My new years resolution is to learn a little of the Polish language. Why? Because the culture, food and language of Poland, has pretty much intrigued me as soon as I stepped off the plane in Krakow. But this post is not about Krakow, but rather, it is about somewhere a little further south – in the Tatra Mountains and a delightful walk I took through a town called Zakopane.
It has been well over a year since I walked through Zakopane, in Poland. Yet the memory of that day still haunts me in the very best way. [And I am still learning Polish.]
Zakopane is a town in Southern Poland, about a two hour drive from Krakow, lying close to the Slovakian border, in the Tatra Mountain range. Communication between Zakopane and other towns was difficult for many years due to the mountainous terrain, and so the locals developed their own dialects, songs, architecture and traditions.
If you are a fan of gabled timber architecture, you’ll have come to the right place. Come and walk with me down the main street of Zakopane.
If you are too tired to walk, there is always a horse and wagon option that will take you to the Funicular station.
Cafes in Zakopane feature seating carved with traditional designs from Lower Silesia.
I found plenty of things to tempt me to open my purse in Zakopane and prices a pleasant surprise.
If you didn’t want trinkets, you can always try some of the delicious local foods from the many street vendors along the way. A specialty in this region is Sheep’s cheese.
If you have ever tasted Haloumi cheese, the Sheep’s cheese has a similar texture, but also a delicate smoky flavour. So very delicious. I could eat it every day if I could. Yum!
Røros Church in Norway – its reputation preceded it and my only chance to visit was offered to me when I was in Trondheim, Norway. Of course, I leapt at the chance. Walking through a living World Heritage Site, is not something one gets to do every day. Built during Norway’s golden age of copper mining, the church in Røros dates back to 1780 and is nestled amongst classical Norwegian village architecture.
Initially the church was closed and locked when I arrived, but my intrepid Norwegian friend was not to be deterred and energetically sought out a nearby caretaker who lived in one of the neighbouring wooden homes, who was then kind enough to open the church and give the “Australian,’ a short tour.
This was greatly appreciated.
The guide told us the church has been extensively renovated and restored in recent years, as it frequently plays host to popular concert series and services, often attended by the Norwegian Royals. Isn’t it stunning?
Røros is a town high up in Eastern Norway, not far from the Swedish border. Dotted with historic wooden houses and the large copper mine turned museum, the copper mine flourished from 1644 right up until 1977.
The mine is now a museum and the town’s Instagram-worthy architecture has been reincarnated as home to a range of craft artisans, gourmet food purveyors selling their local products, such as cheese and flatbread, in Instagram- worthy shops, as well as boutique objects popular with tourists. The walk along the main street is a delight.
The working life of the town’s citizens in the past was never easy, being as it was, a mining frontier town set high in the mountains on the border of Sweden. Conditions in the mines were neither comfortable nor healthy, it seems and the citizens a resilient lot, coping with difficult work and the threat of marauding Swedes over the border. You can re-live a little more of their history and life in the extensive displays at the museum, located at the mine’s site.
[Note: Signs were in English.]
Contrastingly, modern day Røros is peaceful quiet and colourful. The old wooden houses are beautifully maintained and the town continues to be a World Heritage Site in which people actually work and live out their daily lives.
Every February, the town hosts an annual Winter festival. I imagine there would be quite a different colour on the ground this time of year than when I completed my walk in early Summer.
Røros is also a place that tries to re-invented itself from its mining past by being sustainable and enjoyable for visitors. They try to preserve local nature, culture and environment, and tourists love it. I wrote more on a prior post about the history of Røros and its Mining Museum.
Something other regional towns might ponder about.
A Time Warp to the Victorian Era – in Christchurch
The best way to see Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens and the Avon river in Christchurch, New Zealand, is not on foot but by boat.
This is seriously one of THE most serene and relaxing things I’ve done. Punting at the Antigua sheds at Christchurch is something, like the city itself, very English. By way of contrast, the weather was anything but English; we were blessed with the most beautiful winter’s day – it was indeed quite cool but sunny and clear.
A Punt is a flat bottomed boat that does not have a keel. Typically, a punt is approximately 21 feet (6 metres) long and 3 feet (1 metre) wide. It should be propelled by means of a pole – about 16 foot (5 metres) long. The punt and consequently, the passengers sit very low in the water, although at no time do the passenger feel in any danger and I did not even get my feet or anything else wet.
The abridged version is “To punt without losing your balance, getting wet, wetting your passengers, while keeping the trip smooth and making sure that the passengers enjoy the ride, is something requires expertise indeed. Punting originated as a means of fishing, dredging, carrying and transporting all kinds of materials.
In other words, the punt was originally a work boat. The punting style consisted of starting at the bow, where the operator dropped the pole to the bottom, leaned on it, and then ran after it, pushing the boat under his feet. It was a method that often left the novice clinging to their pole while the punt drifted away in solitary splendour. Pleasure punts were unknown prior to 1860 and found in Nelson and Christchurch and a couple of places in England.
