Sunday, November 9, 2014

A day trip to Poland from Prague

With my week in Prague almost complete, I decided to cross the border for the day and visit Poland. Prague is very close to Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia but as Poland was the only one I hadn't been to yet, I decided to hop over there. (Not literally of course)

In the past, I have had some pretty bad border town experiences. A couple of years ago I visited a town in France which borders with Spain. It was a complete dump. All the shops were shut when it was only about 1-2 pm. (None of them looked half decent anyway) Of course I had held out on eating lunch in Spain because I was hoping for an amazing salad and an eclair. 

After walking around for a bit I found a McDonald's"Why have an amazing French salad when you can have a Big Mac", said no one, ever. Already very disappointed, I managed to get sworn at in French because I didn't order my McChicken in a French accent. Well pardon me. 

So after that unfortunate experience of a border town, I was desperately trying to find out about a nice Polish border town. It seems though, that Google did not have many answers. I found a few old forums saying that the drive was horribly boring and I would need to drive a few hours further to see anything nice. I also found lots of suggestions about train journeys, but as I was going by car none of that helped.

Despite this, I decided to go anyway and had an idea of a town I wanted to visit. It is usually a bad idea not to at least have a general destination in mind when driving around. I love finding amazing little places that are off the beaten track, but at the same time it's good to have a back up place in case you never find that. Jelenia Gora was my back up town, which I never actually ended up visiting. I found my little hidden town instead, called Szklarska Poreba.

Don't ask me how to pronounce it, I have no idea and will probably just make a fool out of myself. Szklarska Poreba is on the edge of the Karkonosze National Park, and is a popular ski resort in winter. There is a small fun park place with an awesome looking toboggan run, tree climbing/zip-lining thing and other assorted fun activities. Once I arrived, I got lunch at a nice restaurant in the town where the bill came to around £25/$46 for 5 drinks, 4 meals and two desserts! (It wasn't all for me of course, who do you think I am?) It was so incredibly cheap, and considering just a drink, meal and dessert in London would be at least £25 for the same quality it was a pleasant surprise.

After lunch I wandered around the town for a bit which is very quaint and the surroundings are gorgeous. I then walked around in the forest part of the fun park for a bit, which has an amazing view of the surrounding forests and mountain/hills. The autumn leaves were vibrant shades of orange and yellow. I could have walked around there for hours admiring the view. 

From a practical point of view now, if you are worried about money you don't need to be. The restaurant I went to took credit card and a souvenir shop and a cafe I visited took Czech Korunas. There is no border check as you are passing from EU to EU. If you blink you might even miss the sign with a big PL and not realise you have just crossed into Poland. No one I found in Szklarska Poreba spoke English, however if you have a bit of German it will really help you. The menu I got was in Polish and German, and because I can read a little bit of German I managed to (mostly) translate the menu. The waitress couldn't actually speak German, but at least I could point at what I wanted on the menu. Of course, it would have been ideal to speak a bit of Polish but I managed to get by. It's amazing how well you can communicate just with body language and gestures!

That day in Poland was one of those instances where the internet should not be trusted completely. If I had trusted all those opinions, I would have missed out on visiting Poland and seeing beautiful forests and a quaint little town which was only a 2 hour drive away from Prague. If you have a free day in Prague and want to hire a car, I highly recommend visiting Poland. I really loved the little town I found and although I was only there for a couple of hours, I really felt like I had experienced Poland. Plus, I didn't get sworn at! Although, since I don't know a word of Polish I wouldn't actually know would I...

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