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Erasmus Shenanigans "Not all those who wander are lost"

My first time skiing!

POLAND | Monday, 10 April 2017 | Views [920] | Comments [2]

Zakopane (18th -19th March 2017)

Day 1 

This entire trip pushed me to the extreme and just writing about it gives me a headache. But, I write this for your enjoyment! Saturday night at 2 am was the start of the weekend trip to a small town named Zakopane (Zak-o-pan-eh). It sits at the bottom of the Polish side of the Tatra mountains; Slovakia lies on the other side. Many choose to play winter sports on the Tatra mountains because of its considerable inexpensiveness in comparison to the Alps. The fact that I lived closer to the Tatra's than the Alps sealed the deal. I was meeting two guys travelling from Belgium there, both who had skied before. For company's sake, I convinced Nina, a Taiwanese girl, to come along. I had met her for the first time when we volunteered to model for the same project. Those were fun times... The Flixbus dropped us off at Krakow at 6:40 in the morning and then we travelled a further two and a half hours by minivan to Zakopane, population 30 thousand. The minivan took us higher and higher until we were 1000 m above sea level and the drizzle turned into snow. Top Hostel was located on the main high street, but we didn't have time to explore it just yet. No, we dropped of our backpacks, refreshed ourselves and headed straight back out again to catch yet another minivan. On the way, I rented ski trousers and ski gloves from a shop which I was told would be cheaper compared to where we would ski. This time we were accompanied by Erich and Tim and they took us to Białka Tatrzańska, a huge ski resort in the mountains. It had several slopes ranging in steepness, the steepest ones reserved only for experts. 

The guys sussed out the cheapest rental shop in the resort and we rented our ski shoes, skis, poles, helmet and goggles. Now we were ready for the slopes! We bought a 24 hour day pass which cost around 95 złoty and clicked in our ski shoes into our skis. Hmm, it seemed much easier to move around on skis compared to ice skating. My optimism was at a high. I tried getting through the first barrier to the ski lift and got stuck at the gate. The first embarrassment of the trip. I was nervous getting onto the first lift because they don't stop moving, but it was a funny experience. You stand in front of it and then they hit you from behind and you collapse onto them! The nervousness kicked in again when we approached the top of the slope. We stepped off the lift but I gained momentum and experienced my first fall. I tried getting up but it wasn't as easy as I thought. The long skis meant I couldn't stand up one foot at a time and I had to be pulled up. I didn't stay standing for more than a few seconds until I fell down again. This pattern lasted for about 20 minutes but I told myself I was a beginner and this was normal. Finally, when I could stand up for longer than 30 seconds, Tim tried to teach me how to stop using the 'Pizza' stance, and how to move forward using the 'French Fries' position. I found it really difficult to stop and almost slid right off the mountain. Skiing is not for the faint-hearted guys! They got rid of my poles saying that they wouldn't help me and learned to twist my body to change direction, hoping to look like a normal skier, moving in curves down the slope. After seeing how terribly I was struggling, they decided to take me to this conveyer belt with poles hanging down from them. You place the pole between your legs and let it drag you comfortably half-way up the slope. I was too relaxed during the process because at the top I promptly fell and blocked the exit for people behind me.  

We moved to the second, more steeper, slope after a while. I managed to reduce the falling to just once or twice down the mountain (excluding falling off the ski lift almost every time). They said I was improving, but with the improvement came an intense strain in my legs. It really took all my energy to swerve and I had to stop at least twice going down a slope to catch my breath. Finally, we went on the third steepest slope and the ski lift for this one went really fast. It didn't slow down at the top either. I cringe so hard thinking about what happened next; I fell, of course, but this time it was very dangerous. Nina yelled 'Watch out for your head!' Because the ski lifts behind me were coming in hard and fast. A man came running to lift me up or if you think about, save me. I trudged behind my friends, totally ashamed, not even wanting to make eye contact with anyone. I hoped they went down the slope and left me to follow alone. Have I mentioned that they were all decent skiers? By some miracle, I didn't fall even once while skiing down this slope! I actually felt like I was properly skiing and my spirits lifted. I waited for the others when I reached the bottom and we went to have lunch. It felt so good to sit down but this meant a tidal wave of exhaustion hit me. The guys went for another round, but Nina and I said we wanted to rest a little longer. We never went back. Instead, we enjoyed dessert and hot chocolate until we were kicked out of the restaurant at closing time. We returned our rental equipment; I can't describe the elation I felt taking off those 1 tonne ski boots. We went to a cheese stall and tried a traditional snack of smoky cheese topped with sweet jam. A strange combination, I thought, but tasty. Torrential rain made us seek shelter in the ski rental place and we watched the international ski jump competition on their small television. Poland was coming first and the locals were cheering and trying to make conversation with us simultaneously.  