A time warp would take me back to the days when men were gentlemen, women genteel, Bota hats, hats and gloves, but it was not necessary to build a time machine,as I simply took a Punt ride to Victorian splendour in the heart of Christchurch.
There are two Punting routes to choose from, one passing through the river as it goes through the main part of the city and the other, which is close to the hop on hop off point of the city trams, just a short stroll past the entrance to the museum and Botanic Gardens.
There you will find Antiqua Boat sheds, which is the starting point for the Gardens punts and Hagley Park. I only hope the historic Boat sheds, which appear to have changed little since early last century have not been ruined by the earthquakes.
We were also blessed to have the punt all to ourselves, not having to share with anyone else except Andrew, “Mr Gondolier” or should it be “Mr Punter”?!!!
Along the way, we all had to duck our heads as we went under a very low road bridge, and Andrew maintained the perfect balance whilst undergoing this manoeuvre.
Andrew, a University dropout with a flare for business, and a love of history and stories, has turned this tourist attraction into a successful part of his thriving business empire. He does not have to work, but does so he claims, “because he loves his job” and who wouldn’t: even in the rain, the guests are protected with blankets and large football umbrellas from the elements.
The ride through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, a 50 acre green zone in the middle of the CBD which is never to be built on, the legacy of a pioneer settler, is a dream for those who appreciate and love nature. Also a wonderful area for environmental oxygen carbon dioxide exchange, a green zone in the metropolis, although Christchurch could hardly be called a metropolis. Just a nice sized city, really.
You also pass by the curators house and herb garden. The punts themselves are very comfortable and Andrew has blankets to keep you warm on cooler days.
Other creatures enjoying the Avon will be the endemic ducks, swans, and other aquatic life, the Daffodil garden which is really a lawn, as the daffodils are not mass planted but erupt from beneath the soil anywhere to the point that they mow a path through the daffodils in spring. They would be a bright point in the city’s current misery, as I feel sure that they would be in full bloom at this moment. (We were a few weeks early for the daffodils and the earthquake and for that I am truly grateful. (But right on time for the Lambing) A few brave early plants showing their blossoms amongst the grass are seen here, before the mower gets to them…..
The daffodil garden shortly to be cropped by the mower…. .
No motor pervades this almost spiritual atmosphere, the water is shallow and clear, rocks form the bottom of the river, and the excellent and entertaining commentary given by Andrew, pertinent and interesting. Near the end of the ride, you get a good view of the Curator’s house, and adjacent herb garden, seen on our approach to the Punting on the Park Attraction.
“Some days you are the statue, and some days the pigeon….” one of my favorite sayings, so I had to take a photo of one of the important people in Christchurch history…
This was definitely a day where I was the pigeon, on top of the world as I knew it then, and felt that in finding a new relaxing pastime, in a foreign city, discovered something new about myself. Surely that is something to ponder about….. even on a punt….
Named after British explorer, James Cook, this place is as far from its namesake town locality as it could possibly be, so what is there to see in Whitby?
Join me for a walk and see….
You may have read about my previous visits to New Zealand, but it is Whitby, a suburban area, located north of the capital, Wellington, that featured on our walk today.
There is strong evidence of middle income suburban New Zealand, here, but Whitby also offers some unique but lesser known features, which I was to discover on a family walk among its well manicured streets.
Coniferous trees relish a cool, temperate climate, quite different to the sub-tropical flora my kin might see at home.
Seeing them along dotted along the littoral fringe and stream that bisects this town, our minds filled with thoughts of hobbits and elves and ‘Middle Earth.’
Well, we were after all, in New Zealand!
The path, to the right, next to the tunnel of trees, along the littoral fringe.
Plants like the Protea, above, and this spectacular hydrangea bush, that I struggle to grow back home, relish the cooler, more wet humid climate and seem to grow like weeds!
What is that definition of a weed?
Just a plant in the wrong place!
But it is not all trees and flowers we spotted on our walk.
The Kiwis are not at all overly formal in their manner, their sense of humour being evident in this unusual garden statue.
Who wants a regular garden gnome, anyway?
Besides being named after the British birthplace of explorer, Captain James Cook, the attraction about Whitby for me, was found in the unique, natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Visible from practically any street in this locality, it is easy to be mesmerized by the distant mountains which remind me of convolutions of a green Giant’s velvet brain.
Our walk encompasses a stop at a flat-topped Spinnaker Summit Lookout, at which the mandatory photo stop was required.
The mountains of green velour on the far side of the lake look as if a giant laid down a carpet and then slept on it, failing to smooth the grassy covers when he arose from his slumber.
One feels like you could rub your hand over them just to feel their soft, velour texture.
I have never seen hills like this anywhere else in the world.
It is said that New Zealand has some similarities to Norway, well, maybe not in this area…..
A backdrop of mountains and hills like the convolutions of a green velvet brain
A walk around a suburban area often gives one a feel for the personalities who live there.
The diversity of boutique letter box designs was a delightful recurring theme in Whitby.
I would like one of these letter boxes!
Walking further from the lake and Summit lookout, we spotted several Tui birds relishing the blossoms, hunting, as they were for some food.
