Dzień dobry from Poland! As I’m writing this, I’m eyeing up a piece of sernik ( Polish cheesecake) next to my laptop. Since being here, I’ve become (even more) obsessed with this fluffy, creamy piece of sumptuous perfection on a plate.
I’ll just leave this right here…
For those of you who haven’t heard of Zakopane, it’s a beautiful resort town in Southern Poland at the base of the Tatra Mountains. It’s famous for winter sports, mountain climbing and its Highlander culture.
A couple of months ago, I had a big writing deadline looming – the type where you know late nights and strong coffees are inevitable. I found a super cheap flight (£35 return inc. taxes) to Poland, so decided to have a change of scenery and head to the mountains for fresh air, access to nature and a peaceful environment to focus and work. BEST DECISION EVER.
I spent the first part of my trip in Krakow then headed to Zakopane.
I’m a big fan of using Airbnb so it’s rare that I book my accommodation with a smaller travel company based in the city I’m visiting – but Zakopane was different. I browsed a few different booking sites and noticed several of the listings came up by ‘RakaTravel’. Finding their site directly led me to 15 different properties to choose from and lots of useful information.
I emailed Retha (one of the company founders) with a load of questions about my trip (everything from where to eat to where to get the best spa treatments) and she was super quick to reply. I also told her of my very specific needs for the week I was in Zakopane – a quiet, peaceful spot with excellent WiFi, a good table area to work from, preferably a nice view/balcony and close proximity to town.
Retha suggested a place called ‘Koscieliska 2′ as it ticked all these boxes and she even offered me a better price than the other booking sites.
Here’s what I thought of it:
Check In: Easy – Retha came to meet us, show us around the apartment and stayed to point out useful things such as where a spare HDMI cable was, showed us the local hiking routes, talked us through an information booklet and even gave us a city discount card.
Location: 10 minutes from the centre of town ‘Krupowki Street’ overlooking the mountains.
Style/Design: The apartment was modern with a Polish twist. Think Ikea mixed with folklore. I loved the traditional highlander pictures on the wall and window sill.
WiFi: Super strong and reliable – was able to stream videos with no problems.
The Bedroom: Compact and cute with a wardrobe, comfy low bed, chest of drawers, TV and a balcony area shared by the kitchen/living room.
The Kitchen/Dining/Living Room Area: Spacious with a comfortable sofa bed, 2 armchairs, a dining table and chairs, fully stocked kitchen and TV. I love the Highlander pictures on the wall and cute modern touches.
Bathroom: Simple and clean with shower, sink and toilet. *Note – this is getting upgraded soon.
The thing I loved about staying here was that Retha was on hand to help with any questions or advice about the trip. Something I found really useful was the information about self-guided hiking routes in the room brochure and on the website. We tried the route of ‘Sarnia Skala’ and loved it.
Originally from South Africa, Retha moved to London when she was 18 and spent 12 years there (If only I’d known her then when she was living closer). When her travels took her to Zakopane – she fell in love and knew it was a place she couldn’t leave, so RakaTravel was born.
Originally, Retha and Karolina (the other half of Raka Travel) wanted to start a tour company, but they began managing a few apartments and quickly gained an excellent reputation in this area. That side of the business grew very fast and soon they were managing 15 properties, advising the owners how to decorate the apartments and responding to lots of new enquiries. It’s only now they are returning to the development of tours and trips as they’ve been so busy.
When I asked Retha why she loves her job:
‘It gives us the chance to be out and about, there’s no dulll routine and we get to meet really interesting people from all over the world. It makes us smile when we know we made someone’s holiday a great experience. We always say that people basically work to be able to go on holiday, that’s why it should be as good as it possibly can be and we are happy to be a part of that.
This was the kind of travel encounter where the host goes above and beyond. Being huge fans of cheese, Retha even took us on a countryside drive to see the beautiful views and visit a Shepherd’s cabin in the valley to try some of the delicious ‘Oscypek’. The food in Poland is so delicious that I feel it needs a separate blog post in itself!
If you’re ever in Zakopane and need someone to help arrange activities (everything from hiking to water rafting to husky rides in the winter) or accommodation – I’d highly recommend contacting Retha or Karolina. All their apartments are immaculately clean and modern with traditional Polish homely touches. Thanks Retha for all your help and advice during my trip.
Here are some more pictures of the other properties RakaTravel rent out. To find out more, check out Rakatravel.com
A New Year Treat – Promocode: If you go to Rakatravel.com, you can get up to 15% off bookings with the code ‘LoveZakopane‘ on most of their apartments. Please note the code isn’t valid in winter high season or Polish national holidays and is valid until 31st May 2018. When you click to book an apartment for specific dates, the discount is automatically added to the final amount.
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