My first stop in Poland this time was Zakopane, a big tourist magnet in the area. The place was chock full with tourists and I felt like in a zoo! A real culture shock after walking alone for a month. Stalls in the streets were selling all kinds of tourists - and the local specialty: smoked cheese! How this cheese kept in the summer heat without any refrigeration is a bit of a mystery to me ... I was in shopping heaven when I discovered that a brand new Lidl market had just opened in town and this is of course where I did my resupply!
For my Zakopane was an important resupply shop. Because the town is so popular with hikers I had of huge choice of outdoor shops where I bought new shoes and socks. And I took a guided city tour and learnt about the local culture. Unfortunately Zakopane fame spreads wide into the country side and the next day I was almost completely walking on concrete passing countless ski lifts, parking lots and hordes of tourists.
And this being catholic Poland the Pope was everywhere! Big advantage for hikers: I could always seek shelter in a church when it started to rain - and it rained quite a lot at that time. In fact one day the forecast was so horrible that I decided to take a spontaneous rest day in Szczawnica. Luckily I could secure an affordable hotel room via booking.com and I could even check in at 10 am already instead of waiting outside in the rain! Szczawnica is another popular spa town but taking the waters here was rather expensive as was the entrance fee to the two tiny little town museums. But there was not much else to do in the rain ... I was relieved that next morning the rain had stopped and I could hike on as planned. Logging activities made hiking difficult though: A lot of trails were completely destroyed by heavy vehicles - and three times the E3 route was officially closed but no detour was signposted. I just walked through: Twice the warning signs were outdated and one time I surprised some wood cutters who were not too happy about my appeareance but let me pass through.
Generally there was a lot going on in these Polish forests which made wild camping not as peaceful as normal. When I had set up camp close to this wonderful view a big hiking group passed by. At night wild pigs were noisily roaming around the forest and next morning I was woken up by tractor noise. But no one discovered me .... Last town stop in Poland was Krynica Zdroj, another spa town. I must admit that I loved all that spas and taking the waters which again was rather expensive here but a good way to spend my last zloty before returning to Slovakia for a second time.