As I had hoped after a prolonged period of inactivity, the hiking boots certainly did see lots of game time once I headed south from Krakow. Upon arrival at the centrally located Flamingo hostel in Zakopane, I immediately got chatting to two Belgium lads who were also keen for some hiking. We headed up the viewpoint just outside town that afternoon and over a few beers that night, chatted about the hiking we were keen to do. After a few more beers we agreed to set off together in the morning and finalised our route (which was to change as we went) with the end result being an awesome 3 night, 4 day trek.
Zakopane, a very popular winter resort and summer getaway town in southern Poland, sits at the edge of the Tatras Mountains.The mountains are very popular with the locals and so even at the end of September , it was very busy in places. Over the four days the scenery was quite varied and aside from summiting a number of peaks and walking along a natural-border summit ridge that separated Poland to one side and Slovakia to another, we hiked past a number of beautiful lakes and through dense forest. (The cover picture to this article is the view of Morskie Oko Lake).
In a few places, we weren’t really trekking but so much as sliding down snowy and icy patches and on one descent in particular we had to use the provided chains to make our way down. The previous week has seen lots of snow and while it may have been icy in places and not fun to descend on, the snow-capped peaks greatly added to the scene. Speaking of the weather, we were incredibly fortunate with clear skies and gorgeous sunshine (hence the melted snow) and aside from the few sketchy icy patches, it was a relatively easy trek.
For our accommodation, we stayed at reasonably priced Pensions (local huts). We had not booked anything in advance and except for the first night where the hut was fully booked and we were forced to sleep on the floor, during which time I woke up at least half a dozen times each time adding a layer of clothing until I was wearing everything I had with me, we had a bed to climb into each night which is always so good after a long day’s trekking.
From Zakopane I made my way to Zdiar, a tiny village on the Slovakian side of the Tatras, and checked into the awesome Ginger Monkey hostel. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do as much hiking as I’d hoped as the weather turned nasty (we spent the one day trekking in the driving rain) but it was nevertheless a wicked few days with great people at a brilliant hostel.
When in Zdiar, make the trek to see the Spies Castle – it’s not just the size that’s impressive, covering an area of over 4 hectares with five courtyards containing ruins of buildings from the 12th to 18th centuries, but the sheer beauty and it’s well worth the effort to get to. Located 20kms from Levoca, it’s only open from April to October and entrance is EUR5.
I’m now in a town called Kosice, Slovakia’s 2nd largest city. I hadn’t heard of it a few days ago but it’s on the way to Hungary so we (myself & Justin who I met at the hostel) figured why not. The city itself isn’t anything spectacular but we had a really fun night on the town with our couch-surfing hosts. We started out at a local pub, moved on to a wine bar (where we tried 1st Slovakian and then South African wine while enjoying some local cheese & bread) and finally ended up at the Ibiza nightclub where I introduced the group to hand grenades. Good times all round!
Next up we’re heading south to Hungary and our first stop will be the village of Eger, which we read produces some delightful red wine. After trying various local beers in a number of different countries over the past few weeks, it’s now the turn of the fermented grape!