I remember when I first discovered travel blogs and one of the first was eTramping blog. I didn’t take a close look but assumed it was about tramping (New Zealand’s word for hiking) around the world.
Turns out eTramping founders, Agness and Cez, are budget travellers like myself and didn’t name their blog because of hiking at all. Turns out tramp is also a slang work for being homeless.
Cez and Agness who I’ve since been in touch with off and on, hail from Poland. The country is one of the most overlooked countries in Europe. On my first trip through Europe in 2015, I thought Poland was just a barren country that I’d have to cross to get from Lithuania to the rest of Europe.
That was so far from the truth. I had a blast exploring the parks in Warsaw, catching up with friends in Krakow, hiking in Zakopane and chilling out in Katowice.
I had a chat with them on Skype the other day, and they helped me figure out what a few of my next Polish adventures should be as I head back in that direction during the European summer.
They have a similar budget travel style to me with a popular series on their blog about travelling to different cities for $25/day. A budget I can have a blast on.
Here’s what we came up with.
Go Surfing in Hel
Because that just sounds awesome. As does running around Hel.
Hel is a crazy little peninsula, almost like a large sand bank, in the north of Poland. It reminds me of New Zealand’s Abel Tasman National Park.
But what I’m most interested in is the surfing potential. Cez mentioned it’s probably possible so I have my mind set on that. It isn’t on the popular surfing site Magic Seaweed, but we’ll figure it out.
Either way, given it’s the Baltic Sea, it’s not going to be the warmest of waters but with a peninsula like that, there will be water sports one way or another.
And puns. A hell of a lot of puns.
Waters Sports Around The Lakes District
The lakes district was first mentioned to me by another Polish buddy Aga. The area is in the northeast of the country and turns out there are thousands of lakes there (different sources suggest different numbers). Crazy right?
Many of the lakes are connected with canals, so the obvious activity here is sailing. I can’t say I’ve even been proper sailing with me at the helm, so when I make it here, ideally it’ll be with a friend who knows something about sailing. There’s a 24-hour sailing race held in August here too. Won’t be doing that anytime soon.
The area is more formally known as the Mazury Lakes District. In addition to sailing, there are the usual suspects such as kayaking, windsurfing, waterskiing and even snorkeling. There are a bunch of hikes in the surrounding forest as well. My only concern is a lack of hostels from my quick search on Hostel World. I’d assume camping is the best budget option.
Get Amongst The Ultras & The Hooligans…
Football is the most popular team sport in Poland by far. No surprises there. What was a surprise was hearing that there was a hooligan culture in Polish football. This is where teams are super passionate and form groups based around violence. They are not to be confused with ultra fans, the super passionate fans who have a straight up fun time with songs, signs and fun celebrations at games.
Cez recommended going to one of the traditional rivalry games. Which is a great idea (fingers crossed) in my opinion.
I asked if I should go solo? Would I die from people being jealous of the beard? No, and no.
When I figure out a match to attend, I’ll be heading to one of the local pubs close to the stadium and meet people. Nothing to complex. The best benefit? The new friends I make will definitely have my back.
I didn’t realise football hooligans were so common in football, with lots of hooligans organised into firms worldwide. The hooliganism culture in Poland has subsided with rare events provoking violence in and around the stadiums on game day. If there are any organised fights, it is more likely to be arranged in a remote location between the two teams.
The closer two teams are located to are, the more likely they are to be enemies. Some stadiums have different entrances for guests!
The category of fan, Ultras, I’m hoping to get involved with these guys too. They are super passionate fans, the ones who use flares, sing in sync and use massive banners to show their support, build atmosphere and intimidate the away team. Sounds so fun, and so much positive energy is always a good thing.
Hiking In The Karkonosze Moutains
Every time I speak about Poland, I can’t help but mention Zakopane. The Tatra Mountains might have some competition however with Agness mentioned the Karkonosze Mountains in the southwest has some quality hiking there too.
Karpacz, the mountain resort town which I assume is very similar to Zakopane with the mountains overlooking the town.
At 1603 metres high, Mt Sniezka, is the goal for most. I can do that height reasonably comfortably and will choose one of the six trails that head up there from Karpacz. Of course, all the while exploring the waterfalls and enjoying the crazy landscapes influenced by the ice age.
Continuing To Improve My Swimming in Gdansk
Now that I can at least swim a little bit, I want to keep up the momentum. Cez is from Gdansk and loves swimming, as do many Poles apparently (who would’ve guessed that?). The water in the Baltics isn’t exactly warm but that’s no excuse. I’ll man up (shrivel up?) and float my heart out.
Hmmm, Poland and water sports aren’t two words I’d associate together, but as I reflect on our chat, maybe they should. Myth busters!
Beyond Poland and sport, we chatted about how they have different opinions between themselves on some places, like Vietnam and Amsterdam. The hometown of Agness, Zagan which sounds a lot like my hometown, Waikanae and they convinced me to check out another app, Pepo, which they use to document their journey.
One of the reasons Poland is awesome, is there are heaps of options for transit and accommodation. Then in terms of things to do, Poland has mountains, lakes, forest, and beaches. These factors all combine to create an epic travel destination in my books. I haven’t even mentioned booze and food.