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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Zakopane, Poland

It was not the perfect weather but perfect time. With first year done, working throughout the Christmas and New Year, I desperately needed an escape. With limited time, we decided somewhere near Germany would be perfect. So, Welcome to Poland.

This is one of the times I chose not to visit the capital but some other beautiful places. Krakow and Zakopane are very popular for tourists in Poland. Actually, Zakopane is even more beautiful. I totally fell in love with that place but whether you like it or not, to go there, you have to fly to Krakow first because there is no airport in Zakopane. It was good for us because we were going to Krakow anyway. 

So, first destination was Krakow but we reached there at night so that we could head to Zakopane early morning next day. Somehow, I found Krakow similar to Manchester. Similar houses, atmospheres, church. Kind of nostalgic feeling. The temperature was 0 degree but still I wasn't that cold. I was very excited. I told you, it was just a perfect timing for international gateway. I could have waited for summer for this trip but Nah!! 

Next day early morning, we headed towards south, about 100 km from Krakow. The place which looks like a heaven in the earth, the home of Tatra mountain and where the temperature can range from -32 degree in winter to +32 degree in summer:- Zakopane.
Passing Chocholow village on the way to Zakopane
Krakow is at the height of 230 m from sea level. As we traveled to the south, we started going higher and higher. Once we reached the altitude of 500 m, Carpathian mountain came in vision, which is known as the second longest mountain range in Europe. It's the mountain full of forest. From far, it looks deadly jungle but very popular for trekkers. Apparently, this jungle has a wildlife reservation. There are wild cats, eagle, deer, bear (human friendly). It is known that Poland has more bears than Scandinavian countries together. Interesting right?

Poland was formed in 966 AD.  During that time, Christianity came along and now, 90% Poles are catholic. In Golden age, Krakow was the capital of the country because it was the most happening city. Every main event happened there. On the other hand, Zakopane also carries an interesting history. Zakopane means place buried under the snow. People started settling down here in 15th century. They chose this place mainly because of timber because high quality and quantity timber can be found here.  Right in this place, they started new life. Even though there were not many people, they made their own dialect and dresses, and remained happily for 400 years until end of 18th century when Poland was attacked.  In Golden age, Poland had a royal family until one time when the king died and there was no successor. After that, the King was chosen democratically. Now, you can imagine what could have happened there. Disagreement ruled over and they started fighting and arguing a lot. People were more powerful than the King. Then guess what happened, Poland was attacked from three sides and the attacking countries were: Prussia (Now Germany), Austria and Russia. Poland was then divided into three parts and ruled by respected countries. That was the end of 18th century. Then Poland completely disappeared from the map for 123 years until the end of First World War. After First World War, Poland was independent again. Just so you know, 11th November 1918 is the Independence Day of Poland. After that distraughting time, they decided not to come back to Monacy. Now they have prime minister and president. During that 123 years, Zakopane and Krakow were part of Austria. Boy, isn't history interesting? I just love history. 

During Communism, government wasn't interested in promoting the mountainous area but people didn't want to move to city area because they were tired of migrating too much due to war. So, they started making living by selling things in cheap. That influence is still there and because of that, Zakopane is about 30% cheaper than Krakow. Taking Zakopane's beauty into an account, they started focusing in tourism. Now Zakopane gets 67% of its income from tourism. They run guest houses, mountain hiking tour, 30 spa centres. My God, yes, you read that alright, 30 spa centres. Tatra mountain, which is situated at 2600 m from sea level is the main attraction in Zakopane. The area is actually doing great as a tourist area. There are maps and signs everywhere making it easy for hikers too. In high season, the total population of Zakopane raises from 30000 to 300000. Now you can imagine how popular this place is. 

Once you are at the bottom of the Tatra mountain, you can take funicular rail to reach 300 m high opposite the mountain from where you can see the whole Tatra mountain. This ride takes 2 mins only and look at the technology, in that 2 mins, we were at 1123 m from the sea level, facing beautiful Tatra mountain. Here is the view:



After spending some time admiring Zakopane and Tatra mountain's beauty, we headed towards to see the most romantic church in Zakopane. While heading down, we decided to take a chair lift. For that, all I can say is 'wow'. I mean I was little bit scared in the beginning but when you see the mountain, beautiful valley and people skiing underneath you, you will actually regret for getting scared. 


The most romantic church in Zakopane is hidden inside the dense forest but I tell you, that Church my friend, is a beauty. Mass prayers and weddings are held there regularly. I actually wouldn't mind getting married there :D. It is really beautiful. 

Romantic Church hidden inside the forest