3. Trip of a Lifetime.

Our next stop was Zakopane. On our way we stopped at Niedzica Castle, an amazing structure built in the 1300’s. We marveled at what it took to construct this place with the limited tools they must have had. Certainly something we’d never see at home!

Niedzica Castle

Then we approached Zakopane.  I was unprepared for the majesty of this area. The way of life of the Highlanders is simple and beautiful. We watched as the towns people brought their cows home from pasture through the streets. Cars pull off to the side and the cows definitely have the right of way! It was a wonderful sight.

Rush hours. Cows have right the of way!

When we arrived at our hotel, The Redyk, I opened our balcony door and was overwhelmed by what I saw before me. The view was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. It is something which has to be experienced. Words just cannot do it justice.

Zakopane

We took the tram with Zenon to the top of the mountain the next day. Even more spectacular views. Then into town for great shopping, toured the local cemetery, which was one of the most unusual I have ever seen, watched a wedding party go by in horse drawn carriages and enjoyed the singing of a local Gorale group. It was an amazing departure from our typical American lifestyle. If you have the opportunity to go to Zakopane do not hesitate to go. It’s a truly rich and cultural experience.

Zakopane wedding procession
We were then on our way to the city of Krakow. It is a city that doesn’t disappoint. Having never been to Europe I had a picture in my mind of what it would be like. Krakow is definitely that city–winding cobblestone streets, beautifully colored buildings, architecture and art beyond compare, wonderful shops and a terrific town square. We wandered the city with Zenon and had dinner at an outdoor cafe. It was so enjoyable to watch people strolling, listening to musicians and the Trumpeter of Krakow. It is so different from our hectic way of life.

One of the charming streets in Kraków

The next day was bittersweet. It was our last day with Zenon. I truly didn’t want to say goodbye to him. But I knew he had accomplished everything he had set out to do… and more. He even offered to stay one more day just in case there was something else we wanted to see that we had not gotten to. I was teary eyed when we said our goodbyes. I felt as if I were saying goodbye to a friend (or more like an adopted son) that I had known forever. I was elated that this trip had been so successful in what we learned about the family and what we learned about Poland. And so we parted ways, me pledging to come back someday and realizing this is one of THE BEST things I have ever done!

The next few days my husband and I spent roaming Krakow. Taking tours at Wawel Castle, going to Kazimierz and Schindler’s factory (which was very moving) and taking a golf cart tour around the city with a crazy driver named Robert (picture riding in a golf cart with a guy blasting “Who let the dogs out”!!) Wish I had a video of that!

All in all it was a spectacular trip. But, clearly the reason for that is Zenon Znamirowski. He is so accomplished at what he does. He is extremely professional and has a wonderful knowledge of the area and historic facts. The data he gives to you at the end of The Forefather’s Tour is very well organized. I enjoyed his sense of humor and found him to be a very comfortable person with which to travel. So much so that it feels as if he becomes part of your family! And he always has his guests interests at heart. It seems his greatest joy is seeing the joy and smiles on YOUR face. If anyone is contemplating Your Forefather’s Tour you will not be disappointed. I don’t think you will find a better person as your guide. Zenon without doubt exceeded my expectations. Thanks to him this has truly been a trip of a lifetime!

Michelle Piech Hickok
USA

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