Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Daytrippin' to Zakopane
Definition of Day-trippin': Every Saturday morning, you will hear any one of my children (at least the ones who can talk), ask me if it's "time for Day-tripper yet?"
"Day-tripper" is a show that takes its viewers on little visual tours through towns, parks, historical landmarks, etc. that are near enough to Austin, Texas (my hometown!) that you can travel there and back, in one day. Hence the name Day-tripper.
It's a fun show, educational, and often times very silly. Which is why the kids like it.
I like the idea...so I'm stealing it! Thanks Chet Garner!
I'm not going to post a whole lot of facts about each city I've visited around Krakow (our future home!), that's what Wikipedia is for. And I do suggest you read about some of these places, they are really interesting.
Here I am going to simply relay my impressions and experiences, you know, spice things up, keep the party going. (do you hear crickets? I hear crickets...)
Anyway. I chose Zakopane first for a couple reasons.
Number one, it's probably the furthest I would drive for a day trip, and even then, that's stretching it a little.
Here in Texas I think nothing of taking a day trip to Dallas, which is a 3 hour drive from Austin. The highway is fairly straight forward, some construction here and there, but otherwise, barring any accidents, its a straight shot. It's a great opportunity to have the kids strapped down so they can't destroy anything, while Martin and I discuss important topics like how many times fast you can say "belittle it a little," and why the heck people don't use their stinkin' blinkers. (use your blinker!!!! it saves lives!!!!!)
But, I dare say, the road to Zakopane from Krakow is one of the first things I recall and not in a good way. There is only ONE main road from Krakow to Zakopane and it is ALWAYS PACKED. (this is due to the locals not wanting a new huge road right thru their property, I get it, it's inconvenient, but I get it) So, take heed. It's quite a journey to do in one day, but it's possible, I've done it.
Number Two: I have a ridiculously awesome video I want to share taken in Zakopane and I can't wait to share it so I'm doing it today. If you jump ahead to get straight to the video you will not be disappointed, but I will, so just sit tight, practice that virtue of patience and we'll get there together.
Zakopane is a little resort town nestled at the foot of the Tatra mountains, the youngest Alpine mountains in the world (didn't that sound like it was straight out of a travel book? I'm awesome.) It's quaint, it's beautiful and it's authentic. There is a style of home in Zakopane that you will only find there. It was created by a man named Stanislaw Witkiewicz. It looks something like this...
If you get to Zakopane and you decide you want to stay the night there is always a room or two open in one of these types of houses, probably owned by a little old Polish woman who will treat you like family and you won't want to leave. But just driving through offers a beautiful view of some original architecture in a cozy mountain setting. (Rick Steve's, where's my contract?)
The mountains are indeed magnificent. They are always topped with snow and peer up over the horizon just as you are leaving Krakow. They only become more beautiful and formidable the closer you get. One particular peak that is a must to locate with your baby blues (or browns, they don't discriminate in Poland) is called "Giewont."
It's actually three peaks that together form the shape of a knight lying on his back. He has a steel cross protruding from his "mouth" that has been the destination of many pilgrimages over the years. The legend is that he is one of many sleeping knights who will awaken when Poland is in danger.
I sure wouldn't mess with him. (this is why I have never hiked up all the way to the top,I swear, He's just too scary... and there was bad weather that day, I could have fallen and gotten hurt, better to be safe down at the bottom)
There is one place I have hiked up to see. Twice in fact. (both times pregnant). Okay, so I hiked the last couple miles. Because the first few miles, the ones that go straight up, we took a horse and carriage ride. Awesome, right? Yeah. Why in the world would you pass that up so you could do what you do everyday and walk? Bo. ring. Yes, a horse carriage up, to a leisurely walk to a fresh water lake named "Morskie Oko" (The eye of the sea). It is set in a valley deep within several mountain peaks. Beautiful, and a popular destination for many hikers andtourists of every nationality. (It's great, so many languages in such a small space, all sharing the same experience.)
This photo is an artsy shot of me by the lake on our honeymoon in 2005. Hejjo was there as well, although we were the only ones who knew!
We were there with the kids on our last visit. We took the carriage up, hiked to the mountain cafe perched right at the edge, ordered some rich hot chocolate and ate some fresh muffins outside in the crisp air. It was really great....
Okay, it was sort of a disaster. It was almost freezing temps., and raining. The kids were not dressed properly, and Felix and Lina had to be carried the whole way, and I was 23 weeks pregnant with Kacio. We didn't have enough cash to pay for all of us to take the carriage down. So the kids and I went down without Martin and waited in the car with the heater turned up. It only took him about 15 minutes to get to us...he ran the whole way down. What a great guy!
But we made it, and Martin and I were pretty much laughing at the situation the whole time. I remember it fondly. These pictures are worth a thousand words in opposite- world- of-family- misery but in my mind it was a great little outing. (and can you believe, we didn't get one picture of all of us in front of the lake? It was so cold, and the kids were so miserable, we just forgot...)
before the "hike" begins
they all fell asleep on me on the ride down.
Zakopane has become much more touristy in the last few years, compared to my first visit in 2000. It's not quite as much fun to deal with all of the traffic, the people, and the cost as it once was. (not that it was ever really *fun*, but it was worth it) We probably will not be returning for a while. But if you ever get a chance, you should check it out.
At least as a day- trip.
Okay, here is the amazing video I promised. This is BEFORE she broke down and refused to walk anymore. BEFORE she was soaking wet, and BEFORE we had even walked half a mile (where she started crying and was soaking wet). Sporting her cheap, huge, rain poncho. Could she be any more awesome? I don't think so.
P.S. this photo was taken on our honeymoon. We actually went on this "ride." (one of those 3d roller coaster like pods experiences) We chose #1. Anything that contains the word combination "cosmic super express" is not to be missed. And we were not disappointed... And we have never forgotten it ...
I also think #10 would have been interesting. It can get pretty out of hand out there in the universe... amongst the stars...you never know when you're gonna need a "sherif."
And #6 just scares me.