Poland | 99 Years of Independence

TRAVEL

Poland has plenty of public holidays. A consequence of these holidays is that all shops, malls & most restaurants close their doors to join in celebrations – bringing business to a halt.

This was the case on November 11th 2017 when Poland celebrated its National Independence Day to commemorate the recovery of Poland as a sovereign state.

Taking a brief look into the history of Poland; the First Polish Republic [Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth] lasted a period of 226 years before 1795. The First Republic was a dualistic state [bi-confederation of Poland & Lithuania] ruled by a common monarch.

A Partitioned Poland existed from 1795 to 1918 [123 years], partitioned amongst the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia as well as Habsburg Austria. Four years towards the end of this period, World War 1 commenced and ended with the cessation of a Partitioned Poland.

From 1918 to 1939 the Second Republic of Poland [Polish People’s Republic or inter-war Poland] was in session, until the Second World War took place in 1939 to 1945.

A Communist Poland took up reins in the aftermath of World War 2, from 1945 to 1989.

Post 1989, Poland’s government ended its 44 years of “one – party rule” as per the Second Polish Republic, and began a democratic transition which led to what we now know as the Third Polish Republic [Post Communism – Democratic Republic of Poland].

To answer the question of when Poland gained its independence, it was in the year 1918, making the country one year short from a century of independence on November 11th 2017.

Saturday November 11th was a wet and cold day that had me in bed blogging away, waiting on the hour that my friends and I had planned to go and watch the Independence parade in Poznan’s Plac. Mickiewicza and despite the harsh weather, people were out in numbers.

To try and keep warm, my friends & I headed for the Zamek, a castle cultural center were we viewed photographs and historic depictions of Poland’s history. In the process of touring the Zamek, we stumbled upon a group of people getting ready for the parade.

Our first contact was with some lovely ladies robed in white gowns & red capes, both colors a representation of the bi-colored Polish National flag.

The moment was so intriguing I asked whether I could take picture of them. Upon agreeing, they suggested we join the group pictures and ultimately offered to dress us as they were dressed.

After completion of costumes and once it had been decided that we too would partake in the parade, we went ahead to see soldiers adding finishing touches to their costumes and chanting amongst themselves. They were to parade a historical reconstruction of Polish soldiers who had fought in the war that led to the country’s independence. It was a delight to be in the midst of such a joyous celebration.

The parade began.

Stepping into the drizzling rain, the crowd was enormous! They waved and smiled as the parade party passed by. The experience was exhilarating – celebrating the National Independence Day of Poland alongside the Poles, waving to children in the crowds and taking so many pictures along the way.

The day could not have been any more special, all thanks to the lovely ladies in white gowns and red capes.

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View of the Zamek Castle Cultural Center from Plac. Mickiewicza

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Statue performer

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Wall art depicting a time-line of Polish history | Zamek Castle

 

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Getting ready for the parade

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It was a joyous occasion!

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A historical reconstruction of Polish soldiers who fought the war towards the country’s independence

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Red capes and white gowns

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Polish street cuisine

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Poznan, Poland | City Blog

TRAVEL

A question I’ve often found repeatedly directed at foreigners residing in Poznan is; “How do you find it?” And so often I’ve come to find that not only do I give the same response with the change in inquisitors, but I also receive the same answer whenever I extend the same question to other outsiders.

Poznan is a city on the Warta River, in Greater Poland. This city is best known for its renaissance old town and is amongst the largest & oldest in Poland. It has been my home for just over three years now, and O’ so often I’ve answered the above question with “It grows on you”, and this is true.

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I had no previous knowledge of Poland before settling to study in Poznan, let alone the culture or cuisine of the Polish people. The detail I was certain of, which seemed to have given me false confidence concerning geography, was that I could easily locate the country on a map & like most people I had often confused it with Holland [the Netherlands].

Appreciation & understanding of a place, I believe arises from ones views & knowledge of where they come from, as well as knowledge of the place they’re trying to gain an understanding and appreciation for.

Places are uniquely different. Molded by historic influences on culture, economy, architecture and so forth, I’ve often found that society progresses and builds itself to make provision for dominant habits whilst attempting to stay rooted in cultural norms. Certain differences may prove inconvenient, while others may proof beneficial to outsiders.

