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May 12 2015

Zawoja: Poland’s Longest Village

Zawoja Poland's Longest VillageI had no idea where to go at the weekend.  All I knew was that I wanted to go somewhere to relax and chill out rather than try to rush around seeing as much as I could in the day and a bit that I have off.  I’d been to Sucha Beskidska a couple of weekends before, and that’s when I heard about Zawoja (pronounced za-voi-ya).  I had no idea what it would actually be like, but I wanted to go at some point.  So, in the hope that it would be a place for me to relax and recharge my batteries, I left for Zawoja on Saturday afternoon.

Arriving in Zawoja

From my town, I had to get two buses (minibuses).  It took longer than I thought it would because it’s almost 70 kms from Krakow if you drive direct, but the bus takes a longer, indirect route.  The bus’s destination was Zawoja, so I figured I’d get off the bus when it reached its final destination.  However, when we reached Zawoja, the bus driver said something to me.  I didn’t understand, but another passenger translated it for me.  He was asking where I wanted to alight the bus.  I actually had no idea.  I hadn’t booked anything, so I didn’t know.  I just wanted a nice place to chill.  While I was wondering what to do, the unofficial translator said, ‘Centrum?’ and I replied, ‘Tak, centrum.’   I had no idea where else to go, so that seemed like a good place to start.  Apparently, we were in the centre of the village, so I got off the bus.  I couldn’t help wondering if I should have stayed on the bus and gone further, but the centre had some shops and a couple of restaurants.  At least, I wouldn’t have difficulty finding somewhere to eat.  I was also on the hunt for an ATM, although I honestly wasn’t expecting to find one.

Zawoja Centrum

Just as I got off the bus, lo and behold, I saw a sign for a bankomat (ATM).  Yes, it was possible for me to get some cash out – fantastic!  This village had way more than I thought it would.  I’m not sure if it’s actually true, but I had read that Zawoja might be the longest village in Poland.  It’s because the village stretches for 20 kms.  I thought it would just be the odd house here and there.  It is the further along the road you get, so I found out, but I wasn’t expecting the centre of the village to be so well-equipped.  Having returned from my trip and while doing a bit of research for this post, I have found out that it is also classed as one of the biggest villages in Poland.  That figures!

So, just to recap, I was in the centre and I now had some cash.  On with the accommodation hunting!  I didn’t want to stay on the main road because I wanted some peace and quiet.  In the distance, I spotted a ‘noclegi’ (accommodation) sign on one of the houses which was away from the main road.  Would it be open?  Would they have a vacancy?  Would anyone even be there as I was turning up out of the blue with my backpack?  I was about to find out.  The answer was ‘yes’ on all three counts.  I was greeted by a woman who had a big smile on her face.  That was a good sign.  In my best Polish, I asked if she had a vacancy for one to two nights.  She did.  Her daughter showed me to the room which was on the top floor.  Why are they always on the top floor?  It had WiFi, which was important, I had four beds to choose from, my own balcony with a picture postcard view since it was the penthouse suite (or, so I like to think of it), and it would only cost me 30 zloty (less than £6 per night).  That makes it the cheapest night’s stay so far.  Shortly after giving me the key, I was given a kettle, a plate, a mug, and some cutlery.

Zawoja

After settling in, I went out to explore a little.  There was a convenience store close by, and more than one eatery.  By the time I got there, I was hungry and tired, so I had some food, bought something for breakfast from the shop, and retreated to my room for the night.

Zawoja and Babia Gora National Park

The next morning, it was raining.  To be honest, I wasn’t too fussed because I wanted to relax.  I had a magnificent view, a balcony, and a pretty good WiFi connection.  It eventually stopped raining, so I wandered out.  I went to the bus stop because I wanted to go further on to see what there was.  From the centre, there are two places you can get to by bus, according to the information at the bus stop: Markowa and Policzne (pronounced po-lich-na).  From what I could see, there were no buses to the Markowa on Sundays and the next bus to Policzne wasn’t until about 5pm.  Well, that was that!  I decided to wander around the town instead.  As I was walking along the road towards the church, I saw a bus drive past.  I had no idea where it was going, but I decided to go back and see.  I thought I had missed it, but I hadn’t.  It was parked up.  I went over and its destination was Policzne.  I asked when it was leaving, thinking he would say in a couple of hours, but he said in 5 minutes.  Perfect!  I paid 3 zloty and that was it.  I was on my way to Policzne.

