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Changes changes changes

A while back I was writing about finding a new home on Lofoten. But nothing happens as we plan…

So I’m back in Poland in a beautiful historic town Bielsko-Biała. Close to the mountains of course. I’m starting my new business, developing my skills and discovering myself.

Lofoten will remain my dream home.

More to come as my site will evolve into something better.

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Lofoten – my new home at last?

Moving countries is not as easy as it might seem. I don’t mean traveling, staying in one place for a month or two and then moving on. I mean committing to one place for a longer period of time. Going through all the paperwork, bureaucracy and ticking off countless boxes of the ‘to-do’ list.

But today I just want to celebrate finding my new home.

Hot summer day on Veienestind, Lofoten.

Hot summer day on Veienestind, Lofoten.

Originally from Poland, I lived in Wales for 10 years, in Germany for a year and recently I moved to the Lofoten Islands in Norway. Each country has left some traces in me, making me into some kind of a hybrid: an outsider and local at the same time. A simple question: ‘Where are you from?’, can result in a maze of answers. I’m not really sure how to identify myself anymore. Am I still a girl from an industrial Polish city? Or living in a small Welsh town made me into a countryside lover?

Lofoten Islands have been luring me for a few years. The seed was planted during my first visit and the love and longing to become a part of this magical place has been growing in me unconsciously ever since. It was probably my partner’s dedication to this place that made me want to explore it. Would I have visited and fallen in love with Lofoten if it wasn’t for him? Who knows, it doesn’t really matter now when I’m here.

Celebrating my birthday on Volandstind.

Celebrating my birthday on Volandstind.

Living above the arctic circle, magic of midnight sun, weather changing constantly like my moods and mountain peaks often rising straight from the sea. Polar night lasting a month which I have not experienced yet and feel both nervous and excited about.

No, I don’t know all the mountain names yet and still might get confused where the north and south is (especially after exiting an undersea tunnel)… I am a slow and cautious hiker and might never be super adventurous. But it doesn’t mean that I love the Islands less. It doesn’t mean that I don’t belong here… When writing these words I can just turn my head and look out of the window towards the fjord and the afternoon sun dancing on the mountains. And I smile to myself. I’m home.

All photos by Cody Duncan.

 

Summer light on Hornet.

Summer light on Hornet.

 

Flakstadtind summit.

Flakstadtind summit.

 

Winter hiking.

Winter hiking.

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The best travel and photography guides to Lofoten

Midnight at Nonstind mountain peak, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Ghost Whisperer jacket kept me warm.

Midnight at Nonstind mountain peak, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

 

I’m often asked what’s my favourite place in the world that I’ve been to or would like to go. At first, it seems like a valid question, but somehow it’s almost impossible for me to answer. I am not the same every day, my moods and needs fluctuate, my memories of places are very subjective and dependent on personal experiences. I’m worried that if I name one place, it will automatically discredit all other amazing locations. I will say ‘A’ and then think “but I like ‘B’ as well”; and “what about ‘C’ where I had such a good time?” Not even mentioning that there’s so much ahead of me and so many places to visit.

 

How it all started

But I can definitely say that there’s one location holding a special place in my heart – Lofoten Islands in Norway. Named by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful archipelagos, I discovered the Islands only a few years ago thanks to my favourite photographer. Cody fell in love with Lofoten long time ago and his multiple visits inspired him to starting a website 68 North. It’s a wonderful resource greatly appreciated by visitors. Recently I have often felt on the Islands like traveling with a celebrity. Most people knew of Cody, wanted to shake his hand or take a photo with him. What I liked even more, some also invited us for a delicious pizza (Thanks Chris!).

 

Winter dawn on way to Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Mountain Hardwear jacket.

Winter dawn on way to Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

 

Winter on Lofoten

Due to my photographer’s interests I’ve been to Lofoten mostly in winter and autumn. Magnificent views and magical atmosphere make you come back every year. What’s really important for a person like me, not always coping well with low temperatures, is that the ocean has a positive influence on the climate, so it’s not too cold over there (well, most of the time). When I still lived in the UK I was always given strange looks when saying what my holiday plans were. Look at this video below to understand why I could enjoy Lofoten in winter even more than a tropical destination.

