View from Czantoria

Travel from Warsaw to Ustroń Polana
A Spring Break of Quiet Solitude
~$150 for 2-3 days

Usually about the time spring break comes around in the US, I am ready for a week off class. I like to spend this time in some remote region where the sound of a car driving by is unlikely at any hour. This helps me get rejuvenated and catch up on readings and writings for myself, rather than having to focus on the readings and writings that graduate courses demand daily.

This spring break was no different for me in Poland. I was made aware that spring break, coinciding with Easter, meant that for two days — Easter Sunday and the Monday after — everything would be shut down, including train lines. I thus decided to make sure I planned my trip to leave Saturday and arrive to my location on the same day.

Finding peace at Ustron Wisla

I decided to head to Ustroń Polana in the Silesian Beskid Mountains (Beskid Śląski in Polish) in an area known as Silesia (Śląsk in Polish) in south-western Poland. It is not a particularly popular tourist area. It is surrounded by mountains and has a small population. It was thus my ideal spot for enjoying quiet time, nature, and hiking.

I was not disappointed: For three days, I enjoyed the Beskida Mountains and its many trails. I climbed to the top of Czantoria Wielka — one of the highest mountains in the Beskida range and found a post, marking the border between Poland and the Czech Republic. In fact, the very top of the mountain is where Poland and the Czech Republic meet, with Slovakia a bit of a further distance away. There is a tower located at the very top, which costs 5 zlote to enter, and after climbing to the top of the tower, one can take amazing photos of the landscape below.

Due to everything being closed on Sunday and Monday, I made sure to go to Ustroń Polana’s small grocery store (which is right across the street from the train station and cannot be missed) after arriving. I did manage to strike up a conversation with some locals on a hike, however (via my atrocious Polish, as English is a rare thing in an area like Ustron). I found out some local secrets – like that anyone who visits Ustroń Polana should eat at Karczma Góralska, which serves Goral cuisine (the Gorals, whose name means “highlanders” are an ethnographic group native to Southern Poland). Additionally, I was informed that there were Goral-style rooms for rent at a place called Karczma Góralska Jaszowianka. That hotel also organizes tours and trips in the mountains for visitors. Again, though, none of these things have service in English.

Staircase to the outlook at Ustron

There is no hostel in Ustroń Polana, but there are a few hotels. Most are connected in some way to one of the many health resorts (apparently Ustroń is one of the top health resort towns in Poland) but the one that locals seemed to think was the best deal for foreigners is Hotel Wilga, as they apparently have staff that speaks English and very comfortable rooms.

In terms of budgeting as a student, a round trip train ticket to Ustron from Warsaw and back is about 130 zlote (about 33 USD roundtrip). If you are a student under age 26, however, then it is about 60-65 zlote (about 15 USD). I would probably bring about 300 zlote (about 75 USD) to spend on souvenirs, eating at a restaurant, and buying food at the local grocery store. If you wanted a hotel, that would run you about $75 for two nights, however, I found an excellent deal through Airbnb, and stayed at a house on a hill for about 10 USD a night. I also had the entire place to myself, so it really provided the isolated environment I was needing.

I came back from my experience refreshed and a bit more caught up on personal projects. Such travel is obviously not for everyone. However, if you like nature and/or solitude, I definitely recommend spending a couple of days in Ustroń Polana.

Rebekah Switala

Rebekah Switala

Rebekah Switala is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. She is working on her Master’s degree in Central and East European Studies with specialization in women and gender. She received her BA from Western Michigan University in 2011, graduating magna cum laude, after which time she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a women’s rights organization in North Moldova. She is studying Polish in Warsaw and is undertaking an internship at Political Critique there. She intends on pursuing a Ph.D. after completing her Master’s.

Rebekah is attending Security and Society
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