After a somber, but very educational day trip to Auschwitz the day prior, I took a *lighter* day trip to Zakopane the morning after from Krakow. Located in southern Poland, bordering close to the country of Slovakia, Zakopane is a famous tourist destination, specifically for its snow-capped mountains, hiking trails, and of course, skiing. While I don’t ski, I was interested in going there for hiking, because I’d heard that has absolutely beautiful views of nature and I wanted to check them out!
That said, I woke up bright and early again, taking the bus at 7h00 over to Zakopane. It was about a two-and-a-half hour drive, and I arrived at the Zakopane main bus station (right outside the train station) around 9h30.
Now, to get from Zakopane town center to the foothill of mountains (where I would be starting my hike), it would require that I take a shuttle. Technically, you could walk starting from the town center, but that would be two hours uphill…and that’s before you even start the actual hike! That said, I decided to pay 10 zloty (2,50 euros) for the shuttle over, to rest my legs while also preparing them for what was to come soon.
The shuttle ride took no more than 30 minutes, and soon enough, I was at the entrance of the Tatra National Park, appropriately named for the Tatra Mountains which border Poland and Slovakia, which I would be spending the day hiking in to get to Morskie Oko, a famous lake at the summit. Known as “Eye of the Sea,” Morskie Oko is known to be incredibly beautiful, with deep, crystal-blue waters and a full 180-degree view of the lush Tatra Mountains behind it. I wanted to see it for myself, so after paying 3 zloty (< 1 euro) for entry to the national park, I set off on a two-and-a-half hour hike up to the top.
At first, I was unsure of how to get to Morskie Oko, just because I didn’t have a map and the trail map at the entrance looked a bit complex. However, I didn’t have to worry, just because the trails were extremely well-marked by signs, pointing to “Morskie Oko” and other paths that one could do in the park. I just had to follow them, and that was it!
About 45 minutes to an hour into my hike, I desperately needed to go to the bathroom. Thankfully, there were Porta-Potties halfway through the hike, and I got to use them. Helped that they were free, considering that the public toilets at restaurants and other stops along the way required one to pay 2 zloty (0,50 euros, which is not much, but it adds up!). Came across this lovely river when booking it for the toilets. 😉
As I continued going higher and higher towards the summit, I started to notice the change in weather: in fact, it was snowing! Not all-out, but at least some flurries, which greatly surprised me, since it was April. Then again, it was in the mountains, so go figure. Kind of surreal to be in a winter wonderland during springtime.
After two-and-a-half hours, I finally made it to Morskie Oko, where I was surprised with the lake being frozen over! I nearly laughed, just because I’d expected there to be water and lush greenery, but not that day! Although it wasn’t what I was hoping for, nevertheless it was a beautiful sight to behold, and it amazed me that I was so close to Slovakia at that point!
I took several photos of Morskie Oko, from the distance and on the lake itself (helped that it was frozen!) before popping into the cafe located there for some mulled wine as a treat to myself for completing the hike (and to get warm). I headed back down afterwards, this time being all downhill, so I basically zoomed down to the entrance of the park, returning in one-and-a-half hours. Took the shuttle back to Zakopane town center where I made a quick tour of the town proper, even buying some gołka, which is Polish smoked cheese and actually really good! Finally caught the bus back to Krakow at 16h45, arriving back around 19h00. Again, I was tired, but felt accomplished having hiked all day.
Overall, I had a pleasant time in Zakopane. While the hike up was a bit difficult at times (especially with the slippery snow), it was definitely a calming, almost therapeutic experience, of being in nature and enjoying all the fresh air and lush landscape that the place had to offer. I’ll definitely have to return to Zakopane soon, specifically in the summer to see Morskie Oko in all of its *unfrozen* beauty!
Stay tuned for the last installment of my trip to Poland this past April vacation. Next up: Krakow, Poland!
— The Finicky Cynic
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