It’s snowing when we wake leaving a fresh layer of white on the ground everywhere. The roads are coloured white and I need to use the scraper to clear the car windows. This must be a niusance to locals but for us it is a novelty and exciting start to the day.
Paul has a ski lesson booked at Male Ciche for 11am. We set off through Zakopane and up the mountain. The snow plow hasn’t been through yet. We’re not sure whether or not we should be driving in these conditions but there are other cars on the road. I take things slowly but conditions get progressively worse. Nerves get the better of me as we reach the turn off to the Male Ciche ski resort because that road is covered in thicker snow than the main road up the mountain. We call an abort and head back down.
But not without stopping to check out the snowy woods on the way down. You need a permit to hike in the High Tatras National Park and we don’t have one. So we don’t venture into the woods proper. We just stay near the entrance (there is no ranger but still we don’t want to break the rules). That’s actually enough for us to have a really great time.
The snowy woods are gorgeous.
Here’s a short video to share what we saw.
We reluctantly return to Zakopane as the snow steadily increases. It’s Sunday in Zakopane so the shops are closed and the church is calling the faithful to prayer. In Poland the faithful are high in number. We see many people enter the church, both old and young. This is different to at home where the Catholic Church rarely fills its pews and to Holland where church buildings are often used as restaurants and converted into apartments. Everywhere we’ve been in Poland there are people praying in the Catholic churches and the churches seem to be open to the public at all times (that’s not the case in Australia where churches are locked).
The doors to the churches here are often amazing. The wood carvings and locks and metal work are so decorative. At first we thought it was because the churches were old but we’ve since learned that most churches have been rebuilt after WW2. Such craftsmanship.
Religious statues abound too. No church is left standing without at least one statue of Jesus or another religious figure. I think they look pretty in the snow.
We take lunch in a Polish bar. I think they are meat bars because that’s what they seem to serve most. We share a roast pork knuckle. The crackling is fantastic and the meat tender. I love Polish food. Especially the fact that pork is the main protein available in restaurants and shops. I miss it when I’m in countries where pork is not served. I can assure you that I ate my fair share of pig in Poland.
All that’s left to do after an afternoon of work is to hit the slopes for a few hours. Paul drops me off and goes back to the guesthouse to relax. The slope at Harenda is not a beginner slope so it’s not much fun for him to ski here. But it’s perfect for me now that I’m gaining some confidence.
After a few runs off the t-bars (there are three that go up the left side of the photo above), I dare to head over to the chair lift. The chair lift leads up to a 1.25km (3/4 mile) red run. It’s fairly steep with no flat sections so it will be a challenge for me in all respects: mentally, physically and skills. But I know that I can always snow plow sideways if I have to. Somehow I will get down in one piece. It’s just a question of being methodical and patient.
The initial drop is a little scary but the slopes are quiet so there’s no pressure to race along. I snow plow my first couple of turns and then get comfortable. There’s a lot of ice out on the snow tonight so I have to be careful to pick my turns (I’m not that good at edging that I can turn on ice).
But I make it down and have such a ball that I end up taking the red run four times. Every time I improve that little bit more until I don’t feel like a total gumby heading down the slope. I don’t know it yet but this will be my final chance to ski in Poland because tomorrow it will rain and I’m not that excited to ski in the rain.