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Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Taking Of The Pieniny - Poland

Dearest friends,

For me, the best shape that God has created is without any doubt the mountains! When you climb mountains I have this feeling of reaching towards heaven, of reaching towards a place where there is fresh air, where my lungs (along with all my body) can feel at peace. Even though every nerve / muscle in my body stretches and quivers (especially if I did not train, and I come only from 8,5 hours a day sitting at the computer...) I feel that I can be calm and that I can smile with all my heart. The mountains fill my heart and they fill every pore and cell within me.
I am always panicked at the very beginning, at the lower side - as we start to climb, especially if the place is new for me. I am scared and excited at the same time of what lies ahead of me - will I be able to make it or will I quit? I was told this is not good, that I should know my own limits, but I would not quit even if my life depended on me - for me that would mean that I am weak; I managed to get this far and I am quitting half way through? It happens a lot, when I am climbing the mountains, to have moments when I would wish I could go back. Those moments usually make me more stubborn and keep me going :)
When we were on Away Day with my former company, with Capgemini - in 2012, we went for a weekend to Gora Zar. My husband (back then my fiancee :) ) is born and raised in pre-mountain area and he has great resistance, even though he does not train frequently and works at the computer as much as I do! I believe he was the first one who reached the top of Gora Zar... he had to wait about 20 minutes for the rest of us to drag ourselves up the mountain...
He actually told me, the same day, that he thought I would not make it through - that I would quit. The truth is I am very bad when it comes to breathing - when overexcited from the workout, I breathe with the mouth instead of nose and this only makes things worse :( Same happened this time, when I went for a day-trip with a dear friend to the Pieniny mountains - I believe that I had overall around 2-3 moments when I thought I would not make it through in one piece. Moments in which I would have just sit down and call it a day - but I didn't! :)
The trip was hosted by the company that my friends works in. The hike path established was for the Pieniny Mountains - the track run from Jaworki, through Wawóz Homole to Wysoka and back through Przełecz Rozdziela and Biała Woda to Jaworki. Duration of the hike: aprox. 5 - 5,5 h walking. That does not sound that bad, right?! :)
Let me tell you (with the help of Wikipedia) a bit more about these mountains we have conquered almost 2 weeks ago :) Pieniny is a mountain range in the south of Poland and the north of Slovakia. The Pieniny mountain range is divided into three parts – Pieniny Spiskie (Slovak: Spišské Pieniny) and Pieniny Właściwe (Slovak: Centrálne Pieniny) in Poland; and, Małe Pieniny (English: Lesser or Little Pieniny; Slovak: Malé Pieniny) in Poland and Slovakia. The Pieniny mountains consist mainly of the limestone and dolomite rock strata.
The most famous peak, Trzy Korony (Three Crowns), is 982 metres high. It is also the summit of the Three Crowns Massif. Pieniny’s highest peak – Wysoka (Polish); Vysoké Skalky (Slovak) – reaches 1,050 metres above sea level (that's the one we went for ;) yup!). Pieniny mountains formed at the bottom of the sea in several geological epochs. They were folded and raised in Upper Cretaceous. At the beginning of the Paleogene geologic period a second wave of tectonic movements took place causing a further shift. The third wave of movements during the Paleogene and Neogene resulted in a more complex tectonic structure. At the same time erosion resulted in stripping of the outer mantle rocks and further modeling of terrain. 
Peaks were built from weather resistant Jurassic rocks, mainly limestone. Valleys and passes were created from softer and more susceptible to weathering rocks of Cretaceous and Paleogene periods. Caves are few and rather small. By contrast, rivers and streams are often deeply indented in the rock, creating approximately 15 ravines and gorges. The most famous gorges of the Pieniny mountains are the Dunajec River Gorge in Pieniny National Park and the Homole Ravine (Polish: Wąwóz Homole). Hills along the northern border of Pieniny are of volcanic origin.
The Perfect Solitary Tree
From Krakow to Pieniny we had an early bus that drove us for about 2 hours. We started the climb around 10 am in the morning - 1050 meters was quite a long way to go. The tour guide was a young fit lad - that ocasionally when we made stops he told us stories of the places we were going through but also sang traditional mountain songs :) The group was over 40 people and the youngest of the crew was 6 years old - and trust me, she was the most fit to do this hike! The tour guide took the lead and established the rule that none should go before him. The rescue lady that joined us was the last one, and another rule was established so none would go after her. This way our group would maintain a steady pace and be together.
I must admit we were the biggest group on the mountain at that hour and we were quite noisy but we folowed the rules and made sure we left every place we stopped clean from any garbage that might have come from us - in the end you do it for yourself, so you could come back to a clean environment as well. We were complimented at the beginning of the trip, by the tour guide, that we were all very well dressed - I can say that 80% of the group had boots / hiking shoes and the rest had sports shoes + we all had layers when it came to clothing, so we could regulate what we wore according to the temperature outside.
We saw just one black sheep during the trip, and she did not want to be on camera :)
We were actually extremely lucky - as usual, someone up there loves me! - as the tour guide also said that particular day in the weekend, on the 16th of May 2015, was the best weather he has seen in the area for years! and that we were indeed lucky not to get any strong wind / snow / rain as it would have made the hike even longer. I can agree with that... I do not think I would have been able to make the second half of the hike if it would have been raining... At a certain point you need to climb a very steep portion with a lot of small rocks that make everything unstable - I would have not made it through rain, even though I had boots holding my leg steady.
It was a very cyclical trip, as at the beginning of the climb we met with a large sheep pack - a moment when our tour guide told us that the sheep from that region (and for most of Poland) were actually brought from Romanian mountains - and also very close to the end of the hike we met another heard. It was lovely having a break on the fresh grass, listening to our guide tell stories and sing songs. The sheep pack had of course its guardians - the white dog in the picture is one of them - and they came around "begging" for food :) I gave the white one a full sandwich and he ate it as if he had not seen food for weeks ;)))
We also found that in the region the famous Polish Robin Hood lived - named Juraj Jánošík (first name also Juro or Jurko, Polish: Jerzy Janosik, Hungarian: Jánosik György ; baptised January 25, 1688, died March 17, 1713) was a famous Slovak highwayman. Jánošík has been the main character of many Slovak and Polish legends, novels, poems and films. He is a semi-legendary character in East-Central Europe.

