We walked out on our bikes. Literally. But only for two weeks!
And so, we walked to our wonderful, Polish Beskid Mountains. These are not the peaks of record-breaking heights of steep ridges. But, and this BUT is the most crucial – but it is really beautiful there 🙂
We walked through the Island Beskid (Beskid Wyspowy) and the Sądecki Beskid, slowly into the direction of Barcice town for Balkan music festival – Pannonica – Pannonica Folk Festival, where we spent three days of dancing and fun in festival ‘city’ at the Poprad River side. Then we followed Main Beskid Trail, looking at the Tatra Mountains from Gorczański National Park through Turbacz (the highest peak of the Gorce Mountains) to Rabka Zdrój and Cracov for the legendary zapiekanka (open-face toasted cheese sandwich) in Kazimierz district.
How could I describe in three epithets our trip?
- Mushroom power,
- Green explosion,
- landscape variety.
We had expected backpacking student groups, wild camps, general commotion in mountain shelters. However, at the trails we met a few couples, single wanderers, nothing like big organised groups. Maybe that was the case of late summer, maybe close distance to famous Tatra Mountains, anyway that was good for mind rest, and lack of companion didn’t bother us at all.
Is it typical for Polish mountain trails, that they are well labelled? For those even less watchful it is rather hard to lose the track. Signs are renewed, placed quite often, especially at Main Beskid Trail which we walked in the Gorce Mountains. In the Beskid Mountains you can see a lot of places related to the Polish Pope – John Paul II and his visits in shelters*, hiking, and celebrating masses in the mountains. In 2016 World Youth Day took place in Cracow, which gathered around 2 million people from around the world. We heard a lot of positive words about the organisation and people from the local hosts.
* I called that ‘shelter’ as it is direct translation from the Polish language – ‘schronisko’. But what I mean here is a mountain hostel, something bigger than a cabin. I don’t find a word ‘hostel’ appropriate though. “Schronisko’ is usually rich in history place, gathering mountain tourists for decades. Somewhere in the middle of the forest where you can find a welcoming place and a bed or a corner to sleep. They are of course paid. The common thing for all of them is that the hosts cannot refuse you a stay. Even if you were supposed to sleep on the floor by the entrance door (what happen for instance in the Tatra Mountain often when the summer season is in its highest peak).
Also, there are a lot of cycling routes (going together with those foot ones), parts of them happen to be hard and the best choice is to ride MTB bike there. Which doesn’t mean that you cannot meet other than MTB cyclists 🙂 We admire mountain cyclists, we also had a chance to sweat dragging bikes up the Georgian passes. But the night downhill rides from Turbacz after two beers is something that we don’t appreciate, especially that it is simply not safe.
Pawel wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t want to sleep in the deepest forest in the most terrifying bushes and highest grass that are full of wild creatures and terrifying noises; there is nothing else left just to wait for fearsome jagular who will eat your morning porridge at night. I’m tamed with this kind of ideas and actually… I agree with them completely 🙂 All in all, we slept twice away from the trails and people; forest created a wonderful space for us. Animals, just as wild animals usually do, didn’t want to pay us a visit.
By the mountain hostels there were camping places for tents, prices not that high, around 10-14 zł/person, and we could use infrastructure of the place – mainly to have a shower. Schronisko na Turbaczu – mountain hostel at the highest peak of the Gorce Mountains, Turbacz, made a really positive impression on us. It was perfectly prepared, kitchen and drying room were available for everyone, and food was tasty and not expensive. We have also visited another place: Pod Przehybą (by the peak of Przehyba in the Sądecki Beskid) and Maciejowa Shepherd’s Hut (smaller mountain hostel for, so called, qualified tourism). If you happen to be there, you must try ‘placki ziemniaczane’ (let’s call them potato crumpets but it’s not really what it is) or ‘racuchy’ (drop scones). The atmosphere of that place is incredible.
It seems that the Island Beskid, the Sądecki Beskid or the Gorce Mountains stay in the shadow of the Tatra and Pienin Mountains. Peak names like Kasprowy Wierch, Giewont or Trzy Korony are much more recognisable than Dzwonkówka, Przehyba or Lubań. Whereas in the Beskid Mountains wonderful forests, broad forest glades, sweet raspberries and blueberries bushes are waiting. Walking trails history of the wars is really interesting, just as learning the stories about mountain hostels that used to play a significant role during the II World War.
Of course everything depends on what one likes. For us, that area turned out to be a really good choice for a two-week trek. Lower, situated closer, still beautiful – one can choose longer and more demanding parts, or decide on shorter distances, to go from one hostel to another. We would like to recommend and inspire you to go there!