I travelled to Zakopane, in southern Poland, for the sole purpose of visiting Morskie Oko, a lake in the Tatra Mountains. But things didn’t go as planned; a snowstorm hit the town shortly after I arrived, and I had to bunker down for three days.
What did I do in that time?
Krupówki Street, Zakopane
Krupówki Street is the main pedestrian plaza of Zakopane. It’s filled with shops where you can rent and buy snow gear, and it is a pleasant enough place to go for a walk during the odd moment when the snow eases.
I walked up and down this street a number of times. Some of the local drunks started to recognise me and began yelling out Jesus, Jesus (which sounded like yezeus, yezeus) when I passed – they’d gotten it into their heads that I looked like Jesus. I would stop to speak with them and they would blurt out a bunch of things in Polish, and I would say a few things back in English. Then they would point to their hip-flasks of vodka and proffer them my way, and I would decline and walk away. They’d yell out do widzenia yezeus (good bye Jesus). I’d wave back.
There was a busker in downtown Zakopane whose entertainments I also quite enjoyed. He was dressed as a white walker from Game of Thrones, which meant he was shirtless, and could only stand outdoors for a few minutes at a time before needing to run into the nearest shop to warm up again.
His skin took on a deathly pallor during his stints in the snow, which really boosted the impact of his costume.
Tatra National Park
On my second day in Zakopane I decided to walk along the road – there were more people skiing on the roads than driving on them by this stage – that lead to Kuźnice in Tatra National Park.
I had to keep my head down to keep the driving snow out of my eyes most of the time, but when I did look up I had this view to contend with: a forest submerged in snow.
Kuźnice contains several grand buildings (all locked up for winter) and some interpretative signage providing insight into the mining heritage of the region. The signage was quite interesting if you are into mining history, but probably a little dull if you are not – I had lots of time to kill so I read it all.
A break in the weather
The snowstorm came to an end a little after lunchtime on my third day in Zakopane. By late afternoon the skies had begun to clear and suddenly the Tatra Mountains, which surround Zakopane, came into view.
The council workers were straight out with their snow ploughs and snow shovels, and the streets and paths were soon made navigable.
Within a few hours of the snowstorm coming to an end the city was back on its feet. People were out walking dogs and reclining on park benches. Normal life had resumed.
Practical information and how to reach Zakopane:
There are frequent buses running between Kraków (where there is an international airport) and Zakopane. The bus trip takes two and a quarter hours.
It’s possible to catch a bus from Zakopane to the Slovakian border at Łysa Polana (it’s the same bus you catch for the Morskie Oko hike). From the Slovakian side of the border you can catch a bus to Vysoké Tatry, and from Vysoké Tatry you can continue on to Poprad. At the time of travel (March 2015) there were no direct bus services between the two countries. More transport info here.