Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Rafting on Dunajec

We were wating for it and we hoped the weather was going to be good. We were not disappointed.

We went to Sromowce as early in the morning as we could. Or as we managed to. Cause the closer to noon it gets, the more people there are waiting for their turn. And the queues are looong.

We got to Sromowce, parked our car and headed straight to... well, I was going to say cash office, but in fact we went to the end of a long line leading to the cash office. Yes, the line was long, but it was proceeding fairly quickly. You have to buy a ticket to get through, and no, you can't do it via the Internet.On your ticket, you will find a number of boat that you'll be rafting the river in. A fee for entering the national park is included in the ticket price.

We found our boat, there were already some people waiting there with us. The boat takes roughly twelve people, apart from the two men driving (manouvering?) it down the river. The guy is called flisak (in Polish. Flisacy is a plural). We kept waiting for the last people to hop onto our boat, cause we couldn't leave without them. The last person to board has a small piece of paper that they give to the main flisak, so that he knows we can start our trip. We were trying to find it, but noone had one. After ten to fifteen minutes, finally, the last people from our boat appeared and we could start the trip.

The trip usually takes a little more than two hours. But the speed depends on the water level. If it's high, the raft is shorter. If it's low, it takes a little more time. It was low. It took us about three hours. But it was fun. For most of us ;)

The main flisak was talking almost all the way. Telling us stories, describing what we could see, sharing legends with us. Or simply anecdotes. Or jokes. Or any other made up things. He was so much fun. In Polish only, though. We had four Hungarians with us on the boat, co we know he could hardly speak English. But he was trying, so that's a plus. And I was trying to help wherever he couldn't do it.

He let the kids steer the boat, too. And not only kids. Adults could try that, too. Obviously, just in places, where it was save and, frankly speaking, where they couldn't do it wrong. The kids also got some... "equipment" (a cut out part of a big juice or milk bottle) that they were supposed to use in case of water getting on board. That was just to keep them occupied for a minute. But turned out to be a great toy for them on the way, too.

After some reading, talking, steering, and whatever else there was to do, all three kids on the boat ended up leaning over the edge of the boat with their hands all in water. Apparently, that was so much fun.

Since it was raining heavily in Slovakia the day before, right when we reached a small river or creek (more of a creek, probably) getting into the waters of Dunajec... Well, you could easily tell which waters belonged to Dunajec and which to that little creek. Cause they were moody, brown, and not at all transparent.

But the views are to die for. You get there, in between the mountains, turning right, left, not knowing if the mountains you're seeing in the distance will end up on your right or on your left (there's such a quiz at some point during the raft)... You feel so small. You can feel the power of nature.

The beginning. Some boats arriving to pick up passangers, others departing already.
That doesn't change.
Steering and reading.
The Three Crowns and some building and a bridge in Sromowce Niżne
The Three Crowns in the distance. You can see the change in water colour.
A bird. A black bird. On the rock. No, not a real one.
The four of us.
Working hard. Or hardly working? He loved that anyway.
Sokolica summit.
You can do some canoeing there as well.

Have you ever tried rafting on Dunajec? Or maybe in any other place, worth recommending?

Travel Tuesday

Friday, 25 September 2015

In between the mountains

Another wonderful day in Czorsztyn. What should we do? The weather is still uncertain, so hiking up the mountains is not an option. It's warm, though, and it's not raining, so that's a plus.

After a short exchange of ideas, we finally decided to go to Homole Gorge (in Polish: Wąwóz Homole). The best way to get there is to get to Jaworki and it starts right from the main road. You shouldn't miss that.

This place is beautiful. No wonder it's a nature reserve. It used to be a part of Pieniny National Park (when we visited last time, nine years ago, it still was), but not anymore. I don't know why, though. But it means that the entrance to the gorge is free (no stamp, though).

The gorge is a perfect place to start your trek to Wysoka Mounatin on the Polish-Slovakian border. We didn't get that far, though. The gorge is about 800 metres long. Towards the end of it, it gets pretty steep. Since it was raining at least the day before (we don't know whether during previous day as well) and parts of the gorge don't get too much direct sunlight (obviously), the ground was wet and slippery. Which made it even harder to get up (or down, on the way back) on the steep parts. There are wooden or metal steps on the end part, too, which help a lot. But they're not there all the way. So, at times, it was difficult. But we made it to Dubantowska Valley. Meaning, to the end of the gorge.

Once you get there, you can sit at a table and eat something. That's what most people do there. There are also stone books up there - rocks that look like stone books.

Since the summer was much prettier and drier in the mountains than it was at the seaside (where we live), the creek that runs through the gorge was almost non-existent. Especially as compared to the one that we saw there nine years ago.

Having left Homole Gorge, we headed to Szczawnica for lunch. Passing by many places (there's lots to choose from), we decided to step into Karczma Chatka and I couldn't recommend it enough. The food was delicious and we were sorry we could not get back any other time. Kwaśnica was the most delicious of all I've tried (and I've tried quite a few).

We were thinking of trying to get to Sokolica summit after lunch. But... the weather stepped in our way. We got to Dunajec (the river that you have to pass to even start thinking of Sokolica summit from Szczawnica) and we heard first thunders. Coming from the Sokolica side of the river. The sky got all black and after a few minutes it started raining. So we got back to our car and drove back to Czorsztyn. Where it was warm and sunny. All afternoon ;)

 "The stone books"

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Two castles in one day

I'm still in my planning the trip mode. Searching for as much information as I can and trying to choose the places we want to visit. We seem to have agreed on the general plan. So now I can start looking for more detailes. Yes, I'm a planner. I like knowing ahead. I like being prepared. So I'm spending most of my free time reading about Thailand. I hope I'm almost done, though ;) Cause there is such a thing as "too much information" ;) Our trip starts in a little less than a month! Can't wait!

And in the meantime, I still want to share with you some pictures and memories from our last holidays in Polish mountains. Enjoy!

Our first full day in Czorsztyn was... awful. It was raining all day long. It was quite warm, but not the kind of weather you expect when you're on holidays. Or not the kind of weather I expect when I'm on holidays.

What can you do in the mountaind when it's raining? It surely depends on the kind of mountains and the attractions around. We didn't feel like staying home doing nothing. In Cinque Terre we decided to hike anyway, but spent most of the time seeing the villages. In Czorsztyn we decided to see the castles.

First, we went to Czorsztyn Castle. Or, rather, what's left of it. Then we took a ferry through the lake to get to Niedzica Castle. Yes, the one with the Incan legend. You haven't heard of it yet? Read my previous post here, where you'll find all the information on the castles and the legend itself.

Czorsztyn Castle was empty. There were just four or five people there with us. So it was really great. All alone, with the history lurking at us from these old walls.

Niedzica Castle is much more crowded. Tens of people everywhere you go, long queues to get into some rooms. Much less comfortable. Much more commercialised. That is why I have so many more pictures from Czorsztyn than from Niedzica. 

I was hoping to face my fears again. That shaky bridge on the water. When I think of it, a shiver goes down my spine. But it wasn't there anymore. The owner took it down and there's a new path along the lake. Bummer.

Oh, and one thing I didn't know before. You can spend the night in Niedzica Castle. We could see that some of the rooms were for tourists.

Niedzica Castle as seen from Czorsztyn Castle
On the ferry. Planning our next trip in the area.
Czorsztyn Castle as seen from the ferry
Niedzica Castle
The two castles in one picture

What is your favourite castle that you've visited? Or maybe one that you wish to visit?

Travel Tuesday