Girls from the Chawatselet Jewish gymnasium in Warsaw ride in a horse-drawn wagon during an outing in Zakopane. [Photograph #29029]
Marian Ament goes skiing at a resort in Zakopane, Poland. (Photo #22584)
Every day is a new adventure. Today our guide Eva (who has also become our best friend in all of Poland) took us to the highlands, Zakopane, Poland, where her mother’s family comes from, and where she still vacations very often. Located only two and a half hours from Krakow, in the beautiful Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is a quaint, beautiful part of this amazing country, Poland. The teachers on the trip had heard of the town from looking at images of pre-war Jewish life on the United States Holocaust Memorial website in the photo archives (http://www.ushmm.org/). Zakopane has been a vacation town for Poles for decades.
On our way, we passed by a very famous train museum, where many historical steam engines are kept, including the one used by Steven Spielberg when filming Schindler’s List. As we wound our way up the foothills of the mountain, we stopped at a lovely Catholic church, the Spotted Salamander Church, built completely of wood, in the Zakopane style. This ornate style combines carpentry that uses no nails, but tongue and groove joints, and hand-carved decorations and figures. Inside the church are stations of the cross, hand-painted on glass, an art form perfected in Zakopane.
Once in the town, we stopped for lunch at a typical restaurant, serving highlander food. We enjoyed soups with sauerkraut, mutton and potatoes, potato pancakes (they have a better Polish name), Russian dumplings (pierogi), and other delicious, traditional food. However, all the boys in the group chose to go to the Pizza Hut down the street. They said the pizza was excellent.
After lunch, we rode the funicular to the top of the mountain, where we were better able to view the Zakopane mountain range of the Tatra Mountains. Most spectacular is the “Sleeping Highlander,” a mountain that looks like the profile of a sleeping man. Local residents erected a cross on the man’s mouth, which looks tiny from far away, but is actually 15 meters tall and 5 meters wide, and had to be transported from Krakow to Zakopane by train. At the top of the mountain, we couldn’t resist taking a ride on the alpine slide. Every one of us rode it, even Mrs. Sussman, Mrs. Tambuscio and Mrs. Bauman! We walked on the top of the mountain, seeing typical mountain homes for this region, with high-pitched roofs, attached sheds for animals, and even some chickens in yards. Eva told us that usually there are many tourists here, but because it is April and the off season, we are lucky and enjoy the views alone.
After riding the funicular down the mountain, we had about an hour to wander the local highlander craft booths, where homemade sheep and cow’s milk cheeses, leather slippers, and hand-carved wooden objects were sold. It was truly a step back in time, and indescribably beautiful. We returned home to our hotel, while watching Eva’s favorite comedy, “Mickey Blue Eyes.” Tonight, we’re ordering in pizza and skyping with Mrs. Tambuscio’s class at New Milford.