Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jewel of the South: Zakopane

(sequel to Moving Halfway Across the Country)

June 24 
From the middle of Poland, we rolled down south to Krakow, then straight to the southernmost city, Zakopane.  The winding road toward the mountainous place stirred my memory of the city where I came from, Baguio (Philippines). The only difference is the safety rail and the not-so-steep ravines and not so imposingly high mountains. The views along the way are definitely awesome!

As we got closer to our destination, houses started to fill the roadside scenery. My, those houses! The A-frame houses with side dormers which I've always loved since my younger years. When I was young, I dreamed of becoming an architect and I would love to design these types of buildings. No wonder my heart jumped with excitement and joyful anticipation at the first sight of such buildings.

Our entry to the city was greeted by the towering mountains that seemed to stand sentinel over the whole city. Being a mountain lover, I felt my excitement expand within me as I watched the mountains come closer accompanied with the thought that I might stand on one of them soon.

We checked in to a camping site which was not so crowded at that time. Again, we just rented a cabin with a little kitchen, toilet/bath room, 4 beds  on the ground floor, 2 beds in the attic room and warm water, the smallest cottage available. The tent that we packed went unused. Why go through all the trouble of setting up the tent and pumping air into the mattresses when the rent for the cottages/cabins is incredibly cheap? (40 Polish złotych/person/day = 87 SEK)

After dropping our things into the cabin, we drove down to find somewhere to eat since we were already famish at that time. I was mesmerized by all the buildings that lined the streets! Then we found this beautiful restaurant/pizzeria where we ate our dinner.

grocery across the restaurant
Day 2
The day came cloudy but with a little sunshine. We set out on a sightseeing tour, winding our way through the streets with all those A-frame buildings that kept my eyes drawn and my camera busy shooting while driving by until we found a parking place near the souvenir shops and the Gubałowka station where we purchased tickets for a ride in a funicular or cliff railway vehicle to the top of Gubałowka hill.

By the way, many of the private houses have the sign "pokoje" posted in front of the houses or gates. This means that they have rooms for hire. The camping site, however, can be a good option too as it's close to the Ski Jumping site and a haven for the birds.

Back to Gubałowka station, we boarded the cliff railway car and my excitement intensified as we slid uphill while viewing the scenery behind us which gradually widened out as we got higher. Once on top of the hill, I was awestruck by the majesty of the Tatra Mountains as if I was living out a youthful dream of being in the Alps, inspired by a heartwarming children's classic, Heidi. The scenery includes a panoramic view of the entire city. Tatra is the hightest part of the Carpathian Mountains, which is similar to the Alps in a way. Gubałowka hill is a bustling tourist site with shops and other activities, but my interest was focused on the grandeur of the mountains, the sight of which I slowly drank in with zest. 

Back to the center, we drove on to find another popular destination: the set-off point to Morskie Oko, the most beautiful and the largest lake located at the foot of Mount Rysy, the highest peak in the Polish part of the Tatra Mountains. By this time, the rain started to pour but we just went on driving and stopping by to shoot fantastic mountain views along the way. 

We reached the boundary to Slovakia, then we turned right to our destination. Well, that was all we did, to see about the set-off point but didn't dare take the 3 hours walk in the rain to the Morskie Oko, or ride a horse-drawn sleigh, being unsure of the weather there. That's one crowning glory that I yearned to see but have missed. Here's a photo of the place which I borrowed from Zakopane & Tatrabergen.

photo taken from google images

The weather remained gloomy for the rest of the day. I was thankful that the morning treated us with a little sunshine, just enough to enjoy the sight of the spectacular mountains. We stayed in our cabin. I watched the birds and squirrels through the window pane. Then I set about walking in the vicinity later and gathered photo memories.

Here are other sights I found worth-capturing.


 private homes

villa, restaurant, grocery, toilets

Day 3 (26th)
Still rainy and misty. We realized there was nothing to do on a weather like this, so we decided to leave the city and head back north to visit another world renowned travel destination in this country.

I piled another gem to my mental chest of treasured memories.