Krakow, Poland: Swagata Basu Pajor
The first thing that you notice upon landing on Krakow’s John Paul II International airport is the crisp fresh air. The drive down to Nowy Sacz is truly a sight for sore eyes. Rolling green meadows and fresh green foliage almost makes you want to leap in delight! Nowy Sacz is a small town about an hour away from Krakow International airport, in the south of Poland. Situated on the Sandecka valley and surrounded by the Outer Western Carpathian mountains, Nowy Sacz reminds you of a small child sitting on his mother’s lap.
The best way to explore Nowy Sacz is by visiting the tucked away places that’s off the tourist trail, places that only the local people know about. The beautiful forests are real treasure chests for thrill seekers as well as wild food lovers. During the warm summer season, it’s a favourite family activity for the locals to go wild mushroom foraging. There is a wide variety of wild
mushrooms that grow in these forests and you must have an expert in your group to identify the delicious edible ones. As you walk through the dense forest, eyes fixed on the foot of the tall coniferous trees, in search for wild mushrooms, you often notice other families flocking together, engaged in the same activity. Wicker basket in hand for the collection and hats on their head. It’s a must to wear a hat while mushroom hunting in order to avoid leeches from falling on one’s head. One of the main things to look forward to during the summer season is the array of fresh fruits and vegetables that become available. Truskawki (strawberries), Borowki (Polish blue berries), yellow string beans, new potato, young beetroot and the much sought after Poziomki (wild strawberries) are must haves.
The Polish truly enjoy their food and drinks and the summer season is the time for open aired barbecue parties. Grilled Kielbasa (polish pork sausages) along with Zubrowka is a staple. Zubrowka is a Polish vodka flavoured with a strand of bison grass, which is often mixed with chilled apple or pear juice as a summer drink.
If you are not particularly fond of Kielbasa, then there is always the quintessential Polish dish of Pierogi (stuffed dumplings), Barscz (beetroot soup) Golabki (cabbage leaves stuffed with minced pork and Bulgar wheat) or pan fried carp fish to relish.
About a 30 min drive from Nowy Sacz is the picturesque town of Krynica-Zdrój. Krynica is the biggest spa town in Poland and famous for it’s spring water. There are over 20 different varieties of mineral spring waters known for
their therapeutic properties. Each water taste different due to their mineral contents, with some being deliciously clear and sweet while others stinking of rotten eggs! however each of these spring waters are suitable for human consumption and can be tried out at the public pump rooms. From Krynica you can take the Gondola railway up to the Jaworzyna mountain in order to admire the magnificent panoramic views.
For thrill seekers Poland is an ideal destination. The mountains and lush green forests are home to a number of adventurous activities. A quad safari is the way to get an absolute adrenaline rush. Riding pillion with a trained quad driver is an unforgettable experience. As he scales impossible heights and goes through seemingly impenetrable foliage, you might be holding on to him for dear life but when it comes to an end you are tempted to repeat it again! Another place for the ultimate adventure is Krakowski Park Linowy. About an hour from Nowy Sacz , this is an exciting rope park where you can engage in a variety of adventurous activities. Navigating the maze of ropes and nets, swinging through towering trees and zip lining are sure to bring out the child in everyone.
Poland is one of the strictest Catholic countries in the whole of Europe. Evidently a number of ornate churches take their place of pride in both Nowy Sacz and Krakow. St.Mary’s Basilica is one such church of great beauty on the main square of the old town in Krakow. Being the second largest city in Poland, the ambience in Krakow is unquestionably different from the smaller towns. Swarms of tourists, shopping streets and restaurants give it a very cosmopolitan look. Whereas monuments such as Pomnik Adama Mickiewicza w Krakowie (the monument of the Polish national poet, Adam Mickiewicz) and Town hall tower along with the medieval architecture and the cobblestoned streets give it a distinctive old world charm.
At the end of the day as you sit down in one of the traditional restaurants on the main square in Krakow, you are bound to have a smile on your face as a complete stranger from across the restaurant raises his glass to you and says ” Na Zdrowie!”
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