Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Walk Around Zakopane: Afield in Krakow Part 2 of 3

We booked the economy double in the back garden at our hotel at $50 per night including breakfast and lobby wifi - very basic with two twin beds (pushed together) and a bathroom.  The nice thing was the location at the top edge of Kazimierz, easy walking distance to everything and surrounded by restaurants, bars, and historical points of interest.

But, there was no time for sightseeing yet - we had to catch a bus to Zakopane.  When breakfast is included at a hotel, I definitely take advantage.  One new experience was spreading lard on a piece of bread instead of butter.  Needed salt.

It was too brisk to enjoy the hotel patio
Thanks to the help from the front desk, we were able to sort out the tram system - a street car bus system that runs in the middle of the road.  Fares are by the minute, you can buy 30, 60, or 90 minute journeys.  3.40 zl each to get from our hotel back to the regional bus station, and then 20 zl each to get to Zakopane, a 2 hour trip.   There are no real savings by booking any sort of bus ticket in advance; everyone would just pay the bus driver directly.    We boarded the 9 am bus - the problem was that the driver didn't speak a lick of English.  I motioned to myself and Kerry and said "Zakopane", he pointed at his screen, I pretended to understand how much I owed and handed him a wad of bills, and he gave me change.  Dziejuke.

We packed some minimal provisions - rain jackets, 1L of water, my Polish phrase guide, some dried fruit and nuts, and some jerky.  Upon arrival, we discovered that public toilets, especially in bus or train stations have a 1 to 2 zl fee to use.  I've heard this is a European thing.  I had a stack of 0.10 and 0.20 zl coins - I think it was maybe 80 cents total - the attendant didn't even attempt to count it, and let me in.  I stuffed a small stack of paper towels into my backpack, and chugged water out of the sink to make up for the cost.

The next stop was the tourist info hut.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but we had no idea what to do or where to go.  I said we'd like to walk around, and the very helpful attendant freely gave us a tourist map where she traced a route to a mountain trail head, saying it would take about 4 to 5 hours round trip.

Oh, I didn't mention - Zakopane is a mountain ski town!

On the other side of the snowcapped mountain is Slovakia
Zakopane is a very popular ski resort town, but of course not in mid October.  We did walk by the ski jumping facility - I've never seen one in person before, and it looks absolutely terrifying.

Picture does not give justice to steepness of the landing zone
We didn't get too crazy on our hike - we wanted to get back before dusk (it was already 11:30), and we had limited provisions.  We could not have asked for better weather on a fall day however - cool, crisp, and sunny.  The leaves were just getting ready to change color.  Hike montage begins now.

Lots of selfshots this trip

Our trail followed a babbling brook 
The path up to the lookout spot

Polish trail signs - I think there's a rule of having at least 10 letters in names around here.  By the time I look down at my map I've already forgotten the trail name I was looking for!

Sustenance - tasty, but I would call it ham jerky, not bacon

Standing at the precipice - I had a wave of vertigo after I took this picture and had to sit down.

Beautiful view of the town

A cabin serving soup and beer - still 30 min walk from the town here

On our way back into the city, we spotted small ski chalets (or whatever you call them here) that I thought had very cool architecture with detailed woodworking, so I started snapping photos. It turned out the style is specific to Zakopane.   Man would it be cool to come back for a ski trip!

The sport of fitness had arrived in Zakopane - Kerry by a Reebok ad (CrossFit humor)

I gotta say something about the nature of art here. The fact that I was able to see how special the Zakopane architecture appeared, and then finding out that this style is recognized to be important by people who know far more about architecture than myself, says something about how intrinsic the definition of art is to us as humans.  We should all be able to look at something and see it's value; it'sno matter of opinion.   Opinion lies in whether you enjoy the artist's style or not.  You cannot refute the fact that is indeed art.  With this argument, I say that there are quite a few exhibits in the Tate Modern in London that are in fact NOT art, and these people throwing their garbage on walls need to get over themselves.

Back to the trip - of course by now we've racked up quite an appetite.  But we were unsure how to proceed.  It's 4:30, and we have a 2 hour ride ahead of us.  So we either get something to tide us over unti we can find a restaurant in Krakow, or we just walk into the most inviting place we can find.

We opted for the latter, and after an entertaining stroll down the main street, Kerry found what we were looking for.

Meat skewers and foil-wrapped potatoes everywhere
One final tangent to bring up an important point about our dinner from the previous night.  The one restaurant close to our hotel had the menu posted outside, and I said "this is the one".  We walked by 3 more places, and decided to go back to my chosen place.  Only then did Kerry consult her iphone where she kept a list of Krakow restaurants - low and behold my pick was her first pick based on trip advisor reviews!   All this to say we are developing a mutual knack to find good restaurants. 

And did we - nonstop polka played as piles of kielbasa and saurkraut were delivered to tables.  For 58 zl, we got the sharing platter.

Epic Polski meal time
After Kerry got her fill, it was a challenge to finish this beast of a sharing platter off.  It's hard to see in the above picture, but there was a bacon steak about 1/2 inch thick that had to be dealt with, in addition to sausages of various ilks, and chunks of lamb and pork from the skewers, and not to mention the half kilo of sauerkraut and two potatoes.  Let's just say I did not eat later that night.  We worked for this meal and I have no regrets.

After the bus dropped us off, we decided to walk back to our hotel to freshen up, where I snapped a few pictures.

Krakow's fashion mall

Train station

Wyborowa wodka break in the main square, under heated lamps
Miodula honey wodka

Rynek Glowny panorama at midnight
Thus ended a very full day.  And we still had one more ahead of us...

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