A Travellerspoint blog

Tatra Mountains, Poland - sense of wonder still intact

Part I

I'm going to start this post about my 3 day hiking trip to the Tatra Mountains with a conclusion: I feel like it was the most epic thing I have done since my trip to the States in 2012. I have been to many places since then, flying solo or with company and I've had some great times, but one key element was missing all the time. And that was the ability to be completely overwhelmed, to be filled with absolute inner peace and to mentally embrace all the challenges in my life ahead with a stoic resilience. I guess I might have reached some state of mindfulness. It's unbelievable how amongst an insane state of physical exhaustion, my spirit was flying high in the sky. And I just kept going, going, going, feeling all and everything at the same time.


Back to the start of the trip, I have decided to do it when I returned from Portugal in early September, hoping to explore that part of Poland before the winter. I hadn't been really impressed with any type of landscape here in Poland so far and I was curious to see the Morskie Oko lake and the mountains around. Heard only good things and had seen amazing pictures. I also wanted to do it alone because I believe this kind of trip is more transcendent if we are alone.

I also decided to do this trip in the cheapest way possible. I didn't want comfort or shortcuts, I wanted to endure it fully and completely, trying to be as close to a simple life as possible. In most of my previous trips, I often made choices based on comfort and never stuck to the budget. This time I wanted it to be different, with no easy way out. And so it was.

Sunday the 25th. I left Warsaw at 4pm on a crowded bus towards Zakopane which would arrive there at 11pm. For practical reasons, I had planned to sleep the first night in a hostel in the city and move to the mountain shelter located in Dolina Chocholowska in the early hours of Monday. I have to say that when I sat on the bus and realized I would spend the next 7 hours stuck there I wasn't really excited. My mind was full of noise, full of sadness and I started to wonder if I actually wanted to go on this trip, if I really wanted to be alone for the next 3 days and a half in the middle of nowhere. But quitting would have been too easy and I was determined to fight all those negative impulses which normally happen when our spirit is down and we are about to face an unknown reality. Then the bus took off, there was no coming back anyway! The trip was normal, nothing special to add except for the fact that the AC was right on top of me and blowing really cold air which almost got me sick in my throat. It didn't really help my overall mood to spend 7hours fearing I would get sick even before arriving and there was nothing I could do about it, stuck in a totally packed bus. Luckily I managed to not get sick!!!

As soon as most of people dropped off in Krakow and the bus got almost empty, that's when I started to feel excited! Night had fallen and now I felt I was going to the unknown, I was about to start exploring. There was no safe place to go to and there was no familiar faces to find refuge with, I was on my own and for the first time in this trip, I felt lighter, I felt in touch with life, right there. I had been missing that sensation. I couple of hours later the bus arrived to the main station in Zakopane. I put my backpack on my shoulders and walked to the hostel where I would be staying in a 10 bed dorm. The girl at reception was very friendly and gave me some tips about the trails I should do and other practical information for the next morning. I took a shower and went to bed as I wanted to wake up at 6.30am on the next day. That's when the first magic moment happened. I don't know how to properly explain it but I remember to be trying to sleep and realize there was a lot of noise in my head which suddenly stopped to give space to the most peaceful silence I could imagine in that room, where 5 other people were sleeping. I opened my eyes and I couldn't hear anything, no sound whatsoever. The amazing thing is that I just noticed there was noise in my head when the silence appeared. It was just beautiful, one of those moments you won't forget.


Monday the 26th. The day started with a quick breakfast in the hostel at 7am before heading to the mini buses are located right next to the train station. The sun was starting to timidly show up in between the clouds and there was almost no one on the streets. Luckily I didn’t have to wait much for the bus and in a second there I was already on the way to Siwa Polana, the entrance point in the Tatra National Park closest to the mountain shelter I was staying in Glade Chocholowska. I knew that as soon as the bus would stop, I would need to walk for about two hours to reach the shelter and was with that sense of purpose that I started walking, with my two backpacks (a smaller one filled mostly with food to carry to the mountains). By this time, the sun was already glowing and those early morning rays were blissful and flooded me with energy. The way to the shelter was quite easy in a paved road which was accompanied by a beautiful water stream.

