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Saturday, 01 February 2014

Cycling in the Tatra Mountains, Poland - Page 2

Written by Dale Fehringer
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Exploring Krakow

Our trip began in Krakow’s main square (Rynek Glowny).  This former Polish capital has an extensive history and a lot to do and see, including castles and churches that date back to the Middle Ages.  The main square is vibrant and full of people, shops, and restaurants.  It dates back to the 13th century and is the largest medieval town square in Europe.  Along with Wawel Hill (also in Krakow), it is listed in 1,000 Places to See Before you Die.  

 

Krakow was not damaged during World War II, so everything is pretty much the way it’s been for hundreds of years.  It’s an easy town to explore by foot; with good food, good shopping (especially amber), and day trips to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka salt mines.

 

Krakow was celebrating the holiday of Corpus Christi, which involved a parade of locals in traditional costumes (fur hats, long colorful coats, and sabers), speeches, firing of cannons, huge dragon balloons, and entertainment for the children.

 

We explored Krakow’s Jewish quarter, where Jews have lived since the 1300s.  It was here in the 1940’s that the Nazis rounded up and murdered or sent to Auschwitz nearly all of the 65,000 Jews in Krakow.  We saw Schindler’s factory and re-heard the story of how he saved 1,200 Jews from certain death.

 

We boarded buses and rode south to the village of Zab and the ski resort town of Zakopane.  Our first night in the mountains was in a sweet little hotel on the outskirts of town with views of green fields, hills, and trees.

 

 

Zakopane, Chocholow, and the Gorale People

Zakopane is the winter capital of Poland and the center of Gorale culture.  It’s a popular destination for mountaineering, skiing, and tourism and has been the host of many ski-jumping championships.

 

We put our bikes on a funicular, rode to the top of the mountain, and cycled down the back side, gliding through a beautiful forest on a quiet path to lunch at a quaint little restaurant with excellent goulash.  After lunch, the rain let up and we took our time touring the storybook village of Chocholow.  

 

Chocholow is an outdoor museum of Gorale architecture, with one main street and rows of single-story wooden houses. The hand-crafted buildings are made of timbered wood with shingle-covered roofs.  Each is embellished by elaborate wood-carved accents of geometric and floral patterns, with a unique carved wooden shrine near the front door.

The houses look new and clean, from a yearly washing and polishing with wood soap.  Most of the houses have beautifully-maintained gardens that are the hallmark of the Gorale highlanders.  One of the houses has a museum that tells the story of the village.

 

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Saturday, 01 March 2014

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