This species of honey-eater is not under any threat, having adapted well to the urban environment in the North Island.
Wiki states that apparently the early European colonists called it the Parson Bird but, as with many New Zealand birds, the Maori name ‘Tui’ is now the common name.
After a good hour of strolling the suburban streets, Miss H and the young ‘uns were getting that glazed look in their eyes that said,” I’m soo bored” – you know the one that teens do so well, thus, a extension to our walk was quickly made to Adrenalin Forest, Porirua, on the outer edges of Whitby!!! Now it was the kid’s turn to dictate the direction of the “walk,” as the “Adrenaline forest” is an aerial obstacle course consisting of flying fox, high ropes, climbing through barrels, nets and steps, suspended above the ground, which makes for a fun and energetic few hours. The kids are harnessed with two dual locks, so it is impossible to remove both clamps from the harness at the one time, making it a perfectly safe activity, even for the most reckless individual. Furthermore, the attendants give full instructions and a good dose of practice on ground level before starting the course.
I venture to say it is a kids only activity, as I didn’t see any adults participating in the course.
The parents/carers were all down on terra firma, shouting encouraging thoughts above, who were hanging by the harness up to 60 feet above them in the tree tops.
The course becomes incrementally more difficult, and Miss 11 who was part of our group, piked out at Level 3, and had to be ‘rescued’ – which meant that an attendant had to climb a ladder and disengage you from the course.
Miss 13 and 16 kept going till Level 4, but were exhausted afterwards. A real endurance activity for some.
The Adrenalin forest is loads of fun if you are ever in Wellington, or Whitby surrounds.
Kids have exercise, fun, learn new skills, conquer their fears and the bonus is they are sun safe (in the shade) and cannot check mobile devices whilst they are up there!! I noted there was limited seating, (and nowhere to purchase refreshments) for adults who are watching, and the constant looking upwards was a posture most adults are not used to.
Like me, I suspect most of them could use a neck brace of sorts afterwards.
Something the young 19 year old me would not have to Ponder About
Once a humble beekeeper, Sir Edmund Hillary came to know this mountain very well. For it was here that he would hone his mountaineering skills to become the first man, along with Tensing Norgay Sherpa, ever to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world – Mt Everest.
Hillary was certainly an imposing figure, even in Bronze. The man was apparently very tall, and perhaps this is what gave him an edge over other mountaineers, when climbing with cramp-irons on his feet up vertical ice cliffs….??
His statue stands at the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook, New Zealand, a place that came to be his second home. Known as Aoraki in the Maori tongue, I stopped here en route to Queenstown and took a walk around the Mt Cook vicinity.
Yes, I was mad enough to go to the South Island of New Zealand in the middle of winter!!
Mt Cook is in the South Island of New Zealand and a stunning place of phenomenal beauty, yet a very unforgiving place.
There was a patch of blue sky in the far distance, which looked promising for my walk, but at this altitude, the weather can change exceedingly quickly so there was no guarantees.
So my walk entailed being extremely careful when I stepped, not wanting to fall on the ice like I did, once, in Norway. That little trick rendered me unable to walk properly for weeks.
The flora around the Hermitage area is very much alpine heath, struggling to survive in a harsh environment, although there are also sheep grazing here. The finest merino wool in the world, is in fact, grown a few kilometres away, at Mt Cook Station.
The sheep seem to have right of way here, at one point we had to ‘split the mob’ to get through.
The finest fleece – Mt Cook’s Flock
In the area around Mt Cook, you can also see the most delightful blue snow/glacial fed lakes, like this one which form part of the hydro and irrigation scheme.
We had to walk back very quickly to the Hermitage, as the weather was closing in, fast.
Lunch was a quick bite in the hotel restaurant and whether it was due to the intense cold, I am not sure, but it tasted really delicious. And prices were very reasonable. They do have a monopoly as it is the only place to eat, for miles and miles, But oh! I would pay a lot more for such a meal when one can take advantage of that very special view.
We ate in front of these magnificent full length glass windows at the hotel admiring the view. You can also get an idea in the reflection of the windows….
There was then only a little time for my daughter to throw around some snowballs and slide up and down the slopes on a toboggan, which the lady at the hotel reception said we could use free of charge.
She was so kind, and it seemed that her manner was from a bygone era, when you do things for free, with no expectation of returning the favour.
(Great New Zealand hospitality!)
It is claimed by some, that New Zealand is a rather conservative place and that they are still a bit stuck in the past at the end of the world. Well if that is the case, it is not a bad way to be, is it?
And certainly not a bad place to be stuck, either.
All too soon, it was time to leave and I was left with the memory of these wild and extreme walks, I took, at Mt Cook.
Footnote: Up to 1953, seven separate climbing expeditions had thus failed to reach the summit of Everest, but on May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 in the morning, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkable as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak.Throughout the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly on humanitarian and fund raising projects, building schools, health clinics, and many aid projects for his beloved country of Nepal, (a country dear to my heart), until his death from heart failure in 2008.