After a jarring five minute ride up the cobblestone road I found myself at the Hotel Gorski Kalatowki. I was attracted to this hotel by it’s isolation, located within the boundaries of the Tatra National Park.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the hotel, but I was impressed with the beauty of the Tatra mountains. It was overcast and raining and the peaks were shrouded in clouds. They also were covered in snow.
I soon learned that the area had recently had a late snowfall. I made my way up the steps of the quaint, wooden hotel, built early last century and immediately fell in love with the place. I was greeted by a pleasant young lady who spoke fluent English and quickly had me settled in my modest, but comfortable lodging with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.
It was still raining so I donned my rain gear and headed out to explore. The young lady at the desk had suggested a hike to Kondratowa located on the slopes of the legendary Mount Giewont.
After a few wrong turns, I found the trail leading to Kondratowa. At first it was an easy downhill hike through the large meadows that surround the hotel. I noticed the many dead wild crocuses in the fields, victims of the recent cold and snow. I imagined how beautiful they would have been in full bloom on a sunny and warm day.
The narrow, and well traveled stone trail soon left the open field and I came under a thick growth of pine trees. I loved the smell of pine in the cool mountain air.
As the trail began to climb the slopes of the nearby mountains , I soon realized that the hotel was located 1100 meters (about 3600 feet) above sea level, as I felt the effects of the altitude.
The trail was covered with stones which were quite slippery in the misty light rain and drizzle that was falling.
There weren’t a lot of signs of Spring along the trail, a few green ferns,
some delicate lichens growing on the tree branches,
and, surprisingly, some mushrooms! Here is a link to some more photographs of the plants, and few animals I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Four-Zakopane-Kondatrowa-flora-April-11-2017-
As I climbed higher up the slopes I soon encountered snow cover which made the hiking even more difficult. However, I wanted to explore the woods of these mountains so I continued my upward hike.
The snow cover deepened, and the trail itself was now icy , having been impacted from many other hikers walking over the snow the preceding days and weeks.
I soon learned how deep it was by venturing off the trail and finding myself over my knees in snow. I wasn’t prepared for the deep snow, having worn low hiking shoes so I had to stick to the icy trail. It was a pretty exhausting hike.
It got easier as I neared the shelter at Kondratowa, since there were open fields and much of the snow cover had melted.
I was glad to see the shelter located 1333 meters, (almost 4400 feet) above sea level so I hiked almost 800 feet in elevation. No wonder I was tired. But the views were worth it.
I met a cross country skier who also decided to stop in the shelter and warm up. It was an interesting place. I learned it had 20 beds in three rooms, available for a small fee, for hikers and skiers in the mountains. There are a number of these shelters scattered throughout the Tatra Mountains.
It was staffed by a woman who spoke no English, It also provided light snacks and beverages. These shelters are very popular with the many hikers and skiers who walk and ski the multitude of trails in the national park.
It also had a resident cat, who, like most cats did not seem to be to interested in any visitors, including me.
I looked around the shelter a bit and then, since it was getting late in the afternoon, decided to begin my journey down the mountain to my hotel.
The hike down, although easier physically, which just as difficult as it was going up, since it was easy to lose one’s footing and slide on the snow covered rocky trails. Still, it was a nice hike and I enjoyed exploring the wooded slopes of the Tatra mountains.
I was soon in the fields below my hotel, where I saw a few of these thrush like birds scampering like robins on the grassy fields. I was glad to return to the warmth and friendly staff of the hotel. Here is a link to some more photographs of my afternoon hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/poland-photographs-april-2017/nggallery/poland-april-2017/Poland-Day-Four-Kalatowki-Konratowa-hike-April-11-2017
It was late in the afternoon, and I was tired, not only from my exhausting hike but also the lack of sleep. I had not been sleeping well since I arrived in Poland. I was hungry too, so after a hot shower, I sat down in the cozy dining room for dinner. And it was a good one. Starting with a bowl of hot and wholesome tomato soup with homemade noodles.
And I also enjoyed a delicious main course of salmon and wild birch bolete mushrooms. I sat in the dining room and admired the view of the mountains still shrouded in the fog.
The fog started to life after the sunset and I ventured outside in the cool mountain air to look for the full moon I knew would be rising int the east. The skies remained cloudy and so I decided to call it a day, exhausted from my long hike in the snow. However, I got up to use the bathroom and was rewarded with a quick peek of the full moon shining over the Tatra mountains. I was going to head outside but the clouds returned and hid the moon. I was glad to have had the opportunity, although only for a few minutes, to experience moonshine on the mountains of Poland. It was another great day in this country I have grown to love.
“Take time to leave cities, at least once in a year, and go to some natural place, hills, sea, jungles, rivers, where you see nothing but nature… His creations. Where you only hear chirping of birds, clinkering of trees, murmuring of winds, splashes of water in the river, and uproar of waterfalls.” ― Girdhar Joshi