An encounter with the Sleeping Knight...

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July 23rd 2012
Published: August 22nd 2012
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For some strange reason I woke up pretty thirsty that morning… Obviously it didn’t have anything to do with the previous evening… 😉 Still after some good portion of scrambled eggs and a strong, BIG coffee for breakfast, I was ready for another day of hiking…

We were aiming to reach Giewont (1894m high) that day. It’s probably the most famous mountain of the Polish Tatras – it comprises of three peaks Great Giewont, Long Giewont and Small Giewont. Its silhouette resembles that of a Sleeping Knight – the Long Giewont forming the knight’s torso and Great Giewont his face (the chin, the nose and the eyebrow). Almost from any point in Zakopane you can see a beautiful view of Giewont and easily make out the profile of the sleeping knight. According to a popular legend there are knights sleeping in the caves of Giewont, who will wake up once Poland is in great danger. In 1901 a 15m steel cross (17,5m in total – with 2,5m buried deep in the rock) was installed on top of Great Giewont and it’s visible all the way from Zakopane. The mountain is very popular with tourists with some pilgrimages taking place each year as well. There are different ways to access it, with two of them visited the most regularly – red trail leading through Dolina Strazyska (Strazyska Valley) and blue trail starting in Kuznice and leading through Dolina Kondratowa (Kondratowa Valley). Both are meeting at Kondracka Przelecz (Kondracka Mountain Pass) and you can follow blue trail all the way up to Giewont from there.

Since we walked through Strazyska Valley the previous day, we decided to take the blue trail from Kuznice this time. It was a pretty cloudy morning, still the forecast for the rest of the week wasn’t any better, so there was nothing we could do but hope that the clouds will clear at some point and we’ll have some nice views of the mountains after all. Before we set off though, we had to stop by the shop with mountain equipment as my dad badly wanted to get a new backpack! I guess everyone can be grumpy at times, even parents!!! 😊 So once he was happy with his choice, we headed to Kuznice. The sun started coming out, so full of energy (I was still a bit thirsty though…hmmm) we started our walk through the blue trail. In no time we reached Kalatówki, a hotel at an altitude of 1198m. It’s set on a relatively flat, open terrain surrounded from all sides by forest (no surprise that once it was used as a place for herding sheep). There are beautiful views from the clearing – among others you can see Kasprowy Wierch from here. Next part of the trail leads through the forest until you reach Hala Kondratowa – very pleasant walk actually. You can find a small wooden hut (Hala Kondratowa shelter) on the side of the clearing here, where you can rest and have a bite to eat. Even though we weren’t exactly hungry and kind of only started walking, this was the last shelter that we would be passing on the way up that day, so we couldn’t resist but stop for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. We had another look at the map here and decided that instead of coming back the same route from Giewont, we could try to make it a bit more exciting and go all the way to Kasprowy through Kopa Kondracka since we never walked that route anyway… well, for now the goal was to reach Giewont and then we would see if we were still up to for the longer route. So after a bit of rest we set off again. This part was a bit tougher… It was up, up, up through the narrow, stony trail from now on and since it started getting pretty crowded from here, it was practically impossible to keep a steady pace of walking as either you had to let someone through or pass someone by. So we had to make quite a few stops on the way this time to catch our breaths and let the heartbeat go down to decent levels. And it was getting cloudy again… Once we reached Przelecz Kondracka (Kondracka Mountain Pass) we saw quite a big queue further up to Giewont, so without resting just went there to join the crowds waiting for our turn to climb the famous mountain. Still it didn’t look very optimistic at all – since the last part up to Great Giewont is basically climbing on the rock with the support of chains attached to its wall, it’s quite a slow movement as only one person can do it at the time. Then at the peak itself, the cross takes quite a lot of space, so there is very little room for people, meaning only a few (I say max up to 20?) can fit there at one time. And since you were walking for 3 hours you do want to spend at least a few moments there to take it all in. So after taking all this into account I mentioned that it probably would be at least an hour standing in the queue to reach the top – but then a woman sitting on the rock nearby said that it’s actually the busiest day she has seen in a while and she heard the people walking down saying that they were waiting 3 hours to get to the top! So after a quick discussion, we decided to skip it – I guess it wasn’t meant to be this time… Instead we would go to Kasprowy then. My mom was actually quite happy that we skipped the going-through-the-chains part! Besides they were talking on TV about some storms with lightnings coming over the mountains these days so maybe it was best to stay away from the metal cross just in case…

