So we’re back from Zakopane, Poland. A very pretty village about two hours away from Krakow. In winter, Zakopane is usually covered in snow. Just imagine one of those white Christmas postcards – that would be close to imagining Zakopane.
Straight to the point – travelling in such cold weather and dire conditions (it barely stopped snowing throughout the few days we spent there) with a two-year old boy is not really our cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong – it still had its beautiful and charming moments, like when you see your kid’s eyes sparkling with joy when snowflakes start falling on his tiny hands, or when you hear that laughter and thrill when you lift him up and throw him in a pile of soft snow …
The cold weather (we’re talking of temperatures as low as -10C (or 14F for our American friends) does not let you wander freely as much as you want to. On the other hand, the accommodation and indoor establishments are very cosy and warm – at times a bit too much. So it’s not uncommon that you find yourself feeling really hot indoors. As you’re wearing multiple layers, scarves, gloves, snowsuits … and of course snow boots, the wearing and undressing yourself and the little one/s can be a bit tiring, especially if you need to do this over and over again. We bought a few thermal vests and pants – which we found extremely comfortable. Apart from keeping you warm, they’re not bulky at all which save you space in the luggage and also let you move freely. We did in fact carry quite a lot of extra clothes for nothing. If I had to go again I would pretty much halve whatever we took with us. In that kind of weather, you don’t show off your middle layers and usually they’re still absolutely clean, so you can wear them again. Make sure that you take with you a waterproof trousers and jacket and a pair of snow boots for you and your little one.
Staying close to the village center is almost a must especially because there is always a risk that the roads get blocked with snow/ice during this time of the year. Luckily we were staying close to the village main streets ourselves as on a particular day taxis were not working (due to lots of snow on the roads and traffic out of Zakopane back to Krakow). The stroller wouldn’t move and so the only way to move around was by sledging our son. This was a thrilling experience for the little one and somewhat fun for us too. (The vast majority of the locals/Polish tourists with kids carried their children on sledges – various types and usually suspended from the floor. Some used big wheel prams. The compact travel type stroller – like the one we had – was not very useful).
There are only limited activities that you can do with toddlers. We had to skip skiing, snow biking, tube sledging. We did manage to enjoy some “steep” sledging but you’re limited. Certainly, there are many ski resorts around Europe and all cater for toddlers and kids differently. I cannot rate Zakopane highly in terms of small kids’ facilities. When we went to Livigno (around 4 years ago), I remember that this other village was geared more than Zakopane for small kids and our then 3 year old nephew had quite a couple of activities where to enjoy himself.
There are a couple of aqua parks and thermal baths in this region. If you’re stuck on what to do or if you want to escape the cold weather, do head to one them as they are worth the trip. We chose Chocholowskie Termy which is apparently one of the best ones and only half an hour by car away from Zakopane. Our son loved it here. Some of the pools are specifically designed for babies and toddlers. They even had a really cute sauna for kids with music, lights and of course water fountains. For the adults, there are a few different pools, all nicely warmed up. The highlight is the outdoor heated pool. It’s a really cool experience swimming in warm water outdoors surrounded by snow and in freezing temperatures. The establishment is equipped with a restaurant and other facilities – so you can easily spend at least half a day there.
The food in Zakopane was great – there are a couple of local dishes which we will remember such as the amazing goulash (stew) with potato pancakes, the red beetroot broth, and the different types of dumplings. Almost everything we ate was delicious and very much tasted homely. Their dishes really go down well in that cold weather. Of particular mention – Bakowo Zohylina Wyznio. The ambience, decor and atmosphere of this restaurant was top-notch. It also had a small live band of musicians wearing traditional clothes and playing Polish music. The food was good too though not the best we had in Zakopane. This restaurant is highly rated on tripadvisor, so you have to book in advance if you want to go there to avoid disappointment.
But the joys of a snow holiday remains the playing with snow! It’s been my own childhood dream to build a snowman. Finally I sculptured one 🙂 It wasn’t easy as the snow was fresh and therefore very soft. But somehow we managed to put it together. Our son helped by making snow balls and sticking them to Mr. Snowman’s fat tummy 🙂 We brought a carrot from home, armed him with twigs and lent him our own scarf and snow cap. For a few minutes Mr. Snowman was our best friend, taking pictures and joking around with him.
Until we meet again, Mr. Snowman!