Policzne

It wasn’t long before we were in Policzne.  I got off and thought, ‘Where now?’  There wasn’t an obvious sign of where to go.  I spotted some chairlifts across the road and a big wooden chalet style building, so I walked over to see if I could get any information.  The chairlifts were no longer in service since the ski session had finished.  I didn’t think the information centre would be open, but there was someone there.  I asked if she had a map and where I could walk, using a mix of Polish and sign language.  She was telling me where I could go by car and then walk, but I didn’t have a car.  I tried again, and then she showed me a trail on the map that starts from across the road.  The trails may be better in the places she was first showing me initially, but they are no good without a car.  I went back across the road, and that’s when I saw the sign for Babiogorksi Park Narodowy (Babia Gora National Park).

Babia Gora National Park

Babia Gora, according to folklore, is where the witches used to meet.  That’s how it got its name.  Apparently, Babia Gora literally means Old Wives’ or Witches’ Mountain.  Hubble, bubble, boil and trouble… and all that!  It’s located on the border between Poland and Slovakia in the Western Beskidy Mountains and was one of the first Biosphere Reserves in the world.  I didn’t know that.  Nor did I know that there are bears, wolves, and lynx roaming the national park.  If I’d known that, I might not have ventured in alone, but I did (roll scary music).

Babia Gora National Park

Since I was alone and didn’t come across another sole, I’m happy to report that I didn’t see nor hear anything even vaguely scary on my little hike.  The ground was a little wet and muddy, but I decided to go as far as I could.  My first hurdle was a fallen tree.  I climbed over that and carried on until I got to a massive pool of muddy water.  I really didn’t fancy wading through that and have soaking wet feet for the rest of the day, so I retraced my steps, hoping to find another way.  As I was walking back, it started to rain.  I was almost at the start of the trail, so that was perfect timing.  Better still, there was a restaurant, so I went in, and had a drink and a bite to eat while I waited for the rain to stop.  It did.  I decided that it wasn’t worth hiking, so I sat down by a fast flowing stream, and decided to work on my macro photography skills, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the location.  It was fantastic.  There was no one else around.  Just me.

After a bit, I decided it was time to head back to the centre of Zawoja, and there just so happened to be a bus waiting at the bus stop.  When I got back to the centre, I wandered around for a bit until it starting raining again.
Wooden church
The church is particularly interesting because it’s wooden, which is typical for buildings in that village.  I walked upwards from the church.  I saw a house for sale, and dreamed of living in this pretty location as I walked past meadows into a forested area.

Zawoja meadows and flowers

I had to turn back because the wet, muddy path became too wet and muddy.  As I did, it started raining.  It was only a shower this time because it cleared up by the time I got to the main road.  I walked across the road and into the cemetery.  I don’t tend to go into cemetery when I travel, but it had such a fabulous backdrop, and the graves are so well cared for in Poland.  I walked back along the main road then off onto a side road, over a stream, and kept walking until I could go no further. I headed back down to grab a bite to eat before returning to my accommodation for the night.

That was the end of another weekend adventure.  I got to explore, albeit briefly, a new place, and I achieved my goal of just enjoying my time doing very little and thinking of very little.  It is just what I needed.

Location

You can see where Zawoja is located on the map.  I have pinpointed Krakow, Zajowa, and Policzne for you.

One bus will take you from Krakow bus station to Zawoja and it will set you back 15 or 16 zloty one way.  The journey takes around about two hours.  The price varies because the route is covered by more than one bus company.  To find out about the bus times from Krakow to Zawoja and for buses in Zawoja, your best bet is to do a search for ‘Zawoja bus’ because that will give you a list of bus companies that currently serve the village as well as timetables.  Alternatively, just wait at the bus stop because a bus is likely to be along shortly.  You may have to wait slightly longer on Sundays and public holidays, but buses still run.  It was a Sunday when I went from the centre of Zawoja to Policzne.

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About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

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