Day 226 Zakopane, Poland to Stara Lesna, Slovakia.

This morning, the temperature was much cooler than of late, with the sky quite overcast. We even felt a few spots of rain as we sat outside eating our breakfast. However, our respite from the heat was short-lived, and by mid-morning, the temperatures were starting to rise again, with a haze over the mountains. We left our campsite near Zakopane, and headed towards the Slovakian border. We had initially ear-marked a campsite only an hour and a half drive away, so we opted to take the rural scenic route, climbing right up into the Tatras, before descending down into the valley to cross the border. However, progress was slow. The traffic around Zakopane was inexplicably backed up, but we noticed a huge number of police and ambulance sirens, as we had done the previous day too. Once out of the town, the roads narrowed and became decidedly bumpy. As we climbed higher, we stopped at viewpoint to look over the Tatras Mountains – just magnificent. We passed through tiny villages with charming Tyrollean style houses, all made of wood, with the characteristic steeply pitched roofs. Just before the border, we stopped to take a look at a gorgeous wooden church, with a tall spire, completely covered in wooden tiles. In front of the church stood a statue of Pope John II, who of course, was Polish. An archway with a cross overhead led from the church grounds up a path to another wonderful wooden building, presumably the priest’s house. We have noticed that all the Catholic churches in Poland are very large, even in the smallest of communities. We stopped for a quick coffee and loo stop in the adjoining restaurant, and sitting outside on the verranda, Howard noticed how the wooden beams are joined, with a sort of straw wedged between there joists. Outside, he also spotted an ‘all you need bicycle repair station’ at the side of the road. Road cycling appears very popular in this area, the steep inclines obviously attracting the keen enthusiasts.

Crossing the border was a non event. We merely crossed a bridge over the river, and there we were, in Slovakia. Almost immediately, the houses changed from the wooden alpine style into much more utilitarian rendered buildings – not ugly, but definitely not as attractive as the villages we had just driven through in Poland. The roads at one point began to look decidedly dodgy, with one road sign showing us an upturned car on a red triangle. We took the next few hairpins very carefully indeed! We stopped off at one village to pick up some fresh bread and milk. Next to the supermarket was a shop selling strudels of all varieties – savoury and sweet. The number they were producing seemed quite out of proportion to the size of the village. We bought a freshly baked soft cheese variety, still warm from the oven – delicious, but very filling. We only managed a quarter of the pastry before giving up. I suspect it will keep us going for the next week. We didn’t spot many locals, but I guess they are not slim! A little farther on, we stopped at another gorgeous church, with the classic onion dome. A sign adjacent stated that the EU had provided money to renovate the church for the community. 

We headed to the campsite we had selected on our camping App. OMG. We first saw a huge great sign reading ‘BabyWorld’. Then we saw the bouncy castles, slides, huge sand-pit, soft play area and animal petting park, all of course full of boisterous toddlers and children. The camping area seemed to be a small patch of lawn next to the bouncy castle. Without even introducing ourselves, we jumped back into Oscar, and drove off. Definitely not for us!

No matter, I said. The English wife in the Big White parked next to us last night, had given me the brochure of the ‘lovely’ campsite they had stayed the night before. Although, she did add, that having a motorhome, they never, and she emphasised, never, use the facilities – neither the showers or the toilets. It was only about twenty five minutes further on from ‘BabyWorld’, so we set the satnav, and headed there. En route we drove along a major trunk road for a short distance. As in Poland, abutting the main roads are huge advertising billboards. At least in Slovakia they seem tasteful ads. Two days ago in Poland, driving away from Krakow, we had passed mile after mile of adverts for cosmetic surgery. On one particular hoarding, was a large photograph of a surgeon putting his scalpel to an attractive woman’s breast. I’m guessing breast augmentation is popular in Poland!

We arrived at the campsite recommended by the English couple. It was a bare grassy patch situated by an industrial estate, on the outskirts of a superbly unattractive town. Once more, we turned tail. Perhaps we are starting to get fussy after months of travelling?!!

We quickly looked up our trusted ACSI App, and found another campsite right in the Slovenian Tatras mountains. In truth, there were very mixed reviews. A bit of a Marmite campsite. It either had five or one star ratings, nothing in between.

Attracted by the location (still fans of Kirsty Allsop), we decided to give it a try. We arrived late afternoon, and the views of the mountains are sublime. Granted, the washbock is in an old barn. Yes, there are holes between the wall in the toilets, so you can see the person next door, and worst of all, the showers are indeed ‘tandem’ showers, meaning two people shower at either end with no curtain at all. That being said, they are clean, the chap running it seems nice, and the views are to die for. Howard and I must have dropped our standards, because we both instantly took a liking to this place.

So we have just eaten our tea, watching the sun set beside the Tatras Mountains – you can’t ask for more. I doubt you would get such a good view in a five star hotel. I just need another couple of gins, before I can muster the courage to go to the showers, by which time, hopefully, I won’t even care!

As the crow flies, we have come a very short distance from Zakopane in Poland, on the other side of the mountains. I do believe, however, that the Slovakians have the best view of these spectacular mountains!

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