Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

9 Jun 2012

Pedalling up to Zakopane

Posted by Will

After spending 5 days in rainy Krakow I made the executive decision to put Ukraine on hold and explore the Tatra Mountains in the very south of Poland. This meant cycling to Zakopane, dubbed the ‘winter capital of Poland’. I made it, and now, accomodated cosily in a small wooden cabin hostel in the mountains, I’m settling into a routine of walking the trails during by day and relaxing in front of Euro 2012 in the evening.

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First, a quick paragraph on Krakow. Mum, Dad and Rosie flew out for the long Jubilee weekend and of course it was great to see them. The first familiar faces I’ve seen since Amsterdam! A nice hotel, proper food and indulgence in various Polish vodkas all went down very well. I don’t recommend the salt mine tourist-trap advertised everywhere in Krakow, in fact I urge readers not to go. I do recommend a visit to Auschwitz. Aside from witnessing the place where so many infamous atrocities occured the museum is very informative and well-presented. It’s an odd ‘attraction’ in the sense that the worse you feel, the better the experience. The sombre atmosphere is slightly ruined by the sheer volume of tour groups wandering around but that’s certainly not something to complain about. It’s a good thing so many people visit. Krakow itself is stunning; the huge main square (Rynek) in particular and the numerous streets branching out from it that make up the Old Town. Rumour has it that Krakow has the highest density of cafes and restaurants of any city in the world and it shows. There’s no shortage of places to fill yourself up. If you’re still not convinced Krakow’s for you then listen to this: the England football team are in town and you can take a photo next to the team bus.

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The bike ride up to Zakopane, although only 120km, ended up being fairly eventful. First, one side of my front pannier rack broke and so I was only partially in control of the handlebars as the weight distribution at the front felt totally uneven. Second, I had my first fall of the trip. While singing along to a cheesy 1990s pop song by the hit US-band ‘Train’ I lost concentration and caught my front wheel on the edge of the road. In what felt like super slow motion I went to ground, luckily causing no damage to myself or the bike. However, my helmet did smack against the road which left a ringing in my ears and shook me up quite a bit. It would have all been a lot nastier if a car had been overtaking me. Third, the hills were much higher than anything I’ve yet encountered. I enjoyed the terrain which proved my fitness – normally I don’t enjoy climbing at all. I hit my max speed of the trip so far: 58km/h. On a bike (especially one with uneven steering) that feels very fast. Fourth, I had the Tatra Mountains to gaze at for the last third of the ride. By world standards they’re not big but they look enormous.

Right now, I’m staying in the Goodbye Lenin hostel which is a couple of kilometers west of Zakopane, nestled in the woods at the bottom of the mountains. It’s a very cool, basic-looking wooden lodge but with all conveniences (wifi internet, kitchen, TV, hot showers). Yesterday, I went on a 7 hour hike up to the top of the ridge (2000-2300m) which forms the border between Poland and Slovakia. It’s still mostly snow up there and the ridgeline trail is one of the most fun and daring I have ever ‘walked’. I put walked in inverted commas because most of it is scrambling along chains and up and down vertical ladders, the whole time suspended above drops whose heights don’t bear thinking about. After the walk, I cooked myself some dinner, grabbed a couple of beers, and snuggled into a chair to watch the opening games of Euro 2012, all while a lightening storm kicked off over the mountains outside.

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Ukraine is now very much on hold and at the moment I have no idea when I will get going again. Hopefully not for a while.

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3 Comments already on “Pedalling up to Zakopane”
  1. 1:08 pmpermalink
    09 Jun 2012

    Mumsey

    Wow! Glad you made it to the mountains, a bike dismount was going to happen sometime but glad you are ok! It looks fantastic! Enjoy the football. xxx

  2. 9:31 ampermalink
    21 Jun 2012

    ali

    happpy birthday mate have a good one stay safe x

  3. 10:16 ampermalink
    21 Jun 2012

    Fran

    I’ve gone and wished you happy birthday on the last post by mistake! Senility rules. Lots of love all the same and have a good day.
    Fran xx