Today our Busabout group were heading out of Krakow – we’d enjoyed this beautiful historic city with amazing bike tours and nightlife, but it was time to find out where the locals go for a mini break in Poland. Zakopane was next on our list.
In winter this stunning town – located at the foot of the amazing Tatra Mountains – is an absolute snow heaven. Everywhere you look there’s Polish log homes with steeped roofs and intricate wooden décor, perfect for those cold winter months when the snow hits. With plenty of snowboarding and skiing options on offer in the area, anyone who’s outgoing or passionate about winter sports will absolutely love this place. It’s only a couple of hours away from Krakow too, so a city daytrip is always an option for visitors. I could only imagine the beauty of Zakopane during snow season… why? Because we arrived at this town mid-summer.
Now I admit, as we arrived on the bus, I wondered to myself… why would we go to a ski resort in summer? I quickly shut down those thoughts when I saw the lush, green, hilly scenery that surrounding this Polish tourist hotspot. Our Busabout guide informed us that it was also a popular destination for holidays during the summer months due to its laid-back atmosphere, amazing scenery and charming feel – I was sold.
I instantly fell in love with all of the buildings in Zakopane, and this was immediately reinforced the moment I saw the Jaszczurowka Chapel. Built in 1904 and designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz, this historic structure is the Queen of log cabins with its iconic architectural style and beautiful woodcarvings. Witkiewicz was a famous Polish architect and painter during the late 19th century and the person responsible for introducing this beautiful highland style of architecture Zakopane has become renowned for.
After pulling ourselves away from the Jaszczurowka Chapel (I have no idea how to pronounce that either!), we checked in at the delightful Hotel Daphne. It’s a lovely basic hotel with traditional décor and perfectly placed for exploring the main town shopping area and making your way up the mountains. So, after ditching the bags once again, we did just that.
Making our way down the main street in the centre of town, we stopped to nosey around the many local souvenir shops on offer each full of interesting wood, leather and wool souvenirs and trinkets. Leading to the foot of Gubałówka hill we found the local market brimming with more fascinating bits and bobs, including one of my favourite things in the entire world… cheese. This particular cheese was nothing like I’d seen before and almost looked like the wooden carvings found on Zakopane buildings. A local delicacy, the cheese comes from sheep and is called Oscypek – its super tasty and a must-try for all cheese-lovers!
For some view appreciation time of Zakopane’s amazing scenery, we opted for the funicular. One quick and reasonably priced journey later, we were at the top of Gubałówka hill staring at the breath-taking vistas of the Tatra Mountains. And, oh my, it was green… deep, lush, evergreen, green – beautiful!
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around in the sunshine, eating ice cream and watching a tiny man on a tiny horse (don’t ask… we didn’t), before venturing back down the hill on a cable car.
With a brisk rest and wash back at Hotel Daphne, the group was ready to go again and as always, hungry for delicious authentic local cuisine. Arriving at yet another beautiful wooden log cabin-esk building, which was actually a restaurant called Karczma Przy Mlynie, we sat down for a delicious traditional Polish meal. The rustic and authentic décor was amazing, and the live folk musicians dressed in customary uniforms made it all the more exciting! I tucked into some more Osypek cheese with cranberries, followed by village sausage with potatoes and bacon. It was literally fatty carb heaven and I loved it! There was also some lard spread going round the table again… read my post from Krakow for my first amazing encounter with lard spread – its better than it sounds, trust me!
To finish off a pretty amazing evening of Polish foodie goodness, we sampled the Highlander Tea, which came with a strong warning from the waiter. This tea is essentially a teabag soaked in hot spirits. Yes… just spirits. They set it alight for you and then off you go to drunksville. Sipping steadily, but swiftly, the tea slowly disappeared leaving our group in a very merry mood. It was originally created for cold mountaineers, but us tourists enjoyed it very much too.
Continuing with the drinking theme, we headed to the nearby La Playa Beach Bar & Chillout Lounge complete with a make-shift beach outside, deck chairs and buckets and spades. It was one of my favourite nights of the trip as the whole group bonded over cocktails and drank shots of vodka… we were in Poland after all!
Another amazing day was completed on the Busabout Eastern European Trek and I was loving every second. Join me in my next post, as we drive through a brand new country and enjoy a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride a tank… a freaking TANK! You don’t wanna miss that now do you?! ☺
Have any of you fellow travellers ventured through Zakopane too? How did you find Polish cuisine? Have you also braved the Highlander Tea? Let me know using the little box below.