Poland: Part II
July 6th to 13th
On Monday, Jakub, his roommate and I went to the Wielickza Salt Mine. The salt mine was really cool. We were 135m below the surface at the deepest part, and the mine is now a Unesco site. It's been operating for... Hmm... 700 years? At least since the mid 1600s for sure. I can't quite remember when it started operation. They had all sorts of sculptures made from salt and church chapels down there. I have now visited the largest underground church as well! In one part, the floor is carved to look like salt licks that livestock use. As soon as I saw it I recognized it from when we used to have cattle on my parents' farm. I was amused by that.
Tuesday, though, was my favorite day with Jakub. We woke up early and headed out to Zakopane and the Tatras Mountains. His girlfriend lives there, so we met up with her first thing in the morning, then they took me to this little village not far from Zakopane. The village was cool because the homes were all really old, but every year at Easter, all the residents scrub down the wood on their houses to remove the weathered look. So despite being quite old, the houses look fantastic and are so well taken care of. Then Natalja, Jakub's girlfriend, dropped Jakub and I off in the mountains at a park, where we were spending the day hiking and going to spend the night. Before leaving us, though, she joined us for a small part of the hike up to a cave. It was the only cave in the park that was lighted, and Natalja recommended going in, so we said goodbye to her and then Jakub and I went through the cave. I loved it! In some places it got so narrow that you had to squeeze through, or almost crawl, and you were constantly watching your head. (Jakub, being a foot taller than I, had it worse than I did in there.) Also, we each had a backpack, Jakub's being much larger than mine, with food, extra clothes and sleeping gear. There are shelters up there that you can spend the night in, but Jakub and I weren't sure if there were any beds left, so we has brought sleeping mats with us too just in case we had to sleep outside for the night. Luckily, there were some beds left in the shelter when we got there so we had a place to stay. But that also meant we had extra things to carry that we didn't really need in the end. Oh well, better safe than sorry as they say! Anyways, we spent the day hiking. In the morning, it was raining and the weather miserable, so we weren't too sure how the day would go, especially since neither of us had proper rain gear for the day. But the sky eventually cleared up and it turned out to be a beautiful day. The hiking was great and the views gorgeous! I loved it!!! Definitely one of my favorite days of the trip. Give me hiking and mountains any day and I will be one happy person!
The next morning, Jakub and I left the shelter early and headed back to where Natalja dropped us off and where she was going to pick us up. Then the three of us went to Sanok, where Jakub's parents live in eastern Poland. Jakub and Natalja had a wedding to go to on the weekend, and I was heading to Ukraine, so it worked well to head there. Jakub's mom made us a delicious lunch when we got to his place - probably the best tomato soup I have had! - and then we headed on our way again. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to see his town as I had a bus to catch to get to Ukraine. Jakub and Natalja drove me to a town about 70km away, where I was able to catch a bus to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. When we arrived at the bus station, Jakub pointed out a bus, that looked like it was falling apart, and said "I think that's your bus." Sure enough, it was. But as the driver got off, he was dripping sweat. Pleasant. Seeing that, I quickly went to buy more water for the ride, thinking it may be needed since there was clearly no air conditioning on the bus and it was 30+ degrees outside. Then, before I knew it, as I was standing outside the bus with Jakub and Natalja, the bus started and the driver was about to go! So with a hurried goodbye, I was on the bus and off I went.