Wearing appropriate footwear is a must. If you see a fellow hiker in a pair of flip-flops, or in case it’s a lady, heels, pass on our sincerest message of disapproval. Slapping is not neccessary. Bring a change of clothing. Weather in the Tatras can switch faster than an alcoholic with a split personality disorder. Cold, wet and windy conditions can lead to hypothermia which can pose serious health risks. If you see a bear sitting at a picnic table, this is clearly a trap. Walk away. Grown adult bears can weigh up to 500kg, climb trees and sprint faster than Olympic gold medallists on steroids. If you plan on attempting to befriend these cuddly, wild creatures, inform your loved ones where you would like your memorial to be held in advance. Also, do not engage in a staring contest to see who will blink first. The only sightseeing you will be doing is seeing you own life, flashing before your eyes.
If you see two adders, common sense should tell you to step away. As civilised as we are as humans, try to conceive how you would react if someone interrupted you and your partner’s private moment! Adders sleep coiled up in warm places and can be found dozing in the middle of the beaten path and on rocks. Should one bite you (and it will, quite happily) the only remedy is to urinate on yourself! Only joking. Stay calm, call an ambulance, go to the hospital. They have cures and such.
Red is broadly considered as a colour associated with danger. As much as this mushroom looks like a one-legged strawberry, any attempts to compare its flavour to the fruit will result in instant hospitalisation. Every mushroom within the Tatra National Park is protected anyway, so if you were to poison yourself by picking one and eating it, you will wake up in your hospital bed with a payable fine of up to … zloty!
In the event of a storm, seek cover. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to charge your phone and as the saying goes, lightning only strikes once. To date, nobody has been able to confirm if they would, in fact, like it to strike them again and again. There is no known antidote for lighting strikes but you may be shocked to discover you suddenly possess superpowers. Get it? Shocked. Ha!
Avalanches are common in the highlands and can occur any time of the year. Best viewed from a safe distance. The TPN has a website and avalanche warnings are clearly displayed during the snowy season. The emergency search and rescue team at TOPR have a really cool rescue helicopter and sniffer dogs, but those are to be utilised in extreme cases only so refrain from burying yourself in snow to catch a free ride down.
No matter how hot the weather, and amount of beers consumed is no excuse here, skinny dipping in the Tatra lakes is strictly forbidden and is punishable by a fine. Needless to say, deep waters carry their own hazards. There may not be any sharks about, but the trouts don’t get many meals at that altitude either. Stay out of the water, just to be on the safe side. Also, hypothermia is one of those niggling things when swimming in cold waters.
Luckily for hikers most trails are stone paved nowadays. They are clearly signposted also. One would think it’s inconceivable that anyone ever gets lost. Well, as it happens, there are some tremendously talented people out there so here are a few rules to follow when out and about.
1) Plan your route in advance. Take a map.
2) Make sure you can read the map and hold it the right way up!
3) Check the weather report. Fog and snow can reduce visability.
4) Do not go off the trail. You’re not Bear Grylls and that guy has a whole team behind him off camera.
5) In the winter, when thick snow covers up trails, try to follow foot-prints left behind by the previous bold explorers. If prints resemble anything other than a boot, you’re following an animal. Just don’t.
6) Bring a supply of food and drink. Do not feed the animals. Watering surrounding greenery is also not neccessary.
7) If you come across a talking bear who wants to charge you 5 zloty for a photo, it’s a person in a costume. Direct them back to Krupowki high street.
8) Your environment will be a minefield of fellow tourists. When striking up a conversation about your rocky destination during a well earned rest, avoid the phrases “with my eyes closed” and “I’ll race you”.
9) Slippery rocks can be a hazard. Unless you are a mountain goat, stick to the trodden paths. If you think you are a mountain goat, you have most probably, inadvisably, consumed a quantity of a classified species of mushroom. Seek medical attention. Or paint something.
10) When hiking with young children, keep them in your sight at all times. If you hear a cry of “You’re not looking” echoing around you and you can’t locate the tearaway immediately, pray they didn’t watch ‘Cliffhanger’ the day before your trip.
The Tatras are home to many species of endangered wildlife. While you may feel it’s your duty to protect them, the golden rule is, if it has teeth, do not pet it. And never cry wolf. The species doesn’t care for sissies and will wait until the full moon to bite unsuspecting passers by just for jokes.