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Stay long enough in a place and you’ll soon come to see the cracks & imperfections in systems. You will get critical as you get accustomed. On the other hand, I’ve come to realize that the things I most appreciate about living in this city have remained a constant over time.

Poznan is bigger than I’ve explored. In the little corner of the city where I live, which is the Grunwald dzielnica or neighbourhood, silence and lack of disturbances in the neighbourhood is what I’ve come to appreciate the most.

Coming from a country where simply carrying your purse the wrong way or leaving it unattended could have it snatch in the blink of an eye, I’ve quiet grown accustomed to my mother’s constant reminders of holding my purse close to my chest anytime I walked the town. Living in Poznan, I’ve noticed that there are times when chivalry shows up. I’ve come to appreciate this notion the day I unknowingly climbed aboard a tram with an open handbag and had somebody lightly tap on my shoulder and advise me to close my bag. Mind you, I’m on no attempt to paint a perfect picture of this centrally located polish city – as there are things I often observe in Poznan, that are not common where I come from. Second hand public smoking is something one often runs into more often than not. You’re likely to find yourself walking behind someone strolling with a cigarette in hand ahead of you.

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Old Market Square

One thing I can comment on, for both the city I hail from (Windhoek) as well as for Poznan, is the beauty in their sunsets. Now, of course this sunsets are subject to seasonal change – but when the opportunity presents itself and one takes a glance at the horizon from a good point of view, you are bound to find an astonishing sunset that will make you appreciate the dance of colors from lighting produced by sun beams during the summer & autumn seasons.

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Old Market Square

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Plac Wolnosci

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Fredry Street

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Jordan Bridge | Most Biskupa Jordana

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Archcatherdral Basilica of St.Peter & St.Paul

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Lake Malta

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Poland by Train, Get on Board!

TRAVEL

When compared to using roads or catching domestic flights across Polish cities, I would say that discovering Poland by train is a better choice. Driving can be tedious & lengthy while flights may be few and far spread causing one to pass time in airports. Traveling by train is quite efficient as you can get from one city to another in as little as four hours, such is the case between Gdansk and Poznan – But also trains are constantly on the move and one can easily reserve tickets on-line and hop onto the next train due to the frequency with which trains come and go.

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The efficiency and ease of travel is widely made available across Europe as tourism industries bring in huge numbers of country-trotting tourists and like in so many European countries, one can easily navigate & explore Poland by train.

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Intercity trains across Poland may not be of the same standard as its neighboring countries such as Germany and thus you may find yourself aboard a communist-era train carriage with the same frequency one finds themselves aboard a modern-tech train. Nonetheless, Polish intercity trains get you to your destination according to schedule. One can only anticipate and hope that high speed rails of up to date technology gain more ground nationally in line with the increasing population mobility of not only Polish commuters, but also tourists and international business consultants on the rise as the Polish economy continues to grow.

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Warsaw being the capital and central buzz of most business activities makes a frequent first point of entry for most modes of transport coming in and out of Poland.  The rail network spreads out across Poland from its biggest cities and Warsaw happens to be the point of convergence for all trains coming into the country.

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Gdynia train station

 

Discovering different parts of Poland and experiencing the culture from different perspectives regarding location has proven that most city environments consists of more or less the same ambiance, the difference has not proven to be much and most of it is highly influence by resource availability in said areas. Cities come to life in the old market squares so be sure to visit the old markets, especially at night as the lights amplify and bring a magical feel to the atmosphere.

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Krakow old market square at night

Gdynia, Poland | A Visit to The Marynarki Wojennej Museum & Restaurant

TRAVEL

Spending a good part of the day sightseeing is exhausting business. After going around and seeing ships come & go along the docks of the waterfront, it was time to find some food.

Having been directed to a restaurant atop a museum the previous night & not having found it, we decided to try and located it on the map so as to make our way there.

After seeking clarity regarding directions from the locals, we finally found our way to the Marynarki Wojennej Museum.

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Museum & Restaurant

The museum is set up to exhibit collectibles & paintings of the Polish Navy at sea. The entrance fee was below 10 PLN and the museum offered reasonable discounts for individuals such as students, kids, ect.