 

 

Summer/Autumn on the Islands

Summer and autumn months are a bit better for exploring the Islands off the beaten track. This year I was able to experience the midnight sun phenomenon in June and I absolutely loved it. Hiking in the middle of the night with the sun shining above my head has become my new hobby. Never mind that we’ve had snow storms as well as sunshine on the mountain tops. Unforgettable experience.

 

 

Travel and photography guides to Lofoten

But as stunning as the Islands are, you must be prepared for changeable weather and various conditions on the ground. Nowadays, there’s a trend to sugarcoat descriptions and images of tourist destinations, everything needs to have a “wow” effect. As a result, people arrive at an advertised place and are surprised that it’s actually raining or the mountain is less steep than on a photo.

This is why Cody (with my humble help) created two best photography and travel guides to the Lofoten Islands. I’m not afraid to call them the best, I’m really proud of our work. Together with Cody’s beautiful photos, you will find all the information necessary before embarking on a trip to the Islands. You will know when to expect northern lights but also that unfortunately they are not a guarantee as some people say. You will be advised when to go depending on your expectations, what gear to bring and which locations to choose.

 

Seasons On Lofoten: Winter

Seasons on Lofoten: Winter

 

Seasons On Lofoten: Summer

Seasons on Lofoten: Summer

 

These guides are also special to me, as I took my first steps into designing ebooks’ layout. Watch out for more to come…

 

Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. My favourite Norrona fleece.

Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

 

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Enchanted by the King’s Trail – Kungsleden in Sweden

Hiking north on Kungsleden trail with snow covered Keron + Giron (1543m) mountain peak in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Hiking north on Kungsleden trail with snow covered Keron + Giron (1543m) mountain peak in distance, Lappland, Sweden

 

My first experience with Swedish Lapland was on the Kungsleden (King’s or Royal Trail) in 2012. Cody talked me into hiking the northern part of the trail, which is the most popular section consisting of 100+ kilometres of wilderness between Abisko and Nikkaluokta.

 

When to go

Although accessible from mid June to mid September, we chose to hike the Kungsleden in September, mostly to experience colourful autumn. And to avoid midges swarming around any living beings in the summer. Still, the trail has the most visitors in July and first half of August, as the weather is usually better (although you can never predict what’s going to happen in the Arctic) and obviously because it’s a holiday time.

 

Small river flows south into Tjäktjavagge, near Sälka mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Small river flows south into Tjäktjavagge, near Sälka mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

 

Preparations

I decided to combine the hike with raising money for the charity I worked for, to give myself this extra motivation boost. Although for the most part the hike is suitable for different fitness levels, some kind of training beforehand is highly recommended. Unless you have plenty of time to spare and take breaks, you must be prepared for 7-10 daily walks of about 10-20km each. Saying that, we met a couple of Swedish guys who skipped every other hut and hiked for 4 days covering between 30 to 40km each day.

My training for the Kungsleden started really well, in July I climbed a few fourteeners in Colorado (14k feet – 4k+ meter mountains). In August I was regularly spotted in Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains hiking my socks off with a heavy backpack. Everything was going well and then, boom, came the Bank Holiday Monday, August 27…

 

Walking along wooden planks in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Walking along wooden planks in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Sprained ankle

I was on the top of Hay Bluff, which is more of a hill than a mountain, striding ahead and suddenly I stepped on a grass mount causing my foot to bend awkwardly. Needless to say, I sprained my ankle. I still remember the pain which almost made me faint, and my hobbling down the mountain (luckily I always use hiking poles so had something to lean on). Painful driving away, doing shopping and building a pile of blankets to keep my foot up at home. It’s strange how certain situations become more ingrained in your memory, I remember that day like it happened yesterday.

To cut the long story short, barely 3 weeks after I was getting off the bus in Nikkaluokta to begin my journey to Abisko. Why did I choose to go ahead? There were many people who had told me that it was a bad idea and I should have just stayed at home and recovered. But the trail was so tempting to me and I just had to at least try. Especially that we were to attend a medieval music festival in Germany first. All the plane tickets were already paid for and non-refundable so we decided to go. I always had an option to turn around in case getting to the first stop – Kebnekaise mountain station – would be too painful.

 

Snow covered mountains and autumn colors in southern end of Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Snow covered mountains and autumn colors in southern end of Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Hiking the Kungsleden

Armed with two hiking poles, an ankle brace and elastic bandage I was treading my way through the trail. Anything flat was fine, but I wasn’t too keen on all the stones and pebbles which were forcing my sprained foot to twist. Surprisingly though, walking was more comfortable than I thought it would be, so we just kept on moving. And once you make a commitment to hike the trail, venturing deeper into the wilderness, after 3-4 days you don’t have much choice but to carry on, as turning back would take you the same amount of time as getting to the end of the section.

