Our European Odyssey

This blog covered our month-long trip to Eastern Europe -- specifically the countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Cold" is a Four-Letter Word

Enough with the hot-weather comments. You are making us jealous.

Yes, it is cold here. We'll sum it up this way: Andrea has worn the one long-sleeved shirt she packed five days in a row. (Don't worry; we've been able to do laundry.)

We arrived in Zakopane yesterday, and the temperature was maybe 50. Plus it was raining. The perfect combination for getting out and exploring a place. It's a shame because Zakopane is a beautiful outdoor recreation area surrounded by the Tatra Mountains. It's also extremely popular in the winter. It was actually one of the finalists for this year's Winter Olympics.

Anyway, we had big plans for hiking in the mountains, but this has ended up being more of a relax-in-our-warm-room kind of weekend. Actually, our room is as cold as it is outside because our hostess leaves the windows open, but at least it has blankets.

We took a bus yesterday morning from Krakow to Zakopane. It was an experience in itself. Roads were blocked off in Krakow so the pope could be taken from one place to another. Our bus driver apparently was unaware of this and had a conversation through the window with a police officer at a busy intersection. The officer must have explained that the way was blocked because we then set off on a bit of a detour. Instead of getting on a highway, our driver (after backing up traffic by doing something like a U-turn in a residential neighborhood) started down a very narrow, very curvy, carsickness-inducing road for which the speed limit was 30 mph (but our bus went more like 45). We traveled this way for too long as far as Andrea is concerned. She wasn't feeling so well, but eventually we made it to Zakopane.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, our next adventure began. Zakopane is the only stop on our trip for which we didn't arrange our lodging ahead of time. There are many residents who offer rooms in their homes, and we had read that finding a place to stay is no big deal.

When we got off the bus, an older Polish woman told us in broken English that she had an available room in her home. After asking her a couple of questions and having her point to her place on the map, we decided to give it a try. The room is just fine -- we even have a TV (to watch such great shows as a Polish-dubbed version of "Baywatch") -- and there is a shower and a toilet.

But our hostess -- well, she's no Hungarian grandma. She's actually quite weird. She repeated herself a lot. She told us many times which direction the souvenirs were. When she made up our bed, she kept repeating something that sounded disconcertingly like "Gross." We think she might have meant "Great" though because she asked Andrea whether we're from "Gross Britain." We do have such refined, proper-sounding accents...

Oh yeah, and she decided that Andrea's name is Angellica and Jake's is Jackie. But she talks mostly just to Andrea, however. She showed Andrea how to lock and unlock the doors, but after Andrea took the keys from her, she snatched them back and said, "No. Man" and handed them to Jake. Apparently, Andrea's dainty little feminine mind wouldn't be able to keep track of the keys. Funny considering the fact that Jake has had to call Andrea at work a few times after locking himself out of the apartment.

After we escaped her clutches, we wandered down the main road, which is tourist central. Jake said it reminds him of Estes Park or Jackson Hole. Andrea said it reminds her of Branson.

We decided that instead of taking a hike, we would ride the cable car up into the mountains. Our guidebook says the walk to the cable car is less than a mile. It's actually more like 3. Uphill. Well, up a mountain really.

The views from the cable car on the way up were spectacular -- tall peaks, deep valleys, black rock, green trees and white snow. The view from the top was also spectacular. Spectacularly ... foggy. We really couldn't see much more than a few feet. So like the pope photo fiasco, we were foiled again in our quest for photo glory. It was also really cold up there, and it was misting.

After our descent and minibus ride back into town, we gave in to our American urges and went to Pizza Hut for dinner. We didn't exactly feel like hard-core travelers, but it was a good meal.

We relaxed in our room last night. We even watched a little Polish TV. Five of our seven channels were covering the pope's visit. They're pope-crazy around here.

This morning we were lazy and lay in bed until 7:30. After leaving, we followed a stray dachshund to the train station to buy our tickets to Warsaw. Oddly enough, this is actually the second stray dachshund we've seen around a train station. (The other was in Hungary.)

We went to the local natural history museum. It was neat and also free. It had taxidermied animals that are found in the Tatras. Later, we might do a short hike up one of the nearby mountains. It's not looking promising though. There's a 90 percent chance of rain. And of course it's still cold.


At 7:16 AM, May 28, 2006, Anonymous Mom said...

We could certainly use some of the cool, rainy weather. It is way too hot and dry here, Fortunately for you 2, you kept your apartment so cool this past winter that you are well acclimated. Seriously though, a quiet day of rest is probably good for you. The pictures are lovely in spite of the rain.


At 3:54 PM, May 28, 2006, Anonymous josh said...

Wow, I guess they don't tell you about the elusive Wild European Weiner Dog in the guidebooks. I hear they can be ferocious.

Ashley and I are sweating it out big time up here in Iowa. We've made a pact to not turn on the AC this summer. Hence we spent this afternoon at the newly remodeled city pool. Something's gotta give...

You guys are going to have some awesome pictures. We'll have to have a slide show or something when you get back.

Take care,

At 8:08 AM, May 29, 2006, Anonymous Lou said...

Encounters with dachshunds!! Jake, when you were a toddler, we had Weiner, then there was Brandy at Reva's and now these dogs are finding you in Europe.

Dad and I are lap swimming in the lake. The water is warm.

I agree with Josh--the pictures are wonderful.

Love, Mom

At 3:49 PM, June 01, 2006, Anonymous ginger berry said...

Oh I feel for you in the cold! I positively dislike being cold. If it makes you feel any better, it has been raining basically all day here! So glad you two do such a fabulous job on your blog! Godspeed!


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