Last week, I presented a photo-essay of my travels in Budapest. After spending five days there, my family and I traveled north to the Polish resort town of Zakopane, which is popular with skiers and snowboarders. To get there, we had to drive through Slovakia, which I believe is one of the prettiest countries in Europe.
Slovakian countryside. A substantial portion of Slovakia consists of mountains, foothills and dense deciduous forests, very reminiscent of Appalachia.
Cattle crossing. Animals that are as large as (or larger than) your car get the right-of-way.
Ruzomberok, Slovakia. The juxtaposition of old churches with Soviet-style buildings is very common throughout all of Eastern Europe.
Orava Castle. Built into the side of a large cliff, Orava Castle is one of the most impressive sights in Slovakia. According to the global repository of knowledge (i.e., Wikipedia), the castle served as one of the filming locations for the 1922 vampire horror silent film Nosferatu.
Zakopane. In some ways, Zakopane resembles the Pacific Northwest. It has a cool, rainy climate, but it is freezing cold in the winter. Shown here is a popular ski slope.
Krupowki Street. Krupowki Street is one of the main attractions of Zakopane, featuring shops and restaurants.
Mountain people. No visit to southern Poland is complete without listening to traditional music played by the "mountain people" ("gorale").
Coffee shop on Krupowki Street. The average coffee shop in Eastern Europe is simply classier than its average American counterpart, and it is (sadly) nicer than the average coffee shop in my city of Seattle. (Sorry, Seattle, but I don't dig the "grunge" style.) Also, it is common to find coffee-alcohol beverages on most menus, my favorite being coffee with Advocaat. However, due to America's rather puritan laws on alcohol, such drinks are almost never found in the U.S., and certainly not in a coffee shop.
Nosalowy Dwor. This resort hotel served as our home away from home. The infinity-style pool was quite amazing, as was the enormous breakfast.
After two nights, we departed for my wife's hometown of Elblag, near the Baltic coast about one hour southeast of Gdansk.
This latest trip was my tenth to Eastern Europe. I highly recommend a visit, as it is beautiful and your dollar goes a lot further here than in Western Europe. But, note that most people don't speak English, although that is changing among the younger generations. So, it's useful to have family or friends help show you around.