It was also very peaceful at that time of the day, only a few people walking the opposite direction to probably catch a bus to other valleys. I was very excited at this time, as I started to be surrounded by beautiful nature and I didn’t know what was ahead, I just knew I needed to keep walking.
I managed to make the way in less than two hours but I was drenched in sweat when I finally arrived to the shelter. I climbed the last steps, stopped at the entrance, threw my bags on the floor and started taking off my clothes to cool off. Then I took and moment to enjoy all the beauty around me and was so happy to realize I’d stay in this idyllic place for two nights! I was really amped up and barely couldn’t wait to start exploring the trails! I wanted to go up the mountain, I wanted to go high and marvel with all the promised beauty in front of my eyes. I couldn’t check in yet, so I asked for a map with the trails and sat in the breakfast room putting coffee in my canteen and planning which trails I would do and counting the hours needed to see if I would be able to finish it before nightfall.


I decided to do the green trail all the way to Wolowiec (2064m) and then return passing by Rakon (1879m) and Grzes (1653m), using the blue and yellow trails to get back to the shelter. All in all, would take me around 5 hours of walking so it seemed doable for a first day, I didn’t know how the trails would be and how tired I would get. I left at exactly 10.30am, fully equipped.


to be continued.... (maybe!)

Posted by ZackMeursault 12:29 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

5 October

Some years ago I discovered Bonnie Prince Billy. At that time it didn't touch me, somehow.

In the past days, the name of one of his albuns has been echoing in my head in unceasingly. So I listened to a song from it on Youtube today in the morning. When it ended, autoplay brought me this gem I'm posting here now and my day changed forever.

These two songs knocked me down completely, the ground fled from my feet and left me so stunned while beholding all the darkness around me. But at the same time, there is some kind of helpless hopefulness in them that radiates so much beauty and peacefulness which comforted me deeply and brought me back to safe ground again.

That's what music is to me. That's how much it means to me.

Posted by ZackMeursault 14:08 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Clash of civilizations. A few thoughts.

Those of you of live or have been in Warsaw know how busy is the main train station (Dw. Centralny), right in the center of the city. Thousands and thousands of people walking in and from the trains, in and from work or in and from the shopping center nearby. In a way, such scenario represents the pinnacle of the western world, our western lifestyle.

As I walked through there today, with yet another shocking terrorist attack in mind, I couldn't avoid to think: What if some terrorist attack would happen, right now, right here? What would I do? What could I do? And I looked around, searched for potential exits and looked at the people, kind of trying to exercise my eyes and train them to detect potential threats. And I realized that it's all random, that if something were to happen, I would just either be lucky or die. There's is literally nothing I can do to be safer or to protect myself from being killed in a terrorist attack.

So i started thinking if all those scary things we watch almost daily now on TV happening in Europe are instilling fear in me. As I don't know what it means to live in fear, I couldn't really answer that so my thoughts flew towards a wider perspective that compelled me to write here.

Most of us probably grew up in a war free society. We grew up watching the world change through a TV screen. We were observers of a reality that seemed so far, almost unreal. And we never really connected with it, we'd just move on with our lives, enjoying our amazing and peaceful European lives. We heard tales or visited monuments and museums about world wars, about terrible dictators trying to conquer the entire continent, holocaust. It all seemed terrible, shocking and unreal at the same time. We were almost sure it would never happen again. The end of the Cold War and all the advances made in our western civilization even gave the very naive idea that we were living the end of history (Fukuyama, anyone?). That we, as a society, have reached the last stage of our evolution and all would be smooth sailing from then on.

How ridiculous does that sound now?

