July 8 - 12, 2002
Anna said we must see it. Now Anna is Polish and had seen it, so we decided to cut into the time that we might spend elsewhere in Poland or the Czech Republic and go south a few hours to the Polish Tatras. Jan, when she was a wee student had been in the Czech Tatras in 1969 when she spent four months in Slovakia as a student of Russian. But then she hadn't met Gerry and wasn't yet a hiker. "Mountains? I wouldn't know one from a molehill."
From our guidebook "Krakow In Your Pocket" we found the times and prices of buses and verified them at the bus station. We bought a phone card, selected a hotel from KIYP, and Jan, hoping for understanding at the other end of the line, called. Voila, or its Polish or Russian equivalent. We had a reservation and could now safely board the bus.
We arrived in the afternoon and were -- you guessed it — initially completely disoriented. But we found our accomodations and then had a relaxed walk through town. The next day we had a hike and it was so successful that we just extended another day so we could have another hike. In our off day we managed to use the Polish mails to send 13 kgs of books and souvenirs that had been accumulating since Turkey and that we had failed to send in Kiev. It was litterally a load off our our back.
We were more than happy with our pension. It was well located for us, halfway between town center and the park boundaries. It was run by a friednly and helpful family. Jan managed to convey our desires to the lady of the house, although we had no shared language. They served a nice breakfast and wonderful homecooked meals, which we took twice. On our departure the man of the house got up well before dawn and took us to the bus station at no charge.
July 9 - July 11
And here you see some of what we saw. Mind you, the photos don't really do it justice. We made two different day hikes from Zakopane and each was delightful. The first was to the lake you see in the photo above. It was our first mountain walk in many a moon and so we had specifically looked for something not too taxing. The hike began with a long gentle ascent along a stream, before climbing steeply up to a saddle point. From the pass, we then walked down to a large mountain hut that served delicious Polish soups and snacks, and then up a little more to get to the moraine lake. We made our way back to the saddle point and decided to come back down the alternate route which instead of dropping down into the valley clung to the side of the ridge until we were just above the town and then dropped down steeply to our starting point. Just before the trail made its last descent, Gerry said goodbye and headed off uphill to the top of a local knob before joining Jan back at the pension.
After a day's rest, we opted for a climb to the top of a nearby peak. The weather was very fine and we made good time getting to the peak in the expected three and a half hours. We were not alone, of course. There was a constant stream of hikers along the trail, but it was not quite as crowded as a Chinese hiking trail would be. Alas, the peak itself was in the clouds for most of the time we were there, but the clouds dispersed as we dropped back down off the summit to find another way back down to our starting point.
Incidentally while here we were reading the autobiography of Alexander Dubcek, once the head of Czechoslovakia. He recounted a story about a maurading bear that he killed while staying just ten miles south of where we were.