According to the legend, he robbed nobles and gave the loot to the poor, a deed often attributed to the famous Robin Hood. The legend was also known in neighboring Silesia, the Margraviate of Moravia and later spread to the Kingdom of Bohemia. The actual robber had little to do with the modern legend, whose content partly reflects the ubiquitous folk myths of a hero taking from the rich and giving to the poor. However, the legend was also shaped in important ways by the activists and writers in the 19th century when Jánošík became the key highwayman character in stories that spread in the north counties of the Kingdom of Hungary (much in present Slovakia) and among the local Gorals and Polish tourists in the Podhale region north of the Tatras (Tatra). 
The image of Jánošík as a symbol of resistance to oppression was reinforced when poems about him became part of the Slovak and Czech middle and high school literature curriculum, and then again with the numerous films that propagated his modern legend in the 20th century. During the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising, one of the partisan groups bore his name. He is still very much popular in Poland and if you ask anyone about Jánošíkthen they would be glad to tell you more about him ;)
On our way back we had a very nice 30 minute break at a very mountain-like Restaurant, guarded by a red-white cat that mind her own business while dozen of people came about her. It was as if she reigned there and payed no mind to us, low-life creatures born only to serve her ;)) The Restaurant served only hot food and I was too warm from the climb to take anything that would make me even more hot. I digged in fresh water, chocolate (very good for the muscle pain, if take before climbing), madeleines and sandwiches. Some collegues of my friend tried out the zurek and pierogi there - they all agreed the zurek was amazing and serves in extremely huge portions but the pierogi was aweful and the meat was too dry. You can also buy drinks there if you are out of water - the still water 0.5 l is 2 zloty and the Coke or Pepsi 0.5 l is 3 zloty. In case you wish to have a memory from there you can buy postcards from 1 to 2 zloty per piece. Also you can use the toilet facility - it is very clean and has fresh paper ;)
I must extend one again a warm THANK YOU! to my dear friend that invited me for this trip. I was able to speak almost for a full day in Romanian - with herself and her friends - and I almost forgot how fun it is to hike and feel free in the mountains. The views were splendid and heartwarming and if I could, I would do this again! The weather was perfect and even though the tour guide said we will go slow towards medium pace we ended up more in a run-like-pace toward the end... I still loved it and enjoyed it with all my heart! That is why I wish for you, if ever you are in the region and you have good weather and good boots / hiking shoes, try and do this route as well :) It is totally worth the trouble / sweat / muscle pain the day after ;)))
The perfect view at the end of the trip
DISCLAIMER - All pictures were taken with the camera from my Samsung Galaxy S4, no filter and no modification - Copyrights reserved :) If you want to more pictures that I took during the trip, you can see them in chronological order as a video on my Youtube Channel - right here ;) 
Yours truly,
The LadyBug That Loves Mountains With All Her Heart