The clash of civilizations has been a constant throughout History. And that's what we are living right now. It's here and it's going to get much worse before it gets better. It won't be just on TV anymore. It's not going to affect just the distant people in the Middle East. It's gonna affect, it is already affecting our communities, our neighbours, our own families . But we, as a society, are in some kind of unrealistic state of denial and numbness that it's frightning. I see France being crushed by terrifying attacks on it's own people, on it's own values, our values and all I see is Hollande saying how sorry he feels for the victims and that we'll stand strong and united against terrorism. And Germany, how is the most powerful country in Europe handling this? I don't really know. And they keep stricking us, right in the heart of what make us europeans, right in the core of our values and beliefs.

Let me be very clear. For me this is not about religion. i respect everyone, from all faiths. It's about a group of terrorists, who use religion as an igniter, that needs to be dismantled. It's fucking war, a whole new kind of war, that will be fought not only far away but also in our own neighbourhoods, in our own streets . However, Europe has been the champion of peace, human rights and all that shit, so no one is able to get dirty and just do something about it, we are once again waiting for the so called "police of the world" (USA) to come and do something about it. And then we can blame them for not respecting the Geneva Convention or for just having their own interests in mind.

And to me, that's just unacceptable. Combine an overall numbness of the people (who have lived their entire lives in peace) with the hypocrisy of european politics and you have the perfect ingredients for a nightmare, for a story with a terrible ending.

We can talk about values, about love and respect, but we passed that phase already. Now it's time to fight for survival, to ensure that our values and beliefs (whichever they are, that's another topic) overcome the heinous attack they are suffering. It's time for leaders to show up and guide us. And frankly, I don't see anyone in Europe doing that.

So please, let's all fucking wake up. Seriously.

Posted by ZackMeursault 10:36 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

6 months in Poland - disruption. disruption. disruption.


Yesterday marked the passage of my first 6 months here in Poland. Ever since I arrived, I started having one recurring thought while riding the bus. Very often, I would look to the people around me or to the names of the bus stops and be struck by the paradoxal sensation of feeling completely alienated from this reality, feeling totally different from the people around me but at the same time being stunned by the fact that Warsaw was now my home and increasingly very familiar. As if I was somehow in between two dimensions, two realities. I was (and still am) the same self, yet my reality, my reference points completely shifted in a matter of weeks. It's like one day you are living a certain life and in the next you wake up, your life is completely different and yet, you still perceive everything as normal, as if that has always been your life, your reality. I dunno about other people, but to me it is a very fascinating feeling to have and it makes me wonder a lot. People often talk about reincarnation, about past lives and what they were or wish to be in different lives. Lately I have been thinking about the possibility of reincarnation within our own (and only, i'm sorry to say) physical existence.

But how can we do that?

I think the answer lies in two fundamental pillars: the notion of time (and how can we stretch it) as well as the notion of change, in the sense of a complete disruption of our reference points (what is usually described as leaving the comfort zone).


Ever since I turned 30 (http://1dream1000ways.travellerspoint.com/72/) that I became more and more aware of the importance of time. As a person that is interested in too many things and wants to absorb as much knowledge and experiences as possible from life, I realized that while one can't live and learn everything, one must lead a complete life, living it as fully and intensively as humanly possible. So I started trying to find ways to stretch my own notion of time, as it's obviously not possible to strech time itself. So gradually I found out that the more my days are occupied, the longer they seem. But here's the trick: it's not about being occupied only with tasks we don't like or being completely absorbed by things that don't motivate us. It's also not about only being occupied with leisurely tasks and activities. If we spend all the time just enjoying life, we tend to not appreciate those things so much after a while. On the other hand, if we spend all the time doing things only because we have to (work, groceries, cleaning, whatever....), we will tend to become more and more dissatisfied with our life.

The trick is to embrace all of that with passion, with a sentiment of purpose and commitment. Is to never give in to our tired body or let laziness rule our lives. How often we hear people complaining that they are so tired after work that they just want to lay in the couch? Or how people tend to sleep many more hours than actually needed, just because it's comfortable and cozy to be in bed? Or how often people cancel something just because they are slightly sick or not feeling so well, although it's nothing serious or life theatening? We must not let those external circumstances take control of our lives.

In 6 months here, I feel like I haven't stopped. I've been sick, I've been worried about my health, sometimes physically exhausted. But I haven't stopped doing things and I feel I have done a lot. I never searched for the most comfortable option in all my decisions. It might sound clinically insane, but there is so much beauty in enduring, in walking close to the edge of our own limits.

That's why I look back in my life and I don't feel it's passing too fast. I also don't feel it's passing slow. I feel like life is happening at its own natural pace and I'm embracing as much of it as I can, thus stretching my own notion of time.


I think that something is wrong when people look back in their lives and say it's passing too fast. If we look back and can't clearly separate different moments, if it's all mixed in one gigantic amalgam of undifferentiated moments, we're doing something wrong. I learned by my own experience that if we periodically disrupt something in our lives, it will help to stretch our notion of time. I prefer to use the word disrupt rather than change, because I like the drastic vibe the word implies. I think that's the key element, the necessity of a drastic alteration of some part of our life, if not everything at the same time.

But that's precisely the problem, I guess. In our day and age, we are induced (if not forced) by everything and everyone around us to search for comfort. It became an underlying element of existence. In our decadent and materialistic society, the search for comfort became the Holy Grail of everyone's life. Therefore, the value of comfort became very high and it's present in almost all of our decisions, making it very difficult for people to leave the so called "comfort zone", not to mention that the search for comfort itself is a source of great frustration for most people. If we combine that with another human weakness, the "fear of the unknown", we have the perfect conditions for people never leave the comfortable routines they create and they so mechanically and blindly abide.

But I believe that, however deranged it may sound, if we control that almost unbearable fear and deliberately disrupt our life, the outcome of that will be very rewarding in a spiritual way and will help us lead a happy and seemingly longer, more fulfilled life.

By disrupting life, I mean every things that produces a change in our "normal life". It can be as simple as choosing a different road on the way to work or ride a bike rather than going by bus. It can be also meeting different people rather than sitting on the same bar with the same people every weekend. Or it can be quiting your job and go travel the world. It's up to each one of us to decide and act according to our own reality. And there is so much magic in that.

When we disrupt life, we create landmarks, we turn normality upside down and that event becomes engraved in our memories. We create a before and an after, we stretch life. If there is not disruption, there is only continuity. And continuity is boring. It's safe, but boring.

I know all of this sounds quite obvious and easy. But is it really? :)

I guess that's all I have to say about my 6 months in Poland! :) I actually wanted to analyze the society and the upcoming challenges here, my own integration and perspectives about the city itself, but I got lost in my thoughts once again!

Here's to another 6 months!

Posted by ZackMeursault 05:36 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Here and now.

The morning outside couldn't be more grim. As I lean my head against the window, drops of rain hit it gently but persistently. One mere centimeter of glass separates me from them and gives me that comforting notion of safety and warmth. The bus travels steady, mile after mile, but somehow it feels that the plain fields of Poland outside are sliding in front of my sleepy eyes and I'm motionless, watching the world spin and wondering, always wondering.

They say we perceive Nature according to our state of mind. Mother Nature is always magnificent but the same view impacts us differently depending on our mood. I totally agree. Listening to Sun Kil Moon's "Salvador Sanchez" while typing and facing the gray skies above the timidly green landscape I couldn't feel more in touch with this scenario, different but so familiar. Afterall, I've been spending countless hours staring at the window inside cars, planes, buses or trains over the past decade. Often alone but never lonely.

My ipod is in shuffle, as always. It keeps surprising me and each song is a trip to some memory, some moment, some feeling or all of them combined. Now it took me far far away down memory lane with "Today" from the mighty Smashing Pumpkins. Too much to write about this song and this band but I'll just point out the irony in the lyrics opposed to the cheerful tone of the song. The mass of people don't realize it's a song about contemplating suicide while singing out loud "today is the greatest day I've ever known, can't wait for tomorrow, tomorrow's much too long". This reminds me of a night in Porto when I was in a Peter Hook (from Joy Division) concert circa 2009 or 2010 and everyone was singing in unison "Love will tear us apart" with a smile and their faces covered with ignorant happiness. At the time, I thought of Ian Curtis, the iconic leader of Joy Division who suicided in 1980, and how he was probably revolving in his grave, seeing people being complete unaware of the depth and emotional weight of his lyrics and music. I'm probably sounding pretentious but I swear I'm not. I just have the utmost respect for music and artists that genuinely create and express themselves, allowing us to enter their worlds. It's a gift for us, normal people, to have the chance to penetrate the mind of a genius and most people just don't take that chance, they just focus on the surface and don't dig deeper.

