Monday, October 26, 2009

Zakopane


If there was one thing that Kaśka was really excited to show me during my visit to Poland, it was her favorite city, Zakopane. Zakopane, a little mountain city in South Poland on the border to Slovakia is nestled right at the highest mountain ranges in Poland. Kaśka has many friends that live in the city, whom she calls her “second family.” In fact, Kaśka lived in Zakopane for many years, leaving home to pursue her training as a national champion in cross country skiing at the young age of 16.

We barely had any break between our trip to Tarnów back to Kraków before we were joining a carpool with some other friends of Kaśka for the trip to Zakopane. Arriving late in the evening, we got right to bed to be ready for some hiking and exploring in the morning.

Kaśka considers Zakopane to be her favorite place in Poland. She enjoys a quieter life and the bustling life in Kraków is something she says she won’t want to stay in for her entire life. I could see the appeal of Zakopane – it was absolutely beautiful. Small cabins, endless forest, now changing colors because of fall, mountains in the background, it really was picturesque.

Coming into the city the streets are lined with the very traditional polish architecture of the mountain regions, made completely of wood with very steep roofs to handle the deep snow of the winter months.

At night, once we got to the wooden house that we were going to stay at, I couldn’t see anything out the windows, so I really didn’t know what the surroundings were like in the city yet. It was when I woke up that I discovered just how incredible the views were as the morning sunrise hit the inclining mountains of green trees, to reds to ones with golden leaves.

Kaśka was a little bummed because the forecast was not very promising for the mountains – heavy clouds which she said would block a lot of the view. Even so, she really wanted to show me the cable cars and experience the highest part of Poland, so we got our hats and gloves, bundled up, and were out to do some exploring.

The cable cars were divided into two parts since we were going to ascend … meters up the mountains. I was particularly amazed with the changing scenery around me as we smoothly rode up the incline. Just like the image I had out the window in the morning, the colors of the trees outside changed the higher we went – the higher it was, the colder it became, and it was as if I saw all stages of early fall, all the way to winter on the trip up.

The forecasts were right – going up with the cable car you could see the heavy layer of clouds waiting for us to disappear into and essentially lose our views into its opaque mass. This was what the views from the mountains was going to be like, which upset Kaśka a lot – Krzysiu, really, on good day you can see EVERYTHING!

[ Kaśka said this was about the spot of the old photo from my Babcia with other relatives of mine... next time I might get that nice background too! ]

It didn’t bother me though, because for me everything still was amazing. At the top, not only was it Mgła, foggy, but also pada śnieg – snowing! More like a snow storm. We actually would do little trips in different directions about 10 minutes out and ten back and then warm up again before embarking for a new, albeit fog-cloaked, view.

5 minutes out: Should we go furtherrrrrrr?

Surrrrrrre!

10 minutes out – snow blasted wind smacking us in the face – Kaśka is now Rudolph: CHOLERRRRRRRRAAA [shit]

I was having a great time, scaring myself looking down into the foggy abyss from the cliffs of the mountain while catching my balance from the slick steps of the pathway. I was even in Slovakia for a moment crossing over the national border on the mountains!

[ One side Poland, the other Slovakia ]

I was impressed with the mountains just as they were, but I know I have a huge incentive to return to the summit once again to see the famed views that have been adored by European artists for centuries from the peaks of the … mountains. I was beginning to understand why Kaśka loved it so much here, but it was only the beginning of things that she wanted to show me in the town.

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