Based on a recommendation from a friend in Warsaw, I decided to take a trip down to the south of Poland and discover what gems Zakopane has.
As usual I booked myself a bus, a hostel and roughly planned my trip. What happened next really took me by surprise though. I went to the common room of the hostel in Krakow and got in a conversation with another guest. He actually said that he had a rental car, and was driving down to Zakopane anyway and asked if I wanted to join him. I checked my bus ticket and for the incredibly minimal fee of £1, I changed it into a return from Zakopane instead.
We set off pretty early in the morning. I say early, well 10am, which is still pretty early for me to be up. The journey itself was really uneventful, rather straight roads and barely any navigation skills were needed. After an extended journey due solely to traffic we arrived in Zakopane. My friend took me to my hostel to drop off my luggage and then we continued our drive to have a look at a lake hidden at the foot of a mountain, the lake Morskie Oko.
According to the staff of the hostel we just needed to follow a road to a car park and then we could hike up a path directly to the lake. We followed these instructions until a guy in a hi-vis vest made us head back around a round about and so we crossed a little bridge and found another car park there. Turns out this second car park was actually in Slovakia. We had crossed the border completely unintentionally.
Walking back over the bridge into Poland again, we passed the guy in a hi-vis vest and found ourselves at the car park we originally should’ve driven to. From here we were able to catch a horse-drawn sleigh up to the base of the mountains. Once we disembarked from the horses sledge, we had to walk up a frozen, icy path all the way to the lake. The lake itself was situated right at the very base of the mountain range and is colloquially known as the Eye of the Sea which is derived from an old myth; the lake is so deep that it’s connected to the sea via an underground passage.
Unfortunately the lake itself was actually frozen over but still had about 45cm (1.5ft) of snow over the top of it. We walked across the lake until the sun started to set and as we had at least two hours of walking ahead of us, we decided to leave.
The walk back was pretty straightforward but my friend did point out certain astrological sights such as Venus and the constellation; Orion. We walked back across the Slovakian border and got the car and then he drove me back to my hostel. And boy was I tired when I got back. No sleep until quite later on as it was Free Pierogi night so I got to try some traditional Polish food. It was really good too, very hearty meal to finish the day with.