I didn’t regret my choice (unless you count some occasional curses in my head). We walked through the amazing landscapes, from Moon-like flats, grassy and boggy sections, through green and fiercely orange slopes, snowy mountain passes to colourful autumn trees. We have encountered sun, rain, snow and wind. We got frozen, wet and caught a cold. We enjoyed the sun on our faces and blue skies with puffy clouds. Quite a few times I wished my boyfriend had not been a photographer and we could just go faster and without all this hassle of stopping and going, and smiling (which is not easy when you’re cold and tired)…

But it was one of the most beautiful trips of my life. Watching the video we made from the trip reminds me of how extraordinary our journey was.

 

The northern section (Nikkaluokta-Abisko / Abisko-Nikkaluokta)

You can hike the Kungsleden in both directions, the choice depends mostly on your personal preferences. The steepness of ascents and descents is comparable both ways. You might take into account the sun position, I would also advise to check the bus schedules and when the huts open/close (especially if you’re planning to do the trail at either beginning or end of the season).

The section between Nikkaluokta and Singi does not actually belong to the trail. It is a detour for those who don’t walk the whole trail or fancy climbing the highest mountain in Sweden – Kebnekaise. There is an option of taking a boat on the Nikkaluokta-Kebenekaise section which saves about 7km of walking (out of 19km). Affluent visitors and groups can take a helicopter taxi to/from Kebnekaise and avoid the whole stretch altogether.

 

Bridge in Ladtjovagge with Tolpagorni - Duolbagorni mountain in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Bridge in Ladtjovagge with Tolpagorni – Duolbagorni mountain in distance, Lappland, Sweden

 

Huts

The northern section of the trail allows you to plan your daily hikes from hut to hut without needing a tent which can in turn save some weight, one of the most important factors to consider before embarking on a long-distance hiking trip. Check out here how to pack light. We had a tent but we ended up camping only once. Most of the huts have shops where you can buy some basic camping food which again can lighten your backpack quite a bit. All the hut beds come with the bedding but I would suggest bringing either a sleeping bag or a sleeping sheet for better hygiene. More about packing here.

Most of the huts on the trail are run by STF. There is no electricity or phone signal for the most parts of the trail (except for the mountain stations, like Kebnekaise), no running water and basic bunk beds. You can pay with cash, prepay online or in the mountain stations. Don’t count on using the credit card on the trail, at least for now! You need to chop the wood for the fire, get the water from the nearby rivers and clean after yourself. But in return you get gas stoves for cooking, saunas in some of the huts (yes, saunas, it’s not autocorrect) and most importantly: the stunning views. And by the views, I don’t just mean naked guys jumping into the lakes or rivers after steamy sauna sessions…

The huts are in a need of repair to be prepared for future generations and STF is running a campaign to raise money to do all the necessary work in the huts and on the trail. Don’t forget that you are in the wilderness and someone needs to make it more accessible by building bridges, pathways in especially boggy sections and providing signposts so we don’t get lost. All this work also helps the conservation of the trail.

 

Candlelight illumintes room Singi mountain hut at night, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Candlelight illumintes room Singi mountain hut at night, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Cuting firewood at mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Cuting firewood at mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Singi hut, Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

Singi hut, Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

 

Helpful info

Cody Duncan Photography – More detailed info and guide about the northern section.
STF – Info about the huts on the Kungsleden
Save Kungsleden

 

All photos © Cody Duncan

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Reflections on Leaving Wales and Moving On

 

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

 

I published my last post almost a year ago! Many things have happened since and I needed some time off, especially that I haven’t really had a proper “base” to work from.

It’s the second time I am wrapping up my life for new beginnings. Hundreds of thoughts are racing through my mind, moving to another country is such a rare opportunity to rethink your actions, ideas, hopes and plans for the future. 11+ years ago I left Poland for Wales, to become a support worker in a small residential school for young people with learning disabilities. Little did I know where my life was going to take me, and that as of today I would officially be living in Bavaria, Germany.