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Illuminated Staircase

There were about three floors to see before we reached the restaurant on the top floor. There is an option of taking the stairs or riding the elevator to the different floors. Unfortunately the elevator does not allow much room.

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Ancient camera on the far left| Diving helmets on the far right

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The museum is home to collectible exhibitions relating to the Polish Navy | War ship model

The ship model above is one seen photographed in my previous blog tittled “A Mid-spring Insight Into Gdynia’s waterfront”. The actual ship is a museum anchored to the waterfront harbour.

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Arriving at the restaurant, the option to sit outside was quite tempting due to the laid back atmosphere, but the chilled weather was a concern and this is how we ended up indoors. We sat on high stools near the back door leading to the terrace because couches often lead to one sitting in a slouching position. the high stools where a good choice but our sit near the door had us repeatedly exposed to cold air as both customers & waiters came in & out the door.

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Customer service was good as long as the restaurant wasn’t too busy. As soon as customers picked up, we were left to fade into the background and had to call on our waitress when we needed her.

Starting of with lattes to warm up, lean meat & white wine were the order of the day.

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Dishes on the menu were well thought out & scrumptious

IMG_7233DSC_5353Stepping onto the terrace, one has an immediate view of a park exhibiting war aircraft models on one side, and a view overlooking the beach  on the other.

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The restaurant makes for a mellow ambiance & a perfect sit down spot with an amazing view!

Gdynia, Poland | A Mid Spring Insight Into Gdynia’s Waterfront

TRAVEL

Spring is well known to breathe life into the bleakness of harsh northern winters. When the cold lasts so long & daylight is often viewed on a grey-scale, one can’t help but eagerly anticipation the arrival of a new season. But what happens when season change is late to turn and come mid spring, we’re all still dragging around heavy coats?

This year was no different as the cold extended well into the new season and when the sun came out, we all flocked to the streets to soak up the heat.

The tree below, situated just outside the courtyard. Fascinating as it is without leaves in the middle of spring with its branches looking like dead roots reaching for the sky.

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Prolonged Winter Effects | Dead Tree Branches straining to reach the sky

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Perfect for a stroll

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Polish Navy ORP Blyskawica H34 Museum Destroyer

The ORP Błyskawica (H34) was a destroyer in the Polish Navy during World War II and is the only ship of the Polish Navy to be awarded the Virtuti Militari medal. The ship is currently preserved as a museum ship in Gdynia’s waterfront.
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Deep Blues

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The ships of Gdynia’s waterfront

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Dragon Pirate Ship

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Evidence of spring

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Gdynia’s Fountain Mist

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Basking in the sun|after one too many cloudy days

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Flower bed angle

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The sun brings everyone out for a stroll

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A friendly face pops up in warm colors

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Multi-Nation ship mast

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The docks

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Polish Navy ORP Blyskawica H34 Museum Destroyer

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All so detailed | as crowds flocked to the streets

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Ship mast

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Polish flag

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Polish Navy ORP Blyskawica H34 Museum Destroyer

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An art of strings

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Anchor

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Welcome to the On board fish bar

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Amazing Heights!

 

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beautiful

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Ship mast so extensive

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Joseph Conrad Monument at waterfront

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Gdynia Waterfront sky-scraping statue

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waterfront square

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A day spent soaking up the heat

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Southern Pier Waterfront | Baltic Sea

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The port city produced amazing photographs around this time of year. The weather, though chilled was manageable & the streets where heavily pack during the day & emptied up at night!

To view more travel photographs, checkout http://www.justimagephotography.com

Gdynia, Poland | The Search Behind Seaside Hotel View Accommodations

TRAVEL

An indispensable attraction presented by hotels located on the waterfront is the unobstructed access to a beautiful view of the large bodies of water. As a potential client of such hotels, one can expect common areas to be set out to receive the best view from the edifice. Regarding individual rooms, with buildings having all types of dimensions, you’re most likely to find yourself facing a direction providing a view you may not have anticipated. Even so, there is no guarantee that one will be availed a room with a seaside view, especially when a client fails to specify their preferences in booking details.

With that said, I’d highly recommend you emphasis your preference of a room with a view in the “comment” sections most booking sites provide – this enables the hotel to contact and inform you of the availability status of your request.

A common aspiration most people have when visiting seaside destinations is having or acquiring an accommodation that allows them – if not a direct view, at least easy & quick access to the waterfront or seaside. Most clients who frequent seasides more often than not look forward to these views and this diminishes the circumstances of finding room types with such views unoccupied.

This was the case on our visit to the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel on Gdynia’s waterfront at the end of April 2017.

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parking lot in front of the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Gdynia

As expected, check in starts at 2pm but our arrival was well after 9pm as the train from Poznan to Gdynia took us a good 4 to 5 hours.

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Walk from hotel to waterfront entertainment areas

After checking in & freshening up, a decision was made around 10pm that led to us heading out in search for open food places. The waterfront area is not too complicated to navigate as everything is in walking distance.

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Courtyard by Marriott Hotel bar area

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Courtyard by Marriott Hotel bar area

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Moshi Moshi Sushi located in the Culture & Entertainment center of Gdynia Waterfront

We found ourselves at this chic sushi restaurant the first night. Besides a coffee shop located on the ground floor of the entertainment center, this sushi place was amongst the only open food places we came across. Though bill check out is done at 11pm, we settled here until mid-night. Service was great & the sushi even more so!

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Bank Polski – located just outside the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel

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The docks are located at a 5-10 minute walk from the hotels entrance

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Courtyard by Marriott

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Courtyard by Marriott

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The kitchen area provides a direct sea-view

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Breakfast

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A buffet is laid out at the kitchen area for self selection  | Breakfast at the bar area is possible & encouraged when the kitchen area fills up

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With spacious rooms posing a modern; clean-cut interior design & a gym laid out in the simplest of ways availing the common & necessary equipment  – I can confidently say the stay at the Courtyard by Marriott was fantastic!

Zakopane, Poland | Hiking Mount Gubałówka

TRAVEL

The decision to visit Zakopane was rather spontaneous. Finding ourselves in Gdynia, one of Poland’s port cities over a public-holiday weekend, when shopping centres were shut down, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to change cities. On attempt to find a place that was worth the travel time – we settled on Zakopane! This was right at the beginning of May & spring was in full swing.  The closest airport to Zakopane is the KRK airport in Krakow. Arriving at the airport well into the night hours, we took a taxi & drove for about an hour & a half before reaching our destination in Zakopane. We arrived at the Mercure Hotel quite late that night.

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Entrance to Mercure Hotel – Zakopane

Entering the hotel, one notices the brown themed interior décor made from wood – as can be expected in most places around Zakopane. The attention to detail in wood carvings is exquisite! I felt nostalgic from the proximity with which they came close to creating an African-like themed décor.

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Once through the front door of the hotel, to your immediate right is an artificial fireplace with realistic artistry designed to fool just about anybody, it looked authentic. We checked in & after settling in, slept the day’s exhaustion away.

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Artificial Fireplace

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Details

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Wooden Furniture

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Waking up the next morning, we headed to the gym for about half an hour before prepping for breakfast. A breakfast buffet is laid out every morning in the dining area located on the lower floor of the hotel.

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Breakfast

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Room Window View

Due to the state of weather, we were advised to stay clear of cable cars as the view was expected to be obstructed by fog soon. This led to the decision to explore the centre of the small town. I wrote about walking the town of Zakopane 2 blogs ago.

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Room Window View

Returning to the hotel that night we passed time at the bar area, chatting the night away & sorting through material for some blog posts already written.

 

Waking up to our last day and expecting to check out, we were relentless to see the view over the small town from the cable cars & thus vowed not to leave without seeing the view despite the warning of fog. We then went to inquire from reception of the possibility of having a better view that day, as the weather was tolerable during morning hours. The lady at reception draw us a rough map to facilitate getting there, and after several attempts, we were on our way to riding cable cars at Gubałówka.

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Inquiries From Reception on Activities

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Path Leading us Away from the Hotel

Walking the slopes of the mountains heading to Gubałówka, the sky grey, showed little sign of fog obstruction, but did result in short lasting raindrops from time to time during the course of our climb. Therefore the view obstruction was minimal as we headed out around 10AM.