When we were half way up Kopa Kondracka, the visibility got much worse. We basically were in the middle of the clouds now so we couldn’t see anything but the trail at this point, but it would've been a shame to go back now so we just kept on going – besides we could just take the cable car once we reached Kasprowy to go back to Kuznice. Unfortunately it didn’t clear once we reached Kopa Kondracka (2005m), so we could only imagine the beautiful panoramas that we were meant to see from there. It got very windy also, so without a stop we just walked further on. After a while the sun decided to come out of the clouds after all (only on the Slovak side for some strange reason), so we had stunning views of the Slovak Tatras right in front of our eyes. Really beautiful trail from Kopa to Kasprowy, basically you just walk on the top of the mountain range, so amazing views of the mountains guaranteed (with good visibility that is). We were lucky enough that it stayed sunny until we reached Kasprowy. We met a very nice couple on the way (my parents age I would assume, but then I’m not very good at guessing age so I might be off 20 years or so…) and we were passing each other by all the time throughout the trail, which was good because we were basically pushing each other to move forward. When we got closer to Kasprowy even more beautiful views appeared on the horizon. Still the last part was pretty tough for me – my left ankle was hurting so bad from my shoes that I had to untie one of them to the point that it was almost falling off my foot. And again the idea that it’s so close to the finishing point but yet still so far away was quite unbearable. I made it though! Was pretty exhausted, love this feeling though – after a whole day of walking just sit down, have a nice meal and preferably some cold beer and take it all in! There is quite a big restaurant on top of Kasprowy Wierch (1987m), so that’s where we dined. And soon after we were on our way down to Kuznice in one of the cable cars.

On the
tea timetea timetea time

at Hala Kondratowa
way back we bought oscypek (typical smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk in this region) and headed to our guesthouse. What a great feeling it was to take off the shoes at last! 😊 With a glass of wine in hand, we sat down and looked through the pictures we made that day once again admiring the beautiful views we came across only a few hours before. Great day it was! And it was only the beginning of our holiday, so was really looking forward to another day and another encounter with the Tatras!

Additional photos below
Photos: 52, Displayed: 27


on the trail on the trail
on the trail

at Hala Kondratowa
small break to take in the views once again...small break to take in the views once again...
small break to take in the views once again...

...and to catch breath of course!
admiring Giewont from distanceadmiring Giewont from distance
admiring Giewont from distance

3-hour queue from this point! well, no thanks, think we'll pass...
signs all aroundsigns all around
signs all around

quite helpful actually!

23rd August 2012

Hi Ania Fantastic Photoes ! You can have a lok and enjoy. Krzysztof
24th August 2012

Just saw your comment on Amy and Chris's final blog...
so thought I would check out who was one of their Followers just as I am. Then I noticed one of your 5 star pictures in the right column and had remembered seeing it on the Front page as I was logging in, but the picture had changed in the time I took to go from the Control panel back to the front page. I was afraid that I had lost it there it was. Your photography is excellent, too. Anyway, I am now a Follower and look forward to more blogs from you. My wife and I are also looking forward to visiting Poland in the not too distant future. My wife's ancestors come from both sides of the Tatras Mountains...Poland and Slovakia.
27th August 2012

Re: Thanks Bob
Thanks a million for your comment. I absolutely love this region, so would recommend to anyone visiting these sides... Nice to hear that you're planning a trip with your wife there, I'm sure you're both enjoy it. It gets pretty crowdy during summer months, especially on the Polish side, still totally worth it going there any time of the year... Thanks again for reading...

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