Morskie Oko, or ‘sea eye’, is the largest lake in the Tatra Mountains. At almost 1400m high, this Polish natural beauty is a popular destination in both the summer and winter. I hiked it in mid-March, when snow remained only half way up the trail. The view was stunning, I’d never seen anything like it! Sure I’d been to the Himalayas, but it was not as beautiful as the Tatras. The sun glistened off the tips of the mountains and the woodlands offered the best of nature’s peace.
We walked the full two and a half hours up the mountain without any breaks! Morskie Oko was still frozen and a few brave souls walked right through the middle of it. To get to the lake, you needed to go down an extremely steep icy pathway using a thick knotted rope for support. I decided to give a miss, even though you could always slide down the pathway on your bum if desired. We entered a wooden restaurant with a view of the lake and re-energised.
The hike back down the mountain took 1 hour 45 minutes, despite the roads being covered in ice and slush. Although the hike would be safer in the summer, I would go back again in the winter if given the choice. I stayed in a hostel in Zakopane, the closest town to Morskie Oko, itself being an idyllic resort town over a 1000m above sea level. Huge wooden letters spelling out the name of the town stood in front of a glorious view of snow-topped Carpathian mountain range.
We peered through a telescope and could even see the details of the trees lining the mountain. The main high street of Zakopane was so traditional; wooden chalets embodied the architectural style of this tiny town (population 30,000!). Strangely, it even boasted of a candy shop that claimed it was the world’s smallest candy manufacturer. A major advantage of indulging in winter sports in Eastern Europe, compared to the Alps, was the serious inexpensiveness of the trip. For example, a plate of traditional Polish food came to only 13 ztoty (£2.63).
Summer holidays are preferred over winter holidays to a lot of people, but there are some truly fascinating winter destinations that are well worth the visit.
If I were you, I would add the Tatra Mountains to your bucket list, whether you’re a summer baby (like me) or not!