Occupation: travel blogger, writer, filmmaker
Current location/hometown: Toronto, Canada
“…experience the beauty of the Tatra peaks…”
Welcome back. Today we’re joined by one of the first TravelBloggers to ever get nominated for our increasingly popular, and dare we say rather prestigious, ZakopaneGO Q&A sessions. Stefan! Let the people know..
Hi, My name is Stefan and I’m from Toronto, Ontario. You could say my current occupation is travel blogger/writer/filmmaker but before I left to travel the world I was working at a digital marketing firm.
So far I’ve been fortunate enough to visit quite a handful of places in Europe and I’m hoping to visit Asia and South America in the near future. I’ve been to France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Amsterdam, Norway, Ukraine, Poland, Italy, Romania, Bosnia, Hungary and Mexico. I’ve also explored some of the cities near Toronto like Montreal, Hamilton, Ottawa, Quebec City and New York City.
There’s some really good places there already and a nice bucket-list! What motivated you to go out and see the world?
There wasn’t a single thing that I could say motivated me to travel. I was working a fairly straightforward and uninspiring job when my girlfriend suggested we go backpacking through Western Europe. Before that I had only been to Florida with my parents. I couldn’t think of any reason not to go so we booked our tickets and off we went. After spending just a few hours in Paris I knew I was hooked on travel and since 2012 I’ve been on the road.
Now I continue to travel for the freedom it offers and the experiences you get. There’s nothing like seeing or doing something new every day to keep you feeling youthful and energized. I also love learning about different cultures and history and it adds another dimension to be there in person and learn/experience something first-hand.
As a travelblogger, you know how globetrotting can change a person’s life and open them up to new cultures, perspectives and experiences. What made you choose Zakopane as one of your pit-stops?
I chose Zakopane because I was looking for day-trips from Krakow and, of course, the Tatra mountains caught my eye. Being only 2-hours away from Krakow it was the ideal choice to get away from the bustle of the city and into the serenity of nature. There were plenty of bus connections and it seemed pretty straightforward on how to get there and back so I decided to check out Zakopane. Also, just a quick Google image search and I saw how beautiful the mountains there really were and I couldn’t pass up the chance to explore Morskie Oko and stand in the shadow of Mt. Rysy.
You made the right choice! What time of the year did you visit and why?
I was there in the 3rd week of April. I chose to go that late in the spring because I assumed the snow would be melted up at Morskie Oko and there would be fewer tourists because it was still the low season. Well, what a surprise when I got to the top and the lake was still completely frozen over! I would love to visit again sometime in the fall since the cool weather and fall colors would make the trip so much more unique!
Had the same surprise once, reaching the Gasienicowa Valley in early June thinking the same thing. As it happened, I was alone, sunbathing over a frozen lake! There wasn’t even many people at the nearby shelter. Tell us, where did you stay and how would you rate the facilities?
I only spent a day in Zakopane and took the bus back at night. I used Polski Bus and left Krakow at 4AM. I took the 21:00 bus back to Krakow on the same day. I didn’t have too much time left in Poland or else I would have loved to spend a week or two exploring Zakopane and the surrounding area.
Well, for a short stay, it still sounds like you made the most of it! What would be the outstanding moment of your trip?
The highlight of my trip was being one of the first people to enter the Tatra National Park and reaching Morskie Oko 90 minutes later without anyone around. I was there by myself for over an hour and got to truly experience the beauty of the Tatra peaks and the frozen lake. On the way back down it was already streaming with people making their way up to the top so it was a unique experience to be up there on my own without any noise or distractions.
Nice move! What activities would you have liked to see made available to travellers visiting the region?
I only spent one day in Zakopane so I wasn’t able to make much of a detailed observation. I think in the winter there are plenty of winter-based activities but the summer is more for hiking and enjoying nature. It’s one of the most beautiful regions in all of Poland so it’s not so much about the activities you can do but more about making the most of the natural beauty.
In which case, what else could the city improve on to enhance the experience of tourism in the area?
I noticed there was a lack of signs and it wasn’t so easy to find the tourist office for a map. Getting to Morskie Oko isn’t very straightforward either so if there was some information at the bus and train station explaining how that would make it a lot easier for future visitors.
That’s exactly why we’ve started putting together our website, to offer this info to international tourists, including tips and advice to make their stay run smoothly and make it as enjoyable as possible. The city’s promotions office still has a lot of work to do. Your top travel tips for visiting the city/region?
One of my top tips for visiting Zakopane is to try to spend as much time as you can outdoors. The city itself is nice but the beauty of Zakopane lies in the High Tatras mountains. The mountains and numerous hiking trails can be easily reached from the city and whether you’re into skiing, hiking or you just want to relax outdoors there are countless ways you can make the most of the natural beauty that Poland has to offer.
Where’s next on your bucket-list?
Romania! I’m hoping to climb the highest peak in the country and thoroughly explore the Carpathian’s.
Anything else you’d like to share with the readers at ZakopaneGO.com?
Poland is beautiful! The people are friendly and it’s easy to get everywhere in the country. Whether you’re visiting Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk or Zakopane there are quick and affordable connections every day. A lot of people consider Poland to be “Eastern Europe” but it has more of a Central European vibe. Cities like Warsaw and Gdansk are growing quite quickly and I can easily see Krakow becoming the next most popular European destination for backpackers after Prague.
Awesome! Thank you so much for the chat. Thoroughly enjoyed having you join our session and we hope the readers make the most of your tips! Wishing you all the best for your travels and make sure you keep in touch!
You can follow Stefan’s adventures on his blog stefanrtw.com or link him on Twitter @StefanRTW
My Zakopane Post
Zakopane YouTube Video