzechówka
(hazelnut vodka – not a big fun of vodka, but this one was reeeaaaly nice!) and after a few moments were singing along with other people. Great evening that was! And quite bizarre as well! Still the funniest part was still to come – one guy came in saying it was his 40th
birthday, so he was given a chance to sing a song for a free shot, fair deal I would say! So after that the whole bar sang ‘100 lat’ (Polish Happy Birthday song – actually a
song for many occasions) and some other songs which usually follow right after that, when suddenly many people around started shouting ‘Gorzko! gorzko!’ (which literally means ‘bitter’ – it’s used only at weddings, when the guests are shouting it out it means in general that the young couple needs to kiss each other to sweeten up the atmosphere around). In this case it was a bit weird as the guy came alone and was celebrating his birthday??? Anyway… He just had to get out of the situation somehow, so decided to kiss the closest person (woman to be precise) that was standing next to him, which was… my mom! Quite unexpectedly she got a kiss on the cheek to the big ovation of the crowd… haha… we just couldn’t stop laughing!!! After this ‘incident’, we called it a night as the next day we were supposed to conquer Giewont! Had some doubts as to how I would be feeling in the morning, but orzechówka
didn’t trouble me after all… Happy days! 😊
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