So this week, we pick up where we left off, in the beautiful town of Zakopane in Southern Poland. I couldn’t move on from this place without talking about one more thing – bears. This may just show my ignorance but on our very first hike, I jokingly said to my husband something about bears, and he was like ‘’yeah, bears …’’
I guess I had thought maybe way out in Siberia there were bears, but just right here smack bang in the middle of Europe?! I then went on to be convinced that they would be the little black ones, not big grizzlies. Wrong again! European bears are the exact same species as the North American ones. Why we hear so many fewer stories about the ones here in Europe, I’m not quite sure. One (I’ll be honest, not super official-looking!) website I just checked out said that while there are an estimated over 50,000 bears in American & Canada, the European population could be just 14,000, so maybe it is just a case of numbers and how often encounters occur.
Anyways, given that these mountains start right here in Poland, and stretch all the way through Slovakia, Hungary & Romania, touching also Austria, the Czech Republic, Serbia & Ukraine, I thought that the chances of any being near us were slim to none.
Just a little note right here – do not read on if you think you are going to hear an amazing, dramatic life-and-death tale of heroism and bravery. That is not the case. If you’d like to read a little about a couple of people being occasionally near a bear but never seeing it, then this is the blog for you!
So yeah, I kinda thought no more of it. Until Wednesday morning. My husband had gone out to the van for some reason, and was speaking to a guy working outside there, who said ‘’did you guys hear all the dogs going crazy last night?’’ I do not know how I missed it, since I’m usually an incredibly light sleeper, but yeah, a bear with 2 cubs had walked RIGHT DOWN OUR STREET, during the night. The guy showed him pictures of pawprints that had been left behind too … So quite literally, had we been awoken, we could’ve watched a little bear family strolling around, from the safety of our balcony.
Then, on our last day in Zakopane, the day we actually managed to make it to the top of a mountain, as we’re exhaustedly tripping back down, a group of older, local guys are sat there, and once again, say ‘’did you see the bear back there?’’ WHAT?! Again, with photographic evidence, they showed us that further up along the pathway, a bear was pretty clearly visible a way away out of the side of the mountain. I feel pretty confident that had we been walking up, we would’ve spotted it. But the problem with coming down a steep, rocky track, and being pretty damn tired is that you spend a heck of a lot of time watching your feet, and where to take your next step.
So yes, there are bears around, but no, we didn’t see any. I guess our almost close encounters will have to be good enough until we meet the real thing one day!
Moving on, we started our trip back up the country to Gdansk, and a group of friends had invited us to join them for the day at Poland’s only theme park – EnergyLandia! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (maybe from the lame name) but genuinely, this is a really good theme park! And what’s more, maybe we were a little sneaky, but we ended up being able to sleep for 2 nights in the car park there for a grand total of £2!
I think their main attraction is Hyperion – which goes up to a height of 77m and a speed of 88mph. It is, to be fair, Poland’s tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster.
However, I wasn’t really able to enjoy it … Being as we slept in the car park the night before, we could be there right as the doors opened. We thought we may as well get on something before the others arrived, and what should be right near the entrance? Hyperion! We had done no prior reading or anything, so we didn’t know its credentials, we just saw what looked like a fun rollercoaster. Well, it looked fun to me. My husband has always said that rides ‘aren’t his thing’, but I had always taken it as more of a ‘I can take it or leave it, but I’m happy to go on stuff’ kind of situation. And that was what he thought too! However, it soon became clear as we started our climb into the sky, without shoulder straps I might add – you literally just a lap bar and that’s it … and this thing goes 77m into the sky and upside down multiple times … – that he was not okay, bless him. He made it through without actually passing out, although it was a close call, but we decided it would be best for everyone if he was the designated ‘bag guy’ for most of the bigger rides!
My personal favourite, maybe because I wasn’t sat next to someone who I thought might die, and therefore could actually enjoy it myself, was actually Zadra. Its credentials are almost as impressive as Hyperion – 62m high and 75mph – but it felt to me like there were more unexpected twists and turns, which give you that stomach-flipping feeling that I love!
With a grand total of 18 roller coasters, as well as a few other ‘extreme’ rides in terms of height, and upside-down-ness, I really would recommend EnergyLandia if you like your adrenaline rush! Plus, they sell mulled wine cheap too, so that’s always great!
To be honest, that’s about all of the excitement for this week. We’ve made it back to Gdansk, and just spent a few days sorting some bits out, going to the dentist, getting a hair cut, trying to sort a longer stay visa etc, so there’s not a lot more to report! Hopefully next week, we’ll be able to explore the local area again a little more.
I’ll just leave you with another Polish phrase I’ve learned this week – ‘jest tak prosty jak instrukcja do młotka’’, meaning, ‘you’re as simple as instructions for a hammer’. Bascially, you’re stupid!
And on that note, bye!
Read more about our adventures here.