 

 Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. April 2013

Carmarthen Fans – Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Apr 2013

When a young girl, I always dreamt about visiting the UK, possibly spending there a few months to learn the language and experience the romantic vibes of the country. Like from Jane Austen’s or Charlotte Bronte’s novels: rainy moorlands, green hillsides and purple heather blown in the wind. (Not mentioning a handsome man with shaggy hair riding a horse in the background…)

Years later, after finishing my supply English teacher post in a primary school in Poland, I started looking for possible jobs in Great Britain. An advert of a support worker position at a school run by a charity seemed a perfect solution for me, combining my two passions: education and social care. I was even more happy when, after receiving a job offer, I could choose between two locations: either close to Oxford and London, or in a rural English/Welsh border countryside. You should know by now which one was my choice.

 

 Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales, April 2014

Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Apr 2014

 

I won’t lie, the beginnings were difficult. New place, new housemates, new job, new language (with what seemed like a hundred accent variations). Now I am able to look back with a smile at some situations which seemed scary and/or embarrassing at the time. Imagine a grown-up woman who feels (and probably behaves) like a schoolgirl trying to make new friends.

But most of all, I wasn’t fully aware that people with learning disability might choose to display aggressive behaviour as their means of communication. I had to learn how to safely deal with being punched, kicked, bitten, verbally abused and spat at. And in spite of that, there was a number of students I was fond of; witnessing their even smallest steps forward made me so happy and proud. I can’t even explain how it feels seeing a boy who kept hurting himself and us, turning into a young man who could fly on a plane to Lapland! With the promotions, my responsibilities changed. I still enjoyed what I was doing though, even with some staff members being the most challenging of people I had ever met!

Without going into too much detail, as I should not be talking about certain issues, the school I worked in got closed. For someone not knowing much about social care, you don’t know about all these crazy regulations that needs to be followed, even if it often means that paperwork is more important than people. Somehow the mountain was created out of the mole hill, and because of a few potential mistakes, many of great staff lost their jobs, and students lost a great place to learn and thrive.

I went through good and bad with so many great people. I learnt a lot about how to appreciate the uniqueness of others. I made friends for life, had my heart broken, fell in love with Scottish and Welsh landscapes, hiked my legs off and found my man (though not British and without a horse, but thanks to him photos of me were published even in Nat Geo!).

 

 Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. January 2013

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2013

Summit of Glyder Fach with Tryfan in background, Snowdonia national park, Wales. June 2013

Summit of Glyder Fach with Tryfan in background, Snowdonia national park, Wales. Jun 2013

 

Closing off the school pushed me to make a decision: ‘should I stay or should I go’ – I could keep working for the company and just move within the UK. But I knew that it was time for me to leave, to explore new places. I really love travelling, but what I like the most is long-term experiences, the familiar and the foreign interwoven with each other.

It took me about a year to be where I am now, I have travelled through Europe to Norway and my beloved Lofoten, then went to USA, Poland, back to Lofoten and Wales, and finally here to German Bavaria. The most exciting part of my travels was to meet a great British couple who were travelling Europe in their van (check out their website VdubVanLife), and now we are planning together a really cool project!

 

Sitting around a campfire with Bee from VdubVanLife, northern lights above us, Storsandnes, Lofoten, Norway

Sitting around a campfire with Bee from VdubVanLife, northern lights above us, Storsandnes, Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

 

The big unknown ahead of me, thrilling and scary at the same time, not only due to starting in a new place and learning a new language, but also because of changing my area of work quite significantly and jumping into self-employment. (I even learnt to design eBooks, check them out).

I just wish that the school would still exist and I could sometimes check in to say hello…

 

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. January 2013

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2013

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

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Motivated by food – hiking in Tatras

Hiking with friends in the Tatras

Hiking with friends in the Tatras. Guess whose backpack is bigger…

Someone told me once “Justyna, you eat like a horse!” The remark was supposed to be friendly and referred to my big plateful of lunch at work, so I took it with a smile. Well, however one can put it in words, food is extremely important to me; I’m not one of these people who can go on for hours without re-fuelling, especially when hiking “proper” mountains like Polish Tatras. It was a thought of “schabowy” (a Polish-style pork chop in breadcrumbs) with mashed potatoes, which kept me motivated to keep my legs moving with the great speed to get to the mountain hut after quite a difficult hike and scramble.

