What to expect in Poland…
Please forget any negative ideas you may have (regarding soviet occupation, etc) as this region of Poland is almost like another country in itself… The people there (goralskie) are open and friendly. Some of them speak English or Russian – especially in the restaurants.
When out hiking in the mountains everybody gives each other greetings. This is in part; pure friendliness and partly for hikers’ safety. (You are more likely to remember a person if you greet them and they later become lost).
Zakopane is a town in southern Poland. It lies in the southern part of the Podhale region at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. Zakopane is a center of Góral culture and is known informally as “the winter capital of Poland”. It is a popular destination for mountaineering, skiing, and tourism.
In Zakopane, visitors must pay an environment tax (usually in with the cost of your room) and this pays for regular street cleaning and general town sanitisation.
Zakopane is located in southern Poland near the border with Slovakia.
The main street that runs though Zakopane in the town centre is Krupowki. It is a great high street for shopping where you can buy groceries, cosmetics, clothes, jewellery to name but a few. There are many many pubs, café’s and restaurants, some of which are made to look like traditional mountain lodges. At the very bottom of the high street you can pass through a subway to the other side of the main road and there you have the “market under the mountain”. Here you can buy genuine leather articles, gifts, souvenirs, cheeses, a whole range of things.
The Gorale “mountain folk” have their own traditional fashion and music (very similar to hoedown).
For those of you who like to sample local ale and liquor, Zakopane has some of the best lagers I have ever tasted on draft. They are usually a mid strength pale lager which have crisp clear tastes. There is also a nice selection of flavoured vodkas. I really like the cherry vodka which is drunk after being stored in the freezer which then gives it a smooth syrupy texture.
The currency in Poland is the Zloty. And the exchange rate fluctuates regularly between 4.5 and 6zl to 1GBP.
In contrast, if or when we’ll be Slovakian side, the Euro there does not go far at all. It cost me 1.59 for a loaf of bread, 1.79 for a bottle of coke. the only things that seem to be cheaper there are the homemade cafe items; ice creams, pancakes etc.
As mentioned, Zakopane is a very touristy place. In future hikes I will travel from the Slovakian side which seems to be a little quieter and less busy. There will also be the option to join me through the Bieszczady Mountains which are also very quiet and tranquil but not so high as the High Tatras. There is where I hope to catch sight of wolves.
The High Tatras are a popular destination for hikers. Many climbs begin at Morskie Oko, a lake at an elevation of 1,395 meters. From Morskie Oko hikers proceed to Czarny Staw, another lake, and thence up Rysy, whose northwestern peak is the highest point in Poland at 2,499 meters. A slightly shorter but more difficult climb is Mieguszowiecki Szczyt. Other popular climbs include Giewont, Mnich, and Cubryna. Most of the High Tatras are visible from these peaks on clear days.
In summer, lightning and snow are both potential hazards for hikers, and the weather can change quickly. Thunderstorms are common in the afternoons. In winter the snow can be up to a meter deep.
In Poland; along with wolves are; bears, lynx, deer, chamoix, ravens, black & red squirrels and pine martins to name but just a few! I hope to encounter wolves, they are a big passion of mine. This was part of the reason I first went to Poland. A hope of glimpsing the elusive animal.