i love to break up cities on a trip with a bit of nature, so after some recommendations from friends, i decided to steer us towards zakopane, a polish town south of kraków very near the border of slovakia. zakopane is the most popular winter resort town in the entire country because it lies at the beginning of the tatras, the highest mountain range within the mighty carpathian mountains. i (and thousands of other poles) have found that it also makes a very pleasant summer holiday as well!
zakopane did surprise me a little. i was expecting a tiny mountain town with a couple grocery stores maximum. little did i know, zakopane is the polish niagara falls town. just replace the falls with some pine trees and a stunning mountain backdrop. the main streets of the town are lined with nice polish highland restaurants, various people in animal suits (pooh & tigger were accounted for), buskers, cheesy haunted houses, loads of fancy shops, and masses of humanity.
after our fill of delicious mountain cuisine (mmmm, loved both pstrąg górski & karczma zbojecka, both on ul. krupówki) we could fortunately escape the crazy, about 2km away in our cozy and charming mountain lodge hostel.
i love staying in the middle of nowhere with a beautiful view out the window in a cozy room made entirely of wood. wooden walls, floor, furniture. it just smelled and felt good. nothing better.
the next day, we decided to make the trek to the most beautiful lake nobody’s ever heard of: morskie oko, which means window to the sea. so poetic! we took one of the frequent area “microbuses” that just run on whatever-time. no bus schedule. just wait and hope one shows up. they are usually packed with other tourists and blasting top forty polish radio tunes. on the way there we had to stand, which wasn’t so bad because dancing to the music made it seem like a polish party bus! (complete with a nun, of course)
a lot changes in poland in a couple years, and since recently, the polish national parks association (i assume) is now charging a small fee for entrance into the path to morskie oko. but it’s a small price to pay for what’s to come– also the nice, poop-free asphalt path with frequent toilets, refreshment stops, and fresh natural water spigots along the way. it takes about two hours of a normal pace on a slight incline before arriving at the lake. it’s longer than it is strenuous, but you can always go by horse carriage for 40zl. we definitely opted for the walk, as we needed it after all the czech food this summer!
finally. the spectacular morskie oko lake. it’s worth the walk.
we had ourselves a little picnic and stared at the lake. it’s so clear and fresh, with the water coming directly from the snow melt! i naively brought a swimsuit and towel in hopes of taking a dip, but with the higher elevation and bit of rain, not to mention the extremely chilly water temperatures made the decision for me. it’s such a sight to take in from all angles as the mountain peaks seam to rise up out all around the lake.
there are plenty of great hikes and lovely glacial lakes to visit in the tatras, but i doubt they could be this lovely. one of the greatest mountain lakes i’ve ever seen, north america included!
and i could keep going. depending on where you are around the lake, you see a very different view, making this probably one of the most photogenic lakes on earth.
i consider myself a beach gal all the way, but a weekend in the mountains was so good for the soul. who knew, poland? you keep surprising us.