Tatra mountains (also called Tatras in English or Tatry in Polish) are the highest mountain range in Poland and Slovakia. They are beautiful, majestic and rugged. The easiest way to start exploring Tatras is to go to Zakopane, as there are many trailheads nearby (to read more about Zakopane click here). There is an option of taking a cable lift up the mountain, and continue to the trails if you want to save some time. But if you prefer more exercise (and don’t want to pay for quite an expensive lift), you can just start at the bottom. Unfortunately, due to the Tatra National Park regulations, camping in the mountains is not allowed, which can restrict some options to explore the trails. Saying that, there are 8 mountain huts you can stay in, if you want to spend a few days in the mountains. They are very well located near the trails, making it possible to plan multiple day routes. Years ago, there would always be a place for a hiker in a hut, even if you had to sleep “on the floor”, but the policy changed, and there is a requirement to book a bed ahead. I would really recommend booking accommodation, especially at busier times of the year.

Murowaniec mountain hut, Hala Gasienicowa (Gasienicowa Valley)

Murowaniec mountain hut, Hala Gasienicowa (Gasienicowa Valley)

My friends and I didn’t think too much about booking a hut, as it was a middle of May, and not a bank holiday weekend, but to our surprise, when phoning on the day, we found out that all beds were booked in two of the huts we considered. Luckily, there were still beds in the Murowaniec mountain hut, so in the end we could stay up the mountains! Two trails to the Murowaniec hut start in Kużnice near the Kasprowy Wierch cable lift entrance, to make it more interesting, we took the blue trail up and the yellow one down.

Hot and sunny weather made us almost forget that there’s still some snow and ice on the mountain tops. After getting to the Murowaniec hut and leaving the heaviest stuff in the room (although I always have to hike with quite a big backpack “for photos”), we had a short break and I enjoyed Polish fast food – huge “zapiekanka” (a hot halved baguette with mushrooms and melted cheese on top). And then our adventure began, heading towards Kościelec (2 155m) I could see its steep summit resembling a tripod and I kept thinking how I was going to get there. It’s not like I’m an absolute novice, I’ve climbed higher mountains (to be exact even twice as high Mt Elbert of the Rocky Mountains), but something was telling me it would be quite an effort.

Trail signs, Tatra mountains

Trail signs, Tatra mountains

Getting to the foot of the mountain was quite easy, even with some snowy and sometimes icy patches on the way. But the real climbing started when we got to the steep rocky section. Scrambling was not new to me, but having to climb through some snowy and icy steps made my heart jump a few times. My friend’s story about someone who fell off Kościelec during the climb and died, didn’t help my confidence at all. I felt really exposed trying to reach some slippery handholds and knowing that one mistake could cost so dearly.

Climbing the top of Koscielec, snow in May...

Climbing the top of Koscielec, snow in May…

Views from Koscielec summit

Views from Koscielec summit

Needless to say, I felt very accomplished when finally got to the summit of Kościelec. Taking in the views, and my sense of pride were affected a bit by the thought of climbing down. And then it became official (again) – I was the slowest hiker ever. Being tired and with my mind not working at its best, I was just automatically following my boyfriend’s instructions: “put your hands next to your feet and just lower your body”, you won’t reach this foothold with your feet, so you just have to trust it and slide down a bit”, “watch your feet, it’s slippery like sh..t”. Finally, getting through the last bad section, made me overflow with happiness. My friends suggested a shortcut to the hut, but having enough of steep downhills, I voted for splitting our team up and taking the route known to me. Hiking on an easy terrain felt so wonderful, and the only thought which kept me alive was the hot food in the hut. I had checked earlier the sign in the dining room (everyone has their priorities), which said it was closing at 9p.m. So we were moving as fast as possible to be there on time, “schabowy” on my mind (like Georgia for Ray Charles). Success, we were back in the hut at 8.50p.m.! I ordered my food and heard: “Sorry but at this time we can only offer some soup as the kitchen is closing”… Well, they could stick their soup up their bottoms, so I ordered 2 pints for dinner.

My friend near the summit of Koscielec

My friend near the summit of Koscielec

Climbing Koscielec

Climbing Koscielec, breathtaking views…

Having a rest before getting to the Murowaniec mountain hut

Having a rest before getting to the Murowaniec mountain hut

Getting through the snow...

