About one km away from the Slovak Border, you walk down this road and you will find a large parking lot. There are bathrooms there, make sure you use them, it will be a while before you see more in the park. There is a little stand you can pick up postcards at and some drinks.
Admission to the park costs (get this!) 4 zloty, less than 2 USD and present exchange rates. I don't know if that was payable in Euros.
Go up on the right, come down on the left.
Make sure to consult the website for the National Park, for updates on weather conditions and hazards.
Between December and May some of the trails are closed.
From April to November you may hike from dusk to dawn only!
Coming from Slovakia you will stop at Lysa Polana. Once you cross the bridge you will see the signs with the Polish eagle, you are now in Poland.
Its not really a big deal, with both countries now part of the Schengen accords there is no border checkpoint, no burly strict border guards,no stamp in your passport. Actually, if you look around today, there is nothing. Nothing official at all.
Of course, if you want a reminder of the days of old when you would have to park your car and be thoroughly inspected you can just look there towards the center....behind the wire fence is the old border checkpoint. Hasn't been used in a few years, since 2007 when Poland abolished passport checks at its borders. I wonder how long it will be before they demolish it.
I guess a part of you misses the old system, you know for sure you have crossed into a new country and its different, you had a stamp in your passport to prove it. Now its a total non-event, if you had to cross the border back and forth it would be no bigger an event than going to the grocery store.
Morskie Oko (Eye of the Sea) is a beautiful lake . Not hard to get to really, the trail up is pretty much paved the whole way through, its a nice comfortable hike. The initial reaction I had, like everyone else, when they first caught sight was just once of awe, the water is so blue (turquoise actually).
There is a nice balcony. the hut has a restaurant and a faster food place downstairs.
Be mindful of your valuables. I saw the awful sight of someone all of a sudden realizing their camera wasnt where it was supposed to be.
After drinking so much fluid naturally you need to use a toilet (especially that the last chance to use one you had in Morskie Oko, quite a few hours ago). And this is another great story. The toilet is situated about a hundred metres away from the hut and it's peculiar for two reasons: first, because it's painted in bright colours, featuring different characters as if taken from your kid's bedtime story; there is a smiling sun, there is a caterpillar and many others. The second reason is that the toiled is actually placed on a platform perched over a precipice and once you enter you're taken aback, because the front wall has been replaced by a glass pane through which you're free to admire a panoramic view of the whole, huge valley stretching at your feet. That's what someone called a toilet with a view.
Although undeniably cute, the toilet poses two problems: the queues are long and the stench inside is intolerable. I'm not sure if the stuff is doing anything to eliminate the stench but they've come up with a very nice device for those waiting in the queue: a few metres from the platform they installed a swinging bench, which is great fun - once you sit on it, you're not willing to stand up again.
The second cheerful thing is the dining room and the incredible picture menu displayed above the counter. The first thing I saw when I entered was a girl carrying ... a bowl of icecream decorated colourfully, bisquits sticking out - that's at least what it seemed to be - the last thing I would expect to see in this place. Then we saw other strange dishes, and only the picture menu helped to explain what they were. We were carrying our own supplies, so all we ordered was tea - served in half-litre mugs with a lavish amount of raspberry juice - I promise it was the BEST tea I've ever had!
Further down the trail you'll get to Chata pod Rysami, which is the Polish name for the hut situated a few hundred metres under Rysy peak on the Slovakian side. This place is legendary, I've heard so much about it before I got there for the first time this year.
The hut is very small and looks a little makeshift when you approach it from Rysy. It's surrounded by sheer rocks -no greenery at this altitude, which gives it a rather austere look. But once you come closer the hut begins to reveal its charm. First of all there are those merry shutters paited bright red. I bet the colour would cheer you up even in the worst weather.
Rysy peak marks the border between Poland and Slovakia. However, you can continue on the trail which leads down from Poland to Slovakia. It's much easier than on the Polish side, no chains, no staples, just a little rubble in places and that's where you have to be careful.
