As we wrote in our last post, we arrived in Poland on the 25th of July and spent the night in a really nice camping area beside a lake. Next day we drove to Warsaw and did a small tour in Old town. Once again, just like when we were in Vilnius, we failed with timing because we started to drive out from Warsaw when it was about 5 o’clock in the evening – this means rush-hour – we definitely need to start planning better !!
Our plan was to reach Krakow or near there, in order to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine the next morning. We didn’t have any particular place looked out where to spend the night, so we were hoping there will be some campings en route like previously, however, we didn’t find any. Since it was almost 9 o’clock in the evening, we stopped about 100 km before Krakow and spent the night in the truck drivers gas station – resting area. Kaija was quite nervous and afraid to sleep there. Jaanus had no problem in sleeping at the gas station because he had done this also before. When he was younger he had been traveling in Europe with his uncle who was a truck driver, thereby Jaanus incited “its fine, I have been sleeping in those places many times.. “
Besides the fact that Kaija could get no sleep, everything went well, and we continued early the next morning and were in Wieliczka before 10 o’clock.
The Salt mine was great, however, we consider the tour too long and very touristy. First, there were many parking areas already hundreds of meters before the Salt mine – those seemed a non-official parking areas managed by some locals – they were waiving us to get you into their parking area. The fee for a full day was 25 zloty which is about 6 euros. It’s not much, but we need to stay in our daily budget (about 50 euros). Thereby we were trying to find some free parking. Parking on streets was also paid. Finally, we found that there is a church nearby so we parked in the church’s parking area – it seemed to be free of charge.. and luckily it was.
The entrance fee to the mine was 198 zloty for two of us (about 50 euros). The tour lasted about 3 hours and for our taste, it was too concentrated on history and dates. We expected it that it would be a more hands-on tour. The place itself was actually great, but I think the touristy feeling around it did not leave a good impression. Every 15-30 minutes, there were mining chambers which were turned into a gift shop where you could buy souvenirs. It didn’t feel very authentic. But on the positive side – the history of salt mining and the technique was well presented. Also very interesting was to see the chapels down in the mines – those were built by the miners – the story is that one boy died in the mines (many people died due to mining in the old days, because it was dark and slippery) and the father of the boy built a chapel for his son.
Overall the salt mine was a nice experience, especially to lick and taste the salt from the walls and to get down to the mine hundreds of meters. However, we don’t think it was exactly worth of 50 euros, it was a traditional tourist trap. Especially we were a little bit fed up because when we came out from the mine, we were in a totally different place where we got in, so we had a little challenge to find our way back to the car 😀
After the visit to the salt mine, we were considering to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp, but we were too exhausted to have another history lesson – thereby we decided we will see Krakow and afterward will head straight to Zakopane. We had a nice walk in Krakow Old Town and Jewish Square. Kaija was really amazed how well preserved and big the old town actually was, it is definitely one of the most beautiful old towns in Europe and worth a visit!
Krakow Old Town Pictures
In Krakow Old Town there is also one of the oldest shopping malls in Europe.
We also had a quick lunch in Mc Donalds – it is already the second time during our trip. Sadly we have noticed that Mc Donald’s has a very good price/kcal ratio. We sure need to find some better alternatives!! By the way… later in Zakopane, we discovered that 1 liter of milk (2% fat) gives 24% of your daily energy need, thereby theoretically it is possible to get fed with 2 euros per day for the daily 2000 kcal 🙂
When we left Krakow, again we were stuck in the rush-hour… our plan to plan better had not worked out so far.
Zakopane is the town in southern Poland and its a main starting place for the mountain hikes in Polish side of Tatar’s mountains. On arrival, we found some random camping and stayed there. At least it was a safe place to stay and we could take a shower… and also Kaija was able to sleep!
Our neighbors were an old German couple who were traveling with very impressive camper van – you don’t need roads for that vehicle.
We both were quite tired from last days. Thereby we decided to take it easy the next day and plan our longer hike properly.
Kaija got some hiking tips from a local guy called Evo via Couchsurfing. As advised by Evo, we decided to take a short hike on top of the Gubalowka mountain, which also serves as a mountain ski resort during the winter. We took this hike and considered this as a warm-up for our long hike the day after. The warmup ended up to be around 20 km during one day. The mountain hike was about 1 hour to the top, but it was pretty steep slope so we were quite exhausted when we made it on top. We had a quick lunch, Kaija read some work-related materials and Jaanus was listening to an audiobook and had a quick nap. We also had to walk a lot in the city to get to the mountain, so this is where the most km came from..
A few hours later, we took a different path down and we met some goats who were very friendly 🙂 The goats liked Jaanus a lot!
The weather has been quite nice to us. We know it is around 30 C heatwave in Estonia and Baltic’s but here in southern Poland we are enjoying more tolerable, 22-24 C, temperatures. We are lucky because otherwise, it would not be tolerable to sleep in the car.
The day after, on 29th of the July, we went hiking in Tatar’s mountain. Evo recommended to take some other route than the regular tourist does and his advice paid off. You can read more about our hiking advernture in a separate blog post.
Since Kaija had some ad-hoc conference call, (she’s doing some consultancy also during our travel) we needed some place with reliable WiFi. Thereby we decided to book Airbnb place. In Zakopane, we didn’t find any decent place with less than 25 Euros per night, we expanded our search area and found a small village called Poronin, only 6 km away from Zakopane, where we booked a room for 37 Euros for 2 nights. It’s basically a super nice hostel where all rooms have its own toilet and shower but resting and kitchen area is shared. The room and territory is very nice and clean and looks freshly renovated so we are very happy with the place. and what is most important, WE CAN SLEEP IN A PROBER BED, charge the batteries of our electronics and take a proper shower. Unfortunately there isn’t any washing machine for guest, however, the host was so nice and washed our clothes free of charge 🙂 It always seems that people are just sooo much nicer in small towns.
So if you happen to be around here and need a decent place with a good price to spend the night, don’t look further – https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/25368754?s=51
On Tuesday we will continue and head to Budapest, Bucharest and then Bulgarian Black Sea coast.