When I was looking to leave Krakow, I took a look at what I wanted to see nearby. Having done a bit of reading into what there is to do in Slovakia, I began looking at a path from Krakow to Bratislava that didn’t involve a direct bus or train. After getting a recommendation from my Canadian friend I met in L’Viv, I settled on heading out of the country via a town named Zakopane.
I took a cheap bus from Krakow which was comfortable, clean and had free Wi-Fi, luxuries that I haven’t been too familiar with in the likes of Asia, Russia and Ukraine. The bus took around two hours and landed me in this pleasant little skiing and hiking town.
One of the reasons I selected this route is it’s close to the Dunajec river, which is where you can do some flat-boating and rafting. The border between Poland and Slovakia runs through the centre of the river in a lot of parts, so the land you’re looking at over the water is Slovakia.
This area reminded me a bit of Norway, with all the pine trees, wooden buildings and colours. It’s dotted with lakes and little (and sometimes big) castles. Zakopane acts as a hub and dispatch area for hikers and campers in the summer, and skiers and snowboarders in the winter. There are around 39973 outdoor equipment shops in the main town.
I took a couple of busses through to a small village on the river named Sromowce Nizne. After a couple of missed stops and getting off at the wrong spot I finally made it in the middle of the afternoon and found what I was looking for.
This is a foot bridge connecting Poland and Slovakia. No border checks or anything, you just walk across.
These are the traditional wooden flatboats I wanted to ride on. They’re like thin kayaks strapped together, with fauna to stop the splash from getting on your clean kicks.
They only set sail, well, set push once enough people come along to fill the boat. The guys who push them along wear traditional Polish clothes and are obviously quite funny because everyone on the boat who could understand them spent a lot of time laughing. I had no idea what he was saying so I stuck my earphones in, drank beer and enjoyed the scenery.
It appears I also took a video, which I don’t remember doing. I uploaded it to Youtube so you can have a geeze, here.
The cruise took around 2 hours and finished up in a town called Szczawnica. From there I took a bus to Nowy Targ and in turn back to Zakopane. It would pay to make sure the timetables you check before you leave are for the right season; I spent a lot of time that day waiting around.
In between Zakopane and Slovakia, a mountain range called the Tatrys lie along the border. It’s a popular hiking spot and is also home to a number of springs, many which attract tourists for day trips. Seeing as I’d have to cross them to get to Slovakia, I decided to stop off near the border and take a detour to one of the more famous ones.
I completely buggered this whole plan up. Basically I left Zakopane too late, which meant that instead of walking from the end of the road to the spring I would have to take a horse cart in order to make sure I was back in time for the bus to get me into Slovakia. That was all good, but didn’t have enough Zlotys (Polish cash) on me to pay for the ride, and the guy wouldn’t accept US Dollars either.
I’m going to write down what you SHOULD do in case you want to visit this place on your way to Slovakia.
- Take a mini-bus from Zakopane directly to Morskie Oko. The bus will stop in a car park, from there you walk or take a horse cart. If you just want to go directly to Slovakia, get off at Lysa Polana.
- Morskie Oko is about 9km from the carpark
- Once you’re don with the springs, walk the 1.5km back from the carpark to a place called Lysa Polana. Cross the bridge and you’re in Slovakia
- Walk down the road and there’s a bus stop marked only by a decrepit sign. That’s the local that will go east.
So because I didn’t have enough cash on me and I was running out of time, I walked back to Lysa Polana, where there’s a bridge, mentioned above, that you cross into the Slovakian side of the Tatrys.
I took a selfie of me on the bridge with (approximately) one foot in Poland and one in Slovakia. It wasn’t with a selfie stick though, so you can’t hate me too much.
I had 45 minutes to wait until the bus came, so I used some of the leftover Euros from Netherlands to buy a beer while I waited. It was good.
That sign above is pretty much the only way you’d be able to tell you’re now in Slovakia. From there the bus took me to Poprad, the next city over. I want to go and visit Spis Castle, so that’s where I am now as I write this post.
I definitely feel like I haven’t done Poland justice, but that’s a function of multi-country travel; you can’t spend all your time in one place. I guess it IS good for knowing which ones to spend time in in the future. Next time I’m going to check out Warsaw, and dedicate a lot more time to the Tatry region, it’s a very good lookin’ part of the world.