Trudging up the Tatras in Poland (2016)

Trudging up the Tatras in Poland (2016)

Beata Malinowska is breathless as she catches up with the group at the foot of the ski slopes. Óh, I am soooo hot” she drawls, her eyes rolling back into her forehead and her knees buckling under her in mock exhaustion, although the temperature is a balmy 23º C in this ski resort town called Zakopane, somewhere in the Polish highlands. Poles are impossibly spoilt by cool weather and the highlanders, even more so. Beata is a proud highlander, but she is also an exquisitely expressive person. And she can talk non-stop, regaling her captive listeners with utterly charming but inconsequential facts about her homeland. “Ï don’t like Krakow or Warsaw, the crowds are horrendous,” she says with a shiver.  Crowds in Zakopane, considered the jewel of the Tatras, seem no less though!  On a beautifully sunny day like this one, all Poles, not just the ones in Poland, seem to have hit upon the novel idea of spending the day on the mountains. Considering Poles are very much like Indians in as much as they travel in large family groups everywhere, the slopes of Tatra mountains resemble Chandni Chowk on the weekend preceding Diwali. Normally Polish draught horses are known for their strength and sturdiness, but today even they puff up and kick their hooves in frustration, having to drag those buggies bursting with holidaymakers up the slopes. The trudge up the mountain is accompanied by the resonating whirr of helicopters rescuing some hiker, who had misjudged his step. Everyone seems to be heading towards Morsie Oko, a velvet lake watched over by snow peaks. A steep descent through a boulder-strewn pathway brings one to the water’s edge where the reflection of a faint rainbow lingers. The crowds here seem to be in no hurry to cross over to the other side, and with good reason. The country still retains the zloty and food and everything else is much cheaper on this side of the mountain. Talking of food, the Malopolska region of the Tatras is a paradise for cheese lovers. Goat cheese made in quaint cottages and smoked over a slow coal fire can be purchased straight from the shepherd. Unlike the rest of EU, here in the Tatras, goats are fattened on grass, milked by hand, milk boiled in earthen vats, churned in huge wooden pails, and cured under a thatched roof, slowly absorbing the smoke from the pit below. A brook gurgles by the shepherd’s hut and nary an advertisement for this delectable homemade product that scarcely makes it to the supermarket shelves in the rest of the Europe. Visitors ride the regulation cable ferry all the way up to the peak. The return to Krakow is enlivened by a brief stop at a heritage village called Chocholow where the street is lined with identical wooden cottages from the past century, harking back to a leisurely age. 

(Published in The Tribune dated Oct 9, 2016)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *