Three countries in one day to the High Tatras and Zakopane,Poland
02.07.2013 - 05.07.2013 28 °C
The reason we were heading for Zakopane was quite simple. Some years ago, April and I were riding through Switzerland when we met a man from Brazil, in a cable car - I hasten to add we were not riding the bike on the cable car, we just happened to be riding a cable car with a man from Brazil- anyway, he was originally from Switzerland and returned on regular holidays. ( Did I say this was simple?) I'll cut to the chase. We asked him where he recommended going in Switzerland He replied Pontresena. We went. We enjoyed it. After that rewarding experience, we now try and repeat it by asking random people where they would recommend going to. I must point out that this has not always met with success.
However, undeterred, we found ourselves in Scotland earlier this year talking to a Polish waiter. As you may know there are at least a couple of them working in Scotland's hotel trade. We asked him where he would recommend as a destination in Poland and he said, ( and you are ahead of me here by at least ten sentences) - Zakopane. See the answer was simple,even if the explanation was not.
First though, we had to endure a ride from hell. You probably know the situation. The journey starts with great anticipation. A route well planned. It takes in scenic roads, a couple of lakes and some interesting towns. The sun is shining. it's hot. In fact it's very hot, 29 degrees to be precise. We have over 200 miles to travel, but we have all day. We even have time to stop and look at the Czech war memorial.
We are making good time. Everything in the world is great. Then, just before the Slovakian border we hit the mother and father of traffic jams. We are stuck. Unable to filter,we sit in 29 degree heat with 40 ton trucks,going nowhere.
Nothing for it but to turn around and find another route. Thirty minutes later, courtesy of the Sat Nav (aka The Bitch) we return to the queue of traffic, only this time thirty minutes further back. We were not happy. We turned round again and this time ignored the pleadings of The Bitch and headed for Poland, using the good old fashioned map method and dead reckoning. After a substantial detour through Poland and a small incursion into Slovakia we eventually arrived in Zakopane at 6.30pm,tired, overheated and some 260 miles the wiser.
Zakopane is known as the winter capital of Poland. It doesn't do too bad in the summer either. It is busy. Half of Poland must come here in July,but it isn't hard to see why.
It's situated in the heart of the High Tatras and consequently attracts skiers in the winter and walkers in the summer. The town itself reminds April and I of the Alpine towns of Austria or Germany. It has an area of old wooden houses dating back centuries, contrasting with a busy shopping area with outdoor shops, many restaurants and ice cream sellers.There is also a market area that unfortunately seems to have been taken over by all the usual types of tourist tat that get's sold all over the world. It is still worth a visit though, just out to people watch. Oh, and if you men ever wonder what happened to your 'speedo's' well don't fret, they are now being worn as a fashion items by polish men, shopping, washing cars, gardening or whatever, anyway they still exist!! Might keep mine a bit longer.
Our plan was to stay for four nights to give us time to explore the area. From here, it was easy to explore both the Slovakian and Polish side of the Tatras. The Belianske Tatry were particularly impressive. There are parts of the mountains where access is prevented to preserve the unique fauna of the area.
The 67 in Slovakia is one road in particular that is worth travelling,giving these great views.
The 537 is also worth travelling. This is the view from Strbeke Pleso.
This is the furthest East that we intend to go. From here we turn West, towards home.