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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

21 September 2023

Mountain sunglasses day

Friday 8th September 2023

Our hotel is lovely but has two flaws. Firstly, our rooms are on the 2nd floor and there are no lifts – mostly good exercise, but less fun with suitcases. Secondly, the breakfast buffet looks lovely but is actually full of disappointment (dry pancakes, chewy old pastries).

Breakfast at Hotel Baron – at least it looks good

Today we headed south from Jelenia Gora to explore the delights of the Karkonosze Mountains – which translates to the Giant Mountains! Wow. Hmm. They might well be officially mountains, the highest peak being a bit taller than Ben Nevis, but dramatically speaking they are just a long ridge of big pine-covered hills. I’m reminded of a similar minor mountain range in Bulgaria: lots of local visitors all diligently going to see a modest little waterfall, a viewpoint showing a vista of some hills with pine trees, an outcrop of interesting-shaped rocks. And of course every little waterfall needs its own roadside snack stands, cafe bars and souvenir stalls!

It’s a waterfall. Magnificent.

Okay, the rocks here were quite cool. There’s a massive chunk of stone called Chybotek that is somehow balanced so neatly that a single person moving from one end to the other actually causes it to tip back and forth. Hmm… a photo doesn’t really show this as well as a video might! Oh, and the little mobile coffee stand where we parked the car was excellent.

Chybotek, the balancing rock. Would be 100% cooler as a video

So to make a bit more of the day, we drove over the mountains to have lunch in a different country: Czechia. The first village, Harrachov, is essentially a ski resort, so just picture a long stretch of assorted ugly lodges, restaurants, cafes and shops scattered along a single winding road. It must be rammed in ski season, a fair bit quieter in summer. Which makes it even more criminal that on-street parking was disallowed and everybody with any kind of spare bit of ground was charging 8 euros per day for parking. We only wanted to stop for an hour!

So on principle we drove back out of the village to the weird communist-era housing estate where we had paid 4 euros to park and walk up to another waterfall (bit nicer than the one on the Polish side, to be fair) and then walked back to the village. On principle! Honestly, 8 euros, and of course all of these car parks were either empty or occupied by one or two cars.

We paddled at the waterfall in Czechia, which to be fair was pretty

Then we found that the first restaurant was only serving full meals, the second one had no food (“my husband has gone shopping, back in an hour”) and the third had a most horrifying average review on Google (if they can’t even score 3.0 then I’d be unsure of surviving the experience). We finally found a nice looking place but they were being a bit loose with translation and their “hotdog” turned out to be an oddly Czech attempt at a banh mi!

As though today wasn’t underwhelming enough, I also lost my sunglasses somewhere between our first waterfall and our very late lunch. Silver lining: after a couple of hours of moping, Maureen found them where I’d dropped them down the side of the car door.

This is the height of the Karkonosze Mountains. Truly not “giant”

Luckily we still had Kucie Smaku on the main square of Jelenia Gora to feed us well, and we enjoyed our first bottle of Polish wine too. Not a bad Reisling blend. A wander around the town showed that the main square is actually the only really handsome part.

Bigos – a rather splendid hunter’s stew at Kucie Smaku

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