Spending Those last Zlotys: Zakopane to ski-resort-village on opposite side of mountain (the Slovakian side) - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

October 24, 2013

Spending Those last Zlotys: Zakopane to ski-resort-village on opposite side of mountain (the Slovakian side)

Zakopane reminds me of Barilochi, or even San Martin de Los Andes, down in Patagonia. like these Argentine resort-cities, its a small city devoted to mountain activities; hillwalking in Summer and skiing in Winter. The main thoroughfare is strikingly similar; decorative wooden fronted restaurants providing a wide choice of fare, outdoor-stores with all the top brands, and souvenir shops; and along the network of roads all around there are lots of hotels and at least two hostels, accommodating all the visitors that mill along the main drag.

I stayed at the Hosteling International, thirty-one Zlotys, that's just over six sterling for a dorm bed, which was like a private room as Is the only person in the room. It was when I went out for dinner that I discovered the centre. People dressed halfway between hiking attire and an evening in the city strolled along, stopping to look at restaurant menus, while others sat at outside seating.

I was drawn into a Polish buffet restaurant offering "100g| 3 Zlotys". My meal cost nineteen Zlotys, so must've been just over six-hundred grams when the platter was put on the scales, which was enough to fill me up. I'd roast pork accompanied by broccoli, cauliflour and spouts and freshly cut chips. Afterwards I sat out on the decking enjoying a Polish beer and watching the people pass by.

In the morning, I cycled away from the hostel shortly before nine. I returned to the central street where I'd spotted a Costa Coffee the evening before. I locked the bike outside and inside order an Americano Grande and take a seat by the window. Its a sharp sunny morning out and fashionably dressed couples arrive wearing warm parker jackets.

Strong coffee really stimulates: I reflect on my short time in Poland. I could stay a few days more, here in Zakopane where life seems good. Why don't I. Alas time is short and I don't want to be cycle-touring when the first snow falls.

I look at my watch: 10.09, time Is making a move. It has now warmed up when I go out. I unlock the bike and slowly cycle away. I have no idea of the best way out of town to the Slovakian border, but cycle up the main pedestrianized drag and turnout on a road at the top which continues uphill. I then see a small supermarket, so turn in.

At the checkout inside, I do my best reducing the purse-full of change I've accumulated. I come out with a carrier-bag full of lunch and wonder how I'll distributed the weight on the bike when, a man around forty with cropped hair and a week's worth of stubble and a short blond woman on his arm stopped by, taking an interest in my bike. He asks something in Polish and when I look stunned unable to reply, he asks again in English.

".....you cycle all the way from Ireland" he says with an increase twinkle of interest in his eye; meanwhile, his partner whispers in his ear and then walks off and into the shop next-door. "What part of Ireland you come from? I work in Carlow two years. You know Carlow?" I tell him and about my route, then ask is this road the best way to the Slovakian border, to which he confirms yes, saying the road climbs for quite a few kilometres, but the alternative lower route is busy; the way the trucks take.

I make one further stop, further uphill where Is passing a van selling the open Zapikandi sandwiches. I have one as its now eleven and it'll see me through to a late lunch while getting rid of four Zlotys, two two Zloty coins which I would be unable to change at a bank outside Poland. The remaining coins in the purse are all Grozky, the hundred units that make one Zloty and don't amount to mush.

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The day becomes murky as cloud moves in, blocking out the sun as the long uphill ends at a roundabout from where I see the ski-slopes. I cycle nearer and stop to take a photo, then continue. The way is a slow uphill grind through pine forest, up and around a succession of switchback bends leaving Zakopane behind. The last stretch is a gentler gradient with steep roofed wooden houses to the side and here I stop again to look back at the view and take another couple of photos.

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Over the crest of the hill, there's a level straight looking across at granite mountain peaks. Then begins a long downhill run, a bit too steep for my liking as I've to ride holding the brakes to stop the bike running off at increasing speed. I came off descending when younger, breaking ribs and cannot forget the trauma. After many kilometres, it ends in a gorge where I pass the Polish-Slovak border complex, now closed up and redundant, as both countries are EU member states.

There's another long uphill grind just as black cloud descends with spots of rain. No. The last thing I need. The rain doesn't materialise and I lunch in the car-park of a ski-resort restaurant not long after the start of the next descent which is a lesser, more agreeable gradient than the last.

By late afternoon, I'm in a ski-resort village; plenty of cafes and pensions. I'm wondering about prices. I see some marked up on boards outside establishments. I find an ATM; it pays out Euros, so Slovakia is part of the single-currency. I check at two pensions. The cheapest quotes thirty-one Euros for a room, so I ride on and find a wild-campsite in woodland.

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The old border complex on the left.
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No change in house design.
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The rain moving in.
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A derelict resort-hotel.
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Yet another derelict hotel.
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I should have a brown tent for this season.
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Today's ride: 41 km (25 miles)
Total: 7,234 km (4,492 miles)

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