Not far from the peak you will see a very interesting site, where people have errected a number of stone piles (forgot to ask about the meaning of it), and from there you can see one of the most characteristic mountains in the Tatras. It's called Ganek -which means something like 'porch'- and the name comes from the vertical wall surrounding the mountain, which you can see in the picture, and which may indeed look like a porch.
Rysy is the highest peak in Poland - 2499m. You can climb it both from Polish and Slovakian side and the difference is huge. The Polish trail is much more difficult, because it entails a lot of climbing with the use of chains and staples in the higher parts of the mountain. The beginning, however is very easy. You start from Palenica Bialczanska, where you arrive from Zakopane by bus and enter Tatrzanski Park Nawodowy (The Tatras National Park). Then it's a long monotonous walk (about 1,5 hours) along an asphalt road to Morskie Oko, which, apart from Kasprowy Wierch, is the most popular destination in the park. Morskie Oko is the name of the lake which lies at the foot of the High Tatras, it's actually surrounded by them, so you can imagine the view. On sunny summer days the human traffic on the road from Palenica to M.O. almost equals that on Krupowki. . Buses or cars are not allowed within the borders of the park but if you've got 40zl you can get from Palenica to M.O. in a horse-drawn carriage. At the end of the road, next to the lake there is a popular wooden hut, enlarged to accommodate growing number of tourists, where you can have a decent meal and stay overnight (reservation required a few months in advance). From this hut the proper trail to Rysy starts.
These are the first marmots I've ever seen live. They are funny little creatures. The first one I saw was using our path to climb up about 30 metres ahead of us. Another one was basking in the early sun on a flat big stone next to the path. It jumped on and off the stone, afraid of our group yet curious to know what was goung on.
Czarny Staw is one of the biggesr and most frequently visited lakes in the park, the most popular being Morskie Oko. Czarny is about 30 minutes away from Murowaniec, at the foot of Koscielec, halfway down when descending Kasprowy Wierch. Czarny means Black, the name comes from the darkish hue of the water which is coloured by bacteria living there, unfortunately dangerous to human health.
Although it was end of July - summer in full bloom - there were places in the mountains still covered by a thick layer of snow. This one is on the way to Zawrat not far from Czarny Staw. The other snow field I encountered was on the way to Rysy, we even managed to stage a snowball fight there. Imagine us wearing short sleeves and throwing snowballs :)
The mountain looks scary when you approach it from Murowaniec. It has a characteristic flat surface, the trail zig zags there up to the top. I was happy to climb it the first time I tried. I read about a lady who'd tried to do it about 10 times before she managed to reach the top, all due to adverse weather conditions. What a bad luck.
A lot of people choose the cable car to Kasprowy as an easier option. The car saves you quite a lot of trouble but the waiting line in the summer to get to the top can take a few hours. The whole cable car system has been recently renovated, there was a few months' break while the works lasted but now more people can get to the top and in shorter time.
Water is something you should remember about when going on a hike in the mountains. On the way to Kasprowy you can get bottled drinks, tea or coffee in Murowaniec, but I always look out for the mountain spring which is situated further up on the trail, at the point where the green trail diverges from the yellow one. Springs are a pretty safe source of water, unlike lakes, which usually contain harmful bacteria although the water seems crystal clear. Drinking such bacteria coctail can cause a serious poisoning. I had it once, after drinking water from Czarny Staw near Murowaniec. At night I got really bad stomachache, fever, shivers and in the morning I was so weak that I could hardly walk. The water from the spring, however, is delicious and safe.
We took the blue trail from Ku¿nice, had a stop in Murowaniec, probably the biggest mountain hut in the Polish Tatras and went on to Kasprowy. Sipping tea in front of Murowaniec we met an interesting lady who had been visiting the Tatras regularly for years. Her children got the bug from her and now she took her grandson for the first time on a mountain trail. Unfortunately, the boy aged 10 didn't seem to share the family passion. They went to Kasprowy in a cable car and on the way to Murowaniec, the boy started to complain of fatigue and even asked his granny if they could take a bus down! The lady seemed distressed.