Zakopana, Schmakopana

Monday, August 01, 2005

The weather in Zakopane
So. I still wasn't feeling so hot yesterday, and I decided that wherever I went, I didn't want to have a hassel of a trip. The weather for Zakopane (pronounced the way it's written in the title) was to be light rain, so I thought maybe I'd better abort that. Straight to Bratislava, then. Except that the overnight to Bratislava left at 11:00, had a switch at 4, and arrived at 6:30 in the morning, which sounded like it wouldn't exactly leave me feeling better. But I didn't really care whether I saw Bratislava or not anyway, I've heard some very mixed and predominantly negative reviews from other travellers. So, genius that I am, I decided straight to Budapest. The overnight train leaves at 10, a switch at 11, and arrives at 7 AM. Enough time for a good snooze at least. I even bought a ticket for it before realizing that I had not received a bed/couchette. So, back in line to double check, nope, no couchette, none available. Cash refund. Zakopane it is.

The bus to Zakopane was right through a heavy fog (as we reached altitude) in parts and also a thunderstorm, so that stayed exciting. You could look over the thin guardrail and see nothing but white in places. I knew that accomodations in Zakopane were rather thin, and that most people would have luck with private rooms, which I would have to hook myself up with once I arrived at the bus station.

I didn't count on the fact that we would be unceremoniously dumped at some random bus stop in town instead. I was stuck there with no idea where anything was alongside two equally (perhaps even moreso) perplexed doctors from Iran, in the pouring rain. One of them tried to appeal for help but came across as quite rude, so I got the next young couple before he could scare them off (by shouting "INTERNET!" into their faces) and they were quite nice and spoke English just fine. They pointed me at the bus station, which turned out to be just down the street. Regretfully, there were no people with accomodations signs in the bus station. I was looking at the shop in there and debating getting myself a map when the couple walked by, must've seen me inside, and came to check on whether I'd found someone. Which, if you think about it, was really incredibly nice of them.

Where I stayed in Zakopane
Anyway, long story short... well, less long than it could be, they helped me chat with an accomodation guy over at the train station and got me hooked up with a private room for 50 zl, which is 5 zl less than I payed for a dorm bed in Krakow. Sure, it's 4km from the city, but hey, it's a bed and I can stop searching. We got in his car and he drove me there, pointing out in Polish where the bus (BOOHS) was to "Zakopane Centrum", a bar on the corner which may or may not have been a nav aid for me, and then the house.

Banff like in appearance
I caught the bus into town the next morning, which was indeed cast in a fog and not so picturesque as it would be in good weather I'm sure. But looking around and finding the main street, I discovered that it was actually a nice albeit touristy town, reminding me a lot of Banff. I was looking for the tourist info place and instead stumbled across a cable car up one of the mountains. I wasn't going to pay to go up there and discover that I couldn't see anything but fog, but there was a pathway along it that I thought I'd climb partway up. Of course, once you start, you can't turn around, so I scaled the whole mountain to the top, about 1000m high, and by then the fog had begun lifting a bit.

Ooh, slidey slidey!
In a stroke of good fortune, they had one of those Sesame Streetish (or should I say Sesame Park) cars on tracks, so I took one down (you know I had to) and then back up again. Believe it or not, it was actually pretty fun and they got going at a decent clip. I walked along the trail across the mountain and it, even in the fog, was fairly beautiful. I walked a couple klicks up there and then headed back down, finally discovering the train station/tourist info (no thanks to the woman of questionable parentage working at the infamous HI youth hostel here - but that's another story).

Everyone here seems to be of the opinion that the only way to Bratislava or Zakopane is through Krakow, but I'm going to find another way. If the weather's nice tomorrow, I might stay and rent a bike and take a nice trip to some mountainous lakes just to make my trek here a little more worth it. Otherwise, goodbye Zakopane and good riddance. While some people here have been really nice, there certainly is no shortage of rude people. One of which (yeah, the H.I.-hate-my-life woman) I had some not so pleasant words with as a result. But it could be worth staying if I get away onto the mountain trails. Or have some opportunity to chase after her with a broomstick (which I will borrow from her, provided it doesn't fly off with me).

<Zakopane Photos>

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