Kitsch and crowd? Oldschool charm? After many many years I simply had to come back to Zakopane, the heart of Polish highest Tatra mountains. To see how much of my childhood memories are still there, to show it to Tom and the girls. So… yes, some memories are alive.
But not that easy to notice them. While you are walking on Krupówki, the main street of the town, it’s not too easy to see anything between the big Hello Kitty puppet, hundreds of stands with a smoked sheep cheese (oscypek) and thousands of super real warm sheep woollen socks or ciupagas (shepherd’s axe). – Are you really going to Zakopane?! – my Polish friends were asking me. – What a travel… You can also go and visit Disneyland or any other commercial bullshit – they were making ironic comments. But in fact, the cheese in Zakopane is still and really very yummy and I have no idea why, as a kid, I didn’t like it with a cranberries jam. And in fact, the Tatra mountains, are still so beautiful and impressive, and what can one do that Poles don’t have many of such a places and have to gather on those tourists paths during sunny, summer weekends?
Zakopane, in XIX century, was a centre for the region’s mining and metallurgy industries. Then, because of the climate, changed into a small health resort. During the WWII it was an underground stage point between Poland and Hungary. But the biggest fame it got as a place for skiing (in winter) and climbing and hiking.
There is around 30 thousands people living in Zakopane and over 250 thousands tourists visiting the town every year. Just imagine. Or better not. This time we were also sleeping not in the car but in a small apartment (in this town almost in every house you have rooms to rent), where we have got invited.
Zakopane, even if crowded, has an amazing charm. And Górale, the people living here, are one of the warmest people I have ever met. It is a group of indigenous people found along southern Poland, northern Slovakia, and in the part of Czech Republic. While speaking their funny (sounding funny) dialect, being very direct, open and talkative, friendly for kids and simple, in this very best meaning.
And I love the houses, made of wood, in a very special way. And I love the Old Graveyard in Zakopane (called: Cmentarz Zasłużonych na Pęksowym Brzyzku, try to pronounce it!, where every single grave gives a totally different story and feelings. And the views, of course.
We have walked just few short ways (would be impossible to make more with those 4 small legs of Hanna and Mila), visited my old paths. One was to Hala Pisana (at the end of Dolina Kościeliska), where, somewhere in the middle is a small spring, going into three directions, where you should drink a sip of water and think about a wish. (btw, my old wish from childhood, which I had in mind exactly there, came true!). The second small trip was to Morskie Oko lake (where the amount of people per square metre shouldn’t be allowed!). It’s the largest lake in Tatra Mountains, here you start the hike to Rysy, the highest Polish pick. Was kind of touching to see Hanna asking all the time: „and what is the name of this pick? and this one? and this one?“ and Mila’s impressed face („mummy, mountains!!“). I will take care that they come back there, one day, with a bit stronger legs and better knowledge.
And you know what? Even if all the „mountains“ souvenirs on the main street seem to be kitschy, Mila looks very sweet in a „góralska“ skirt and I love my new „góralskie“ beads.
PS. Two new things I learn during this trip, from Górale, of course! 1. where does the name Morskie Oko („the eye of the sea“) come from, 2. where do the small shells from Górals’ hats come from. Do you know the answers?
Our first book is out!
We have published our first book (for now just in Polish:) about our Central America Trip.
See, read and order here »