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travel in rural south-eastern Poland beginning of September, 2018

Hello, all.

My travel in Poland is less than a month away but I thought I'd throw this out to the RS community none-the-less. I don't believe our travel region is covered much in Rick's Poland book.

At the end of this month (3 weeks away), my husband has a conference in Krakow and I want to show him this lovely part of the world so I'm joining him there shortly after the arrives. Our travel to the countryside southeast of Krakow is scheduled for Sat., Sept. 1 - 4th (we need to be back in Krakow the night of Sept. 4th). We love the typical Rick Steves themes--history, local life, religion, hiking/walking tours. We are very active people in our mid-50s. I'm a former Peace Corps volunteer.

All my ancestors are Carpatho-Rusyn (Lemko) and immigrated to the U.S. from south-eastern Poland. I've been to some of our villages over the many years but last time (2005), I had the benefit of a Polish/Lemko host family who bridged the language divide (I don't speak Polish), provided logistical support, and took me in like a member of their family. It was like a Rick Steves video. This was in the Nowy Saczs/Galicia region, near Krynica and Zakopane and the tiny villages of Kamianna, Losie, Berest, etc.

**(FYI: Lemko people in Poland--"Wem-kee" in Polish--are non-Polish people from Ukrainian ancestry who settled in the Carpathian Mts in Poland hundreds of years ago and developed their own sub-culture. Migration and WWII forced most away but the south of Poland still has traces of our culture.)

ALAS, my former Lemko host family is visiting the US (how ironic) during this time so I have to plan this trip myself. The host family doesn't have any suggestions for lodging in the region and only has the typical travel ideas. (Their online English is limited.) They say there aren't other Lemko-focused hosts or guides like them and I don't doubt that.

I am an experienced traveler and have been in many tough-to-travel places in the world (Middle East, communist eastern Europe in the day). My husband is experienced, too. But given our short time frame and the language barrier (we can only do English and German) I could use some guidance!

If anyone has experience traveling in this region near Krynica in Poland, could you please suggest:

any specific B&Bs or farms to stay in?
can anyone recommend a local guide we could hire for a half or full day? (one with Lemko background would be great but someone good with history and local life would be good; WWII history, too)
any other recommendations for what to see and do beyond the Eastern Catholic/Orthodox wooden churches & spas? I know there are living history style museums. Would also love local events.
any car driving concerns/suggestions?
I apologize for this being a sort of vague and last minute request. I appreciate any help.

Thank you.

Elaine
San Jose, CA

Posted by
525 posts

Elaine, it sounds like you will have a wonderful trip. We were in Zakopane last month for 2 nights. We took the bus from Krakow. There was a bus every 15 minutes! There is construction between Krakow and Zakopane and it took the bus considerably longer than scheduled...I think it was 2 hrs and 45 min with only one stop along the way. It was closer to 2 hours going back. Cars would have had similar issues with the construction, so be prepared.

I would try calling the tourist office in Zakopane. The young woman who helped us spoke excellent English. We bought a detailed hiking map at the tourist office and used that to make our own routes.

If you want to take a crash course in Polish, I used Pimsleur, did 30 lessons and had enough Polish to have a few transactional conversations in Polish. I used Polish quite a bit with fellow (Polish) tourists in Zakopane.

Posted by
10188 posts

Hi,

How about Przemysl? It is connected with the blood awful battles at the opening of the war in 1914 when the Austrians had to take on the invading Russians alone, ie prior to their receiving German reinforcements. (I know you asked about WW2).

Will you have a rental car? Since you're in Krakow too, not too far east of that city is another town connect with WW1, the town of Tarnow because of the offensive in 1915.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you, Fred. Actually, my father used to mention Przemyśl when I asked him where we were from although I haven't found any genealogical connections there. We will consider it.

And I should have mentioned in my original post--yes, we will have a rental car.

Thanks!

Elaine

Posted by
10188 posts

Hi,

You're welcome.

Przemysl is worth it as is Tarnow. Having that rental car will certainly help in seeing the surrounding area, which was all fought over in 1914-15. It was in these horrific battles around Przemysl and Lemberg (now Lviv across the border) with the Russians that the Austrians in the two months of WW1 basically bled to death.

If you intend to focus on south-east or eastern Poland, I would also suggest Lublin if you want a city, a cultural and intellectual center. Obviously, it has quite a different feel to it as a city from those in western Poland, eg, Poznan.

A woman I know living in SF went there last summer, flew SFO to Paris CDG, connected to Warsaw, then spent a week in Lublin exploring, visiting the city. She functioned all right with her Polish at "conversational" level having learned it here. Linguistically, don't expect English at all, except for maybe at the hotel, but not so in her case since she stayed at a small Pension. Knowing French and German didn't help either as she is fluent in both but it all depends on whom you meet. .

The train station was only in Polish, no German or English...signs or announcements.

Posted by
16 posts

Hello Elaine,

If you're going to stay in Krynica and like places which are off the beaten track, you might be interested in Bieszczady mountains. Not very high, but picturesque, with lots of hiking trails.

There's beautiful Solina dam, vast mountain meadows called połoniny, lovely old village Ustrzyki Dolne, Ursa Maior Brewery in Uherce Mineralne village, and, most importantly, lots of scenic hiking trails.

You can find some more information about this region here: https://overhere.eu/the-best-polish-mountains-in-a-nutshell/