Getting through the snow…

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Zakopane – Gateway to Tatras

View from Kasprowy Wierch, Tatra mountains

View from Kasprowy Wierch, Tatra mountains

I was probably 5 years old and a bit scared of that black devil with a pitchfork running around in a mountain lodge. It’s one of my earliest memories from Zakopane, where we went for a New Year break with my family. For the people who might not know – Zakopane is not a hell of any sorts, the Devil is one of the Polish traditional carnival characters alongside Angel, Death, etc. People would dress up as those characters and go to raise some money (similar to Christmas carol singers but with a bit more bite to it). Anyway, I remember the devil and lots of snow, we would go for night sledge rides and I was tucked in thick fur blankets like a Russian princess. I have been in Zakopane a few times since then, recently in May.

Krupowki, the main street in Zakopane

Krupowki, the main street in Zakopane

First, a few information bits about Zakopane. It lies in the South of Poland, and being a beautiful gateway to Tatra mountains (called Tatry in Polish), it has been a famous tourist destination for many years. It is one of the “must-see” places in Poland. Zakopane is very easy to get to even without a car. There is a train option (more expensive and longer) and plenty of buses to choose from (I would recommend private ones as they are the cheapest). If you are not sure, go to Cracow (most people go there anyway) and then take a bus. The bus station is under construction and the bus stands to Zakopane are situated outside, just follow the big yellow signs with letters written on them. There are also plenty of places to stay in Zakopane – you can choose between mountain huts, hostels, hotels, and private rooms. Almost every house in Zakopane offers rooms for rent, but it might be difficult to find rooms in the centre during the high season, so booking might be advisable.

Watra brewery, Zakopane

Watra brewery, Zakopane

There’s so much to do in Zakopane for everyone. If you’re a bit lazy and not so much into mountaineering, you can just put some outdoor clothing on and hang out on Krupowki. It is the main street in Zakopane, filled with outdoor shops, cafes, souvenirs, restaurants, and – most importantly – stalls with traditional goat cheese pieces (“oscypki”). Oscypki come in a traditional shape but in different sizes. They can be smoked (brown) or not (white), and you NEED to try them. I’ve just heard from a reliable source that it’s better to pay more for oscypki and not go for a cheaper option. Apparently even a not so fresh piece of better quality is much tastier than a cheaper alternative (especially if you heat it up in the oven). If you’re in a restaurant, try a grilled version with cranberry sauce as a starter, yummy…

Zajazd Furmanski, Zakopane

Zajazd Furmanski, Zakopane

Zajazd Furmanski, traditional design, Zakopane

Zajazd Furmanski, traditional design, Zakopane

We visited Zakopane in the middle of May, out of season, but it was still pretty crowded, especially in the evening. Choosing a place to eat is always a bit of a challenge for us, I like to try local dishes, my American boyfriend opts for a hamburger or pizza. So we were going from place to place to find a good compromise. As he really loves beer, I managed to tempt him to go to a local brewery called Watra. They offer not only delicious beer (honey beer being my favourite) but also a big variety of dishes – from traditional Polish to (beloved by some) pepperoni pizza. Another good place to eat is Zajazd Furmanski. Although not quite in the centre of Zakopane, the food is delicious. I enjoyed not only the food but also the traditional design of the building, huge wooden beams with the plaited straw insulation. If you travel with children and need a break, there was also an indoor children play area downstairs.

View from Kasprowy Wierch

View from Kasprowy Wierch

Good news if you’re lazy, but want to see a bit more than just a nice mountain town, there a few cable lifts which you can take to admire the mountain landscapes. We chose to go to Kasprowy Wierch (1,987m) to enjoy the afternoon before meeting up with our friends. To get to the lift from the centre, you need to take a minibus to Kuznice, it took me a while (a visit to the information centre to be precise) to figure it out. There was still some snow on top of the mountain and I was glad I had my insulated jacket with me to keep me warm. I’m not sure how some people managed to go to the top in trainers, I know it was not very far, but it would require some skill not to skid on a slippery surface. It’s worthwhile to go to the top, you will experience wonderful views of surrounding Tatras which can make up for 10 minutes of exercise…

And if you’re not so lazy and you would like to climb some mountains, Zakopane is also a great choice for you. More in my next post…

On top of the mountain, Tatras

On top of the mountain, Tatras

Climbing near Kasprowy Wierch

Climbing near Kasprowy Wierch

Taking photos near Kasprowy Wierch

Taking photos near Kasprowy Wierch

Scrambling near Kasprowy wierch

Scrambling near Kasprowy wierch