Into the Polish countryside

At any given moment I am planning 3 trips, whether it be local travel, visiting a new country or a road trip. Staying at home during lockdown has made me more determined than ever to tick off a few more things on my bucket list. Visiting the Tatra mountains has been on my bucket list for a long time.

Riding along on the dashboard, not allowed to navigate once again. I settled in to enjoy the ever-changing scenery of southern Poland. The driving route is pretty easy and is pretty much a straight road weaving up into the Polish Tatra mountains. I had taken my puzzle book as I fully expected to get bored whilst travelling. Instead, I spent the whole journey looking out of the window. I had a few activities planned for this trip which I couldn’t wait to do.

The first stop of the day was the village of Sromowce Wyżne-Kąty which is a beautiful area near Lake Czorsztynskie. There is an option to cycle around the lake, I can imagine it’s beautiful, but we all know I didn’t attempt this. The lake is actually a dam which flows into the Dunajec river. Though I did spend some time here simply enjoying the scenery, I was actually here to go rafting and I couldn’t wait to get out on the waves.

Ok, I’m exaggerating. The rafting was more like going on a gondola in Venice, but the boat was 5 tiny boats joined together by a rope at the front. I was terrified because the water kept splashing up through the middle of the boats. There were 12 people on the boat and the tour will not run with any less. There were two people driving the boat, neither of whom spoke any English. It is pretty terrifying to sit on a boat in the middle of nowhere and be unable to communicate with the people in charge. Luckily someone sitting behind us could translate the basics into English.

I’m not entirely sure what the guide said about the area, but people kept laughing so it must have been funny. Since this trip I’ve been doing some research into the area to find out more. The 2 hour boat ride took us 18 kilometres down the Dunajec River Gorge to the town of Szczawnica. The river runs along the border between Poland and Slovakia, with around half of the boat ride being in Slovakia. I love ticking off new countries! The area is currently on UNESCO’s tentative list, so the area can become a world heritage site. Pieniński Park Narodowy (national park) is simply beautiful and well worth visiting. However, I found myself getting bored after about 45 minutes and neither of the guides seemed to be in a rush to reach their destination. My favourite part of the whole trip was the duck who followed us for 10 kilometres and even joined us on some of the rapids. There are some hiking and biking trails which I spotted from the boat; I feel I would have enjoyed the scenery more from those. In hindsight I should have hiked instead as the rafting took up so much time, so I ended up missing a few other activities I had planned. Bears and wolves are often spotted in the area. I wasn’t lucky enough to see one, but a nosy deer came to the water’s edge to say hello as we passed.

I never thought I would be happy to get off a boat, but my furry blue butt had gone numb (I’m still waiting for the feeling to come back). I left the boat feeling starved and had absolutely no idea where I was going.

Szczawnica is 100% worth visiting as either a summer or winter destination but learn a few Polish phrases before visiting. The town has signs which have English in tiny writing on the bottom. This allowed me to get my bearings and find somewhere to eat.

I passed a really busy restaurant on my search to find the town centre, Restauracja u Zosi. It smelt amazing so I decided to jump in as there was one free table. Sadly, the menu was not in English but coffee and vegetarian pizza translate into any language (not very adventurous, I know). The waiters were very helpful, and I had a really nice 4pm lunch.

I spent the remainder of my evening enjoying the beautiful area surrounding the Grajcarek river. Running out of time for the other activities I had planned had its benefits. Had I been rushing about trying to do everything, I would not have sat by the river and enjoyed my surroundings.

My photographer and I headed up to the main street to gather some snacks before returning to watch the sun set over the surrounding mountains.

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