Some more songs played but I didn't noticed them until this one: "Yasmin the light" from Explosions in Sky. The song has no lyrics so I will also not write about it. If you are still reading this, go and listen to it, I'll let you discover it and perhaps you'll be transported to some realm of beauty. That's where my mind is right now, flying high with all the wonderfulness of this world.

"Change" from Blind Melon. Shannon Hoon. Another fallen charismatic soul in 1995. This simple song says a lot and everyone should listen to it and never forget the lyrics.

Okay, I have still like 5h to go so I can't continue sharing all the songs I'm listening. I don't want to bore people to death. :) I just noticed that I wanted to write about other stuff but one song completely shifted my line of thought towards another direction. I wrote and wrote but many paragraphs later I'm still at the starting point.

So where were we? Outside I see the same grey sky and endless fields. Nothing seemed to have changed but I'm closer. Closer to Berlin. Yes, Berlin again. My third home. Berlin is special, everyone knows that. But I like to think that Berlin is special just to me, a secret that must be whispered only into the ears of those who are ready to fully understand the magic of that city, beyond all the hype that it attracted in the past years.

I'll be in Berlin for only 24h. Will spend a total of 16h travelling from and to Warsaw. What for? To see A Place to Bury Strangers. Yes, I wrote about them when I arrived in Warsaw. Over the past 3 years they became like some sort of sonic drug to me and later today I'm gonna get my dose. The year is 2016 but I feel like I'm a teenager going to his first gig. It's so good to keep such feelings inside us while seeing years float by.

This is what music means to me. A constant search for those moments of perfection. I put no limits or boundaries in that endless quest. I never get tired nor I will ever get too old to pursue and reach the absolute majesty of a live concert. Music will exist without me but I cannot exist without music. (I know, kind of a cheesy cliché). :)

The day is gray but I couldn't be happier. I have been refraining myself from writing here about my last couple of months for several reasons. But I think the most important is that I don't want to sound like I'm bragging about my life or trying to convince others that all worked out in order to prove some kind of point.

Also, my limited literary skills don't allow me to adequately express the vast range of experiences and emotions that have invaded my being since I moved to Warsaw. I prefer instead to let them just happen and exist in me, without the need to share it with the wider world.

I feel complete. And I wish that for everyone on this planet of ours. A vertical approach to life, trying to limit our egos and selfishness. Embracing the others with nothing but pure intentions. A constant search for the things that make us sparkle. Never surrendering, never giving up. And last but not least, always remembering that we all die eventually and the key to a happy life is to focus on the little things, the little pleasures rather than in the big scheme of things.

Life is here, RIGHT NOW. Don't miss it. There is no second chance. (The obvious clichés continue).

The sun slowly starts to show up but I need to end this post with a reference to Pavement's "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain". This album is a masterpiece. A classic 90s sound. Songs like "Elevate me later", "Silence Kit" and "Gold Soundz" will certainly make you feel like jumping like a teenager in pure ecstasy and maybe remember those simpler times without smartphones in concerts where people would gather in front of a stage to be part of a unique and fleeting experience. I guess that back then people were aware of the urgency of the moment and lived it intensively. That's so gone nowadays and few people actually seem to notice it and abide by the unwritten rule that says that the only thing that is real is the present moment. An endless roller coaster of moments. Happening. Gone. Happening. Gone. Happening. Gone....

I'm gone for now as well. Love to all.

PS. The irony of this is that I'm writing these words on a smartphone. ;)

Posted by ZackMeursault 02:43 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

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