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Ascending Mountain Slopes

The hotel receptionist gave us information about the cable cars that would bring us down the mountain slopes, she explained a route so simple that ultimately turned out to be the “walk of my life” if I can put it that way. We stepped out of Mercure hotel turning right as instructed & stumbled upon 2 paths. Contemplating which to take, we wound up taking the second – we were both uncertain of the route & both with different suggestions of which to take. Walking up the second path, we stumbled upon a man sitting near some kind of small structured building which looked as if put up for the sole purpose of shelter. From him, we tried to verify the direction in which we were travelling, whether we were on the right path & if not – how we could get to this Gubałówka? The man, before directing us warmed us of mud puddles due to recent rain & discouraged us from continuing the path we were on. He redirected us to the main road, as implied by the receptionist to begin with.

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Dirt Road to Gubałówka

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Houses Along Slopes of the Mountain

The uphill path began with an entrance leading to houses. After a while the houses became scanty & scattered. I couldn’t see anything promising regarding cable cars in the distance.

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Ruins of A Barn

I was beginning to get somewhat hot & tired in my tight jeans & red jacket. Removing the jacket, we continued on the same path in hope of reaching our desired destination.

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The Struggle of Walking The Slippery Slopes Up the Mountain

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Happy to Be Taking a Break

We eventually reached higher ground & the hotel was visible to us from a fairly long distance, this discouraged the possibility of tracking back. We were now on wide open fields and the scenery was starting to pick up, inspired by the amazing view, we continued on.

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Mercure Hotel – Zakopane

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Snow Atop The Mountains

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The Small Town Resting at The Foot of the Tatra & Gubałówka Mountain Ranges

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In a distance we notice a flock of sheep & the shepherd to one end & to another we notice a few people tracking up the mountain slope like we were. With the shepherd being at a distance, we were unable to ask for directions & rather continued in faith & hope that we were on the right track. Tired, unsure of the route & with raindrops falling down on us, I was ready to try a different route and seek out shelter shall it start pouring rain!

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As We Continued Higher Up

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We Had A Gorgeous View

With some encouragement & unwillingness to give up on our quest, we came across 3 to 4 houses which were widely spaced out. At some point in time, I felt like we were in a horror movie & my overactive imagination came to play.  The area was quite & secluded; expecting someone to step out of their home, give us wrong directions into the woods & somehow detain us there *laughs*. Now that I think about it, sounds a tidbit like paranoia, no?

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Moving on much further up the mountain, we came across a man walking a toddler whilst pushing a baby stroller. Coincidentally they came out for a stroll just as we passed their home. Now mind you, one hardly comes across “people of color” when in Zakopane, let alone find them walking amidst the woods on some country mountain slope – but this was us!

Asking for directions from this family, we continued and stumbled upon a hungry looking horse tied up a few feet from the house. On attempt to approach the horse, I saw how red its eyes were & retracted on the thought of rabies, yes paranoia yet again but probably for the right reasons this time around.

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A Malnourished Horse Tied Up

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Captivated by The Sensation & Tranquility of  Where I am, I set my Soul Free to Roam Without A Care!

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The Unknown Path

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Wandering The Woods

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Almost There …

It was an adventure! One I’d like to repeat again due to the adrenaline rush & comics of paranoia, but certainly not in tight jeans. Yikes!

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Destination Reached!!

Once atop the mountain, it was all worth it! The scenery breath-taking, we found crowds of people, refreshments & the cable cars where not too far off.   This “walk of my life” was one of the longest, one of the toughest, but certainly also one of the best!

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Breathtaking scenery

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Cable Cars

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Getting Ready to Hop On

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Easing Down The Slopes

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Loved The View!!

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Zakopane, Poland | Polish Cuisine

TRAVEL

After spending hours on end searching the crowded main street of Zapokane for a descend local restaurant, not wanting to return to the hotel for late lunch, we were directed to Góralska Tradycja restaurant – located right at the exit-end of Krupowki 29.

 A little on the upscale side compared to other local restaurants Góralska Tradycja offers ravishing dishes of Highlander cuisine served with an enticing presentation.

The restaurant, decorated in a simplistic mixture of modern day tradition has furniture richly adorned with special attention to details and staff so highly attentive.

