After our challenging accidental hike into Slovakia on Wednesday, we wanted something a little more manageable for our hike yesterday. We took a 30 minute bus ride to a big parking lot on the edge of Tatra National Park, from which you walk about five-and-a-half miles to Morskie Oko, which I assume translates to Morskie Lake (or perhaps Lake Oko, but either way you get the point). It was a steady uphill climb, but it was just a road you were walking on, so nothing too challenging.
What we found intriguing was that there was this major tourist attraction – there must have been thousands of people there on a Thursday – that you had to walk 11 miles round-trip to see. To be sure, there was an option to pay for a horse-drawn carriage most of the way, leaving only maybe the last mile-and-a-half or so on foot. Overwhelmingly, though, people walked the whole thing and everyone walked the final part. Old, young, parents pushing strollers, all sizes and shapes – people walked the 11 miles to and from Morskie Oko.
It just seems to me that in the U.S. there would be a ton of pressure to have buses schlepping people up and down the hill so families could manage it. In Poland, though, families did it on foot. Michelle Obama would approve!
Meanwhile, the walk itself was beautiful; nothing more or less than a beautiful walk in the mountains. Once we got up to Morskie Oko, we could see why it was such an attraction. Its clear waters reflect the steep mountains that surround it; even on a cloudy day it was stunning, though allegedly it’s even more beautiful on a sunny day.
There were a ton of people at the concession area where you arrive, but we discovered that there’s a trail around the lake, so off we took. There you could find little isolated spots to sit, read, eat a little, relax. As we continued around the lake – listed as an hour-long hike – we discovered another trail heading up, almost straight up, to what we thought must have been another lake, feeding Morskie Oko.
Up I went for an intense 20 minute climb to discover Czarny Staw, another beautiful lake in its own right, with stunning views of Morskie Oko. And, if you hiked around that lake, you could get to patches of snow so there I was, on August 1, playing in the snow. Maybe not heaven, but close enough for my purposes.
So today we leave Poland, though at 6:00 AM we’re not really sure where we’re going yet. We know we’re taking a reasonably quick bus into Poprad, Slovakia. From there we’re either going to catch another bus to Levoca, which is supposed to have great 13th century architecture preserved, or we may just get on a train and go straight to the capital, Bratislava. We’re being flexible these days.