Blog: Bieszczady

 

With an extended weekend due to Corpus Christi, we decided to head for
the Polish mountains. Bieszczady is a mountain range which runs
through Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia..

The trip began on Wednesday night (Marcin’s birthday) from Krakow. We
loaded the car with necessities for camping and hiking – sleeping
bags, suitcases, gear, and Broken Friend. The six hour drive brought
us to a very small town,Ustrzyki Górne, about 3 AM on Thursday
morning.  Once at our destination – a shelter within the town – we set
up tents and rested in preparation for the day.

Shelters, places to stay in the mountains, are a very new experience
for me.  These are buildings located in areas of mountains, in which
people live permanently and rent out the rooms, yard area and even
floor space for travelers. When the buildings were first described to
me I was picturing the introduction to a murder novel; however this
past weekend has lightened my mood on the idea. Bathrooms equipped
with showers (but not warm water) were our main involvement with this
shelter.

After waking and eating a breakfast of pierogi, we begin our hike up
Polonina Carynska.  The exploit began with a short walk on wooden
planks through a small marsh but quickly turned into a steep trail
which weaved through the forest. My salvation was a small pavilion
about 45 minutes up the hill. There we ate chocolate for energy and
wine for … well, wine.

The rest of the hike lasted about two hours on a path which laced
through trees then opened into valleys – varying between slight and
steep inclines. The last 30 minutes of the hike began at an opening in
the trees where the path could be seen weaving through a sea of
rhubarb plants.  Once through the valley of plants, it rose with each
rising hill up and up until finally, reached the top of Polonina
Carynska at 1234 meters.  I admit the ascend of the path itself sounds
more charming than my lumbering ascend so that is why I chose to
highlight its rise instead of my own.

Once to the top, the view was spectacular.  Layers of mountains with
varying heights seemed to fight for your attention to its magnificent
view – each at a different height to show their independence.  Benches
were located at the rocky top of the mountain but just a step off the
path brought you to long, inviting grass. We spent about 45 minutes
relaxing on the crest surrounded by the breathtaking landscape
alongside fellow hikers also enjoying a rest and frothy beverage. In
our backpacks, a bottle of cherry vodka had been packed for the
occasion along with some snacks.

Just when the sun was beginning to send me into a light slumber, the
wind picked up and rain drops began to fall.  From the top, we had
three choices: 1) take our previous path, 2) continue the path to
another crest after about 5 hours of hiking, 3) take a new path which
fell at a steep slope across the side of the mountain. Our choice was
the slope off the side for the remaining 1.5 hours of our hike.  Once
towards the bottom of the hill, we found another shelter where we
stopped and had a quick bowl of soup before continuing.

The end of this hiking adventure is another first for me – hitch
hiking. I debated writing about this topic in the blog because I knew
what the reaction would be from my family. The good news is I am still
alive. 🙂  We walked along the road for less than 3 minutes before two
young men stopped to offer us a ride. With Broken Friend and Marcin
there, I felt safe.

After returning to the shelter, we set out for a dinner of Placek po
wegiersku – hashbrowns with beef stew.  The night was spent exploring
the small town and ended with a bonfire at the shelter with the
company of other Polish hikers and Marcin’s guitar.

Friday we hitch-hiked to a nearby stable to see the mountain ponies.
We were unable to ride but it was still a treat to see the stocky
animals who were built for the mountain terrain.  After returning to
the shelter, we packed up our gear and headed for the lake. About a
two hour drive through small towns and forest landscapes brought us to
Solina Lake.

Solina is a beautiful lake located within the Bieszczady mountain
range.  Shortly after arriving at one of its beaches, we rented a
paddle “car” and set out to survey the lake from atop its surface. The
open view was stunning with the setting sun casting perfect light to
nearby sailboats and crafting the still water into a rippled
glass-like plane.

After my leisure boat ride and the boys workout (as they were the
“drivers”), the trip continued to our next and final destination of
the trip – Rudawka Rymanowska.   Broken Friend directed us to this
jewel of a destination due to his acquaintances with some of the
resort’s staff. We were greeted warmly and with much enthusiasm.

Osrodek wypoczynkowy Rudawka is nestled within the Bieszczady mountain
range off a discreet back road.  A pasture with two “fluffy” cows and
a couple horses is your first view of the resort while driving to its
entrance.  The next is a wooden building followed by the long driveway
which brings you to the heart of the place – the main office. The
building’s exterior is made of rustic logs and large, inviting
windows.  Once inside, a large stone fireplace greets you on the far
side of the building.  Sausages were being cooked on a grill above the
fire which added the final touch to the homey atmosphere.  Large,
circular tents – each with wood stoves – were located throughout the
resort.  The largest, located outside the main building, was for
recreation while the others were available for groups to rent.

We spent the next day and night lazily exploring the resort. We took a
walk around the resort to see the fluffy cows, horses and bubbling
water attraction.  The night was spent socializing with the resort’s
manager – a friendly man with exceptional storytelling abilities which
could make me laugh at stories even when they were told in Polish and
I had no idea of its content.  To end the night, Marcin serenaded
fellow visitors with his guitar nearby the outdoor fire pit.

After a night in our small triangular cabin, Marcin and I took a short
walk down the road to a nearby attraction – an expansive rock.  The
rock was large and displayed many marks and glittering blemishes of
its long existence. The stream was beautiful and had a small waterfall
off its shore.  Unfortunately, the waterfall was nestled in the trees
on the opposite bank. Marcin wadded his way across to the natural
beauty but I decided the water was too cold. 🙂

After a breakfast of eggs and bread, we began our journey home –
stinky and happy.

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