TRAVELS

CHAPTER 1: Tatra National Park, Morskie Oko Lake & Koscielisko Valley, Poland

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”
John Muir

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Even though I grew up near The Stolowe Mountains National Park, this was my first trip to, let’s call it, “real” mountains. Kuba and I went there at the end of November last year as the weather was rather late summer-y than early winter-y. However, this short 2-day trip showered us with a mixture of sun, warmth, wind, snow, cold, and ice. Just as a proper mountain trip should!

Tatra National Park & Morskie Oko Lake

There are 23 national parks in Poland and Tatra National Park is one of the biggest ones (also, only the third one I visited). Circa 70% of the park consists of forests and mountain pine, the rest are rocks, water, and alpine turf. It offers a variety of possibilities for people looking for an active way to spend their time. There are six caves and eight shelters available for tourists as well as almost 300km of trails with different levels of difficulty. Some of them have chains to make treks easier. There are also some birds and animals that you may stumble upon such as: golden eagles, Tatra marmots, lynxes and brown bears. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet any. Pity.

We entered Tatra National Park in order to go to Morskie Oko Lake (lit. Eye of the Sea) – the biggest and one of the most popular lakes in Tatra Mountains. Apparently, there is an old legend which says that the name Morskie Oko was created as a result of the belief that the Lake was connected to the sea by some underground passage.

We took a bus from Zakopane (the cost: 10 PLN) to the car park by the entrance to the Park (the entrance fee: 5 PLN). The ride took us around half an hour and then we had to walk ca. 9 kilometres to the Lake. If you want to check how many muscles you’ve got in your legs, this trip is a good way to feel them all 🙂 Even though I work out at home a few times a week and I ride my bike almost every day, I could barely walk for the next two days. But I like sore muscles – it’s a sign of a good workout, right? 😉

When on your way to Morskie Oko, you can either walk the whole way along the road or take specially marked shortcut trails every now and then. Well, you can also take a horse cart (or sleigh in winter) but I am dead against it. There have been many situations where horses would just drop down during the ride because of exhaustion. Some of them died as well. Besides, I cannot comprehend why people who go on a mountain trip choose to have their asses carried by carts pulled by horses… A few days ago I read an article about a young boy who travelled to Morskie Oko on his wheelchair. It’s ridiculous.

The road is surrounded by trees that in some places look like tree cemeteries of some sort. All the trunks are feeble, dry, and broken. I read that there has been a problem with insects called European spruce bark beetle. Not all of those damaged trees are being cleaned up, however, as the forest actually needs these tree cadavers. Not only do they provide shadow and protection during hot summer days, but they also support the ecosystem.

One the photos below you can see the weather changing quite quickly as we went up to the Lake and as we were walking down back to the bus. It was nice to experience both the sun and the fog. The latter added a certain mystique to the landscape.

Tree cadavers – the courtesy of European spruce bark beetles
Never go backpacking without an enamel mug, especially when it’s the Moomins edition!

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Kościelisko Valley

This is one of the most liked and visited valleys in Tatra Mountains. There are 5 caves you can visit, a lake, a shelter and many trails to choose from. We went there on our second (and last) day. Our bus back home was leaving in the evening, so around noon we took a bus to Kościelisko from Zakopane and after ca. 20 minutes we were there. We paid the entrance fee (5 PLN) as we had done the previous day and started walking. The weather began getting worse – more snow and wind. We intended to go to the end of the trail but the conditions weren’t too good and we wanted to dry up a bit and drink some coffee before we got on our bus home. So, our walk took us around 3-4 hours. It wasn’t a lot, but we didn’t have much time on our hands and the snow was getting heavier and heavier. The photos I took with my basically frozen phone give an impression of paintings (at least to me).

The snow became the painter, so I became the admiring photographer.

See you on the next pages,

K.

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