Zakopane – the winter capital of Poland

The bus from Krakow to Zakopane took 2 and a half hours and was only 15 zloty – bargain. The scenery got more and more beautiful as we progressed towards the mountains, the autumnal colours looked amazing and there was a slight layer of mist covering the hills. I arrived in Zakopane and you’re immediately greated by locals trying to fill their empty chalets (it being low season), however I’d already booked a hostel a few minutes walk away. The hostel reminded me of the Swiss chalet we used to go to in Lauterbrunnen, it was all wooden, had an old grand piano in the lobby and felt very homely. There would be few travellers staying there with me, but this meant we got to know each other quicker and it was just a really nice place to relax and chill out for a few days.

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After I’d dumped my stuff I decided to go and explore the town. I found the main shopping street and had a little wander around – though there were quite a few touristy shops selling mainly slippers. I then managed to find the market where there was an abundance of stalls all selling the mountain goats cheese – a Polish delicacy. There were also yet more stalls selling slippers, and lots of places to find cheap fruit and veg – to which I treated myself. Once you’ve walked through the market you find yourself at the funicular station, this goes up to the mountain overlooking Zakopane, and also accesses the ski slopes for the winter season. You are able to walk up to the top – it doesn’t take very long – but by the time I’d got there it was already 4pm and I wanted to get up and down again before sunset.

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It was a little cloudy by the time I’d got to the top, so I decided to follow the road that ran along the ridge. On both sides of the road there were quite a few closed food and souvenir stalls – it being off season – so there weren’t too many people about and it was rather quiet, which was a bonus. By the time I had walked away from the more touristy area the sun had decided to come out and the clouds started to disappear. You could see Zakopane and on the oppsoite side the mountains became visible and there were some fantastic views. I obviously judged the timing just right as it had been cloudy for most of the day, so I managed to catch the only hours of sunshine before the sun set. The next day it poured with rain so that would’ve been a no go too. I caught the funicular back down, headed to Tesco (yes in Poland,woop!) and got some food to cook for dinner – 17 zloty (nearly Ā£4) fed me for 3 dinners and 2 lunches! The hostel had an awesome kitchen, and because there were so few of us it proved to be a really social place to cook food. I stayed up quite late chatting to the girl on reception – she was so lovely and could speak very good English. It was really interesting to swap stories about our countries and to discover the differences in our education systems, it was such an awesome few hours.

The next day, as I’ve already mentioned, it absolutely chucked it down with rain. I stayed inside for most of the day, catching up on travel admin and enjoying the warmth and comfy atmosphere of the hostel. I ventured out for a few hours to visit the church and famous graveyard in Zakopane, both are beautiful (even in the rain!), the gravestones are mainly wood carvings and are incredibly unique. I was only out for an hour or two but I got soaked to the skin, and my hands were frozen. I hastily headed back to the hostel and defrosted with a nice hot shower and a lovely cup of English tea.

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I met some great folk in Zakopane. Three girls from Australia who had been travelling for quite a few months, they were so welcoming and easy to get along with; another guy from Australia and a girl from America who were great company too – I was so lucky to have met some awesome people, especially in a small place in the low season!

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