After buying snacks and drinks from a local supermarket, we caught the minivan back to the hostel, checked in, and ordered in pizza for dinner. The guys were going to a different resort the next day but we were going to explore Zakopane. Many recommended we go to Mors Oko, a lake amidst the Tatra Mountains. I'd never been hiking before and I was excited, looking forward to the great exercise and the beautiful views we had been promised. We were told we'd have to wake up early to complete the hike in time so we hit the way. 

Day 2 

We started the hike at only 11 am. Nina told me hikers commonly start at 6 am to avoid the afternoon sun. A rushed check-out, stocking up on snacks for the hike, returning my ski trousers and ski gloves, running out of Polish złoty and confusion about where to get the minivan all led to delays. It would take two and a half hours to reach the lake and one and a half hours to walk around it. The last minivan back was at 5:20 pm so we made the executive decision to skip walking around the lake. The view was stunning, I'd never seen anything like it! Sure, I'd been to the Himalayas but it was not as beautiful as the Tatras. At least, what I had seen. Unfortunately, we couldn't stop for long to admire the view because we had to make it up in time. We walked/climbed the full two and a half hours up the mountain without any breaks! I was so proud of myself and Nina was surprised too, probably after yesterday's piss-poor attempt at skiing. Mors Oko was still frozen and people walked right through the middle of it. To get to the lake, you needed to go down an extremely steep pathway that had a thick rope attached to the handle for support. Nina and I both decided to give that a miss, even though you could always slide down the pathway on your bum if desired. We entered the wooden building with a view of the lake and ate the snacks we bought that morning, giving ourselves only 45 minutes.  

We finished the hike back down the mountain in 1 hour 45 minutes, despite the roads being covered in ice and slush. Nina fell a few times whereas I remained standing. It was the total opposite of yesterday! We made the 4 pm minivan and were very happy about returning to Zakopane earlier. This meant we had more time to sightsee the town itself! Huge wooden letters spelling out the name of the town stood in front of a glorious view of snow-topped mountains. I swore I would take a picture there when I first saw it, and so we disembarked the minivan right outside. There was even a telescope which cost 2 złoty. I never usually pay for these things, but I needed to get rid of my Polish coins, and so we peered though it and could see the details of the trees lining the mountain. We headed to Fashion Street, the main street of the town. It was so traditional, wooden stalls and buildings were everywhere! I bought some magnets from a local seller and then entered a local toiletries store. Nina and I bought traditional Polish skincare products, something I was very excited about (Disclaimer- my face mask was amazing!). We came  across a candy shop that claimed it was the world's smallest candy manufacturer. I remember seeing it when I came to Krakow 2 weeks earlier. Unfortunately, there was no one in Brno to buy these for so I left empty-handed. We found a really reallyreally cheap place to eat. It was a pay as it weighs buffet, and my plate of traditional Polish food came to only 13 złoty (£2.63!)  

We had already said goodbye to the guys this morning as we weren't sure if we'd see them again in the evening. Our bus to Krakow was at 6:30 pm, But surprise, surprise, they were chilling in the kitchen when we came back to pick up our stuff! We had only 20 minutes to rest but it was enough time to share stories. There was only one slope where they'd gone and Erich's leg was bust from the previous day of skiing, so they'd returned early too. We said goodbye for the second time and grabbed our backpacks. I could feel my legs weakening by the hour and was glad we'd only have to sit in a coach for the next few hours. When we disembarked in Krakow, we had a one hour wait. At this point the burn in my things and calves, and the constant clicking of my knees was excruciating, forcing me to limp around Krakow Central station. I barely had the energy to lift myself into the Flixbus back to Brno. We arrived at 2:40 am in the morning, a full 48 hours spent away from the city we call home. Nina and I said our goodbyes and I limped to the N93 bus, very accustomed to my journey back home at odd hours of the morning after such trips. I took two painkillers and set the alarm for my lectures the next day. You may think we were crazy to do this trip, but I think it was worth it for the sake of trying new sports. Erasmus is the only time you'd plan anything this rushed, but think about if we'd gone skiing in the Alps instead. The entire trip would have cost twice as much! Furthermore, I am insanely proud of myself for both the skiing and the hiking. If anyone reading this is from TBIS, you know I've always been more scholarly than sporty. In fact, I don't have any sporting talents. This was a test of my endurance and, even though I severely embarrassed myself on the slopes and almost lost the ability to walk after the hike, I still completed both! And for that, I am happy.

On the slopes

On the slopes

Tags: mountains, skiing, tatra, winter sports

 

Comments

1

enjoyed the safe & sound reading while someone else spent the energy ! :P

  poongothai Apr 4, 2017 8:50 PM

2

Woot woot, so many details! How can you remember it?
Glad you enjoyed! See you next time :)

  Erich Apr 11, 2017 12:23 AM

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