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Góralska Tradycja Restauracja

 

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Indoor fireplace near the entrance

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Wooden curved chandelier… ain’t that a piece of art!

 

When hungry, one rarely gambles with their dish of choice picking from the menu.

At Góralska Tradycja, my taste buds where anticipating an explosion of savory flavors and thus welcomed the prospect

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Captivated by the sensation & tranquility of where I am, I set my soul free to roam without a care ❥

For starters

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grilled highlander oscypek cheese with bacon & cranberries

grilled – chewy cheese topped with bacon, served to be dipped in a savory cranberry sauce making for an explosive mildly-sour taste!

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grilled highlander oscypek cheese with bacon & cranberries

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garlic baguette served in combination with beef tripe

To my surprise, on the menu was something well known to me as “Matangaras”, this is its reference name where I am from (Namibia). Of coarse I ordered the lightly spiced soup containing beef tripe & was soon reminded of the taste of home.

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traditional beef tripe

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leg of lamp in a crispy crust with rosemary, garlic, fried cabbage & red wine

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beef tenderloin served with smoked potatoes, asparagus & morels in a Madeira sauce

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beef tenderloin served with smoked potatoes, asparagus & morels in a Madeira sauce

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with food divine & dishes well put together, this restaurant is one to visit if ever in Zakopane

Zakopane, Poland | The World is A Small Town

TRAVEL

 

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En route to the city center

Situated at the slopes of the majestic Tatra mountains with a population approximating 30 000 inhabitants, hidden  between the gentle range of Gubałówka and the rocky Tatra summits, is Zakopane – a small and remote village located at the southern end of Poland. Commonly known as the winter capital of Poland, Zakopane is well known for drawing in a great number of holidaymakers

 

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Holy Family Church in Zakopane’s Main Street

The main church in Zakopane is a Catholic church of almost 100 years old, it is the seat of the Holy Family Parish. The church is easily located whilst strolling through Krupówki Main Street

 

 

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Strolling down the popular Ulica Krupówki

An activity popular amongst tourist visiting Zakopane is strolling down Krupówki street. Lined with stores; restaurants; carnival rides and performers, the constant buzz creates a zestful ambiance.

Open market venders are often seen alongside walking pavements, selling diverse selections of items from traditional clothing to ornaments, shoes & purses.  many a time, a selection of finger food can also be bought from these venders. Food like the famous smoked sheep cheese well known as Oscypek, as well as dried sausages.

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As spring takes effect | the passing rain in Early May

 

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Horse-drawn carriage rides are a popular tourist attraction for getting around

If ever you find yourself in Zakopane, I suggest you try a horse drawn carriage ride. For centuries horses have been known to hold a significant place in Polish culture & history. The Arabian Horse was especially popular, it held its importance in the development of certain horse breeds.  Horses were indispensable during the time of war and to date maintain a certain significance in culture.

 

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The Fashion Street passage-way branching off at Krupowski 29

This shopping street is well known as a notorious spot for sportswear and luxury fashion. Here you find world-renowned boutiques selling high-end products.

Turning into 29 Krupówki street at the end of the passage-way, one finds Restauracja i Cukiernia Góralska Tradycja (Restaurant & bakery of the Góralska Tradition) offering an exquisite selection of highlander cuisine.

 

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Fluffy – Furry pompom charms are the cutest ❥

The O bag brand is an Italian concept centered around building your own handbag by selecting shape, color, handles and inner body. The selection is wide & varied and can take as less as 5 minutes to put your bag together, allowing you more time for selection. I’ve found the brand to be quite popular amongst Polish women, I too do find their bags to be rather charming!

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Look what I came up with | I had fun assembling my O Bag ❥

 

This small town has a certain depth to its cultural preservation beautifully portrayed in its architecture; food preferences & way of service. Tourists are a constant in Zakopane, but rarely does one spot a person of color. The defining moment came to me when we stepped into a family-style local restaurant with a setting – as if picked straight out of an early 20th century  photograph. The place was loud, humid & crowded with families sited in booths & fervently talking between themselves. We walked in and people rather began to stare – only to turn around & start whispering – perplexed at the presence of two queer strangers in their midst.