Polish Christmas in Highlander style
A white Christmas, a newly opened thermal spa, horse sleigh rides and Polish Christmas carols makes Zakopane a great place to usher in the festivities. Aruna Rathod reveals all.
The road to Zakopane is beautiful and it’s a stunning white landscape! Heaps of fresh snow is laden, surprisingly neatly, on the sloping country home roofs and on the branches of trees making it simply beautiful.
As I reach Zakopane, the small town in the South of Poland, which is also home to the majestic Tatra mountains, and lake Morskie Oko and plenty of winter activities I can feel the festivities in the air.
A highlander style hotel
Hotel Aries is impressive, a majestic structure that has been restored. It was built in the 1950s and known as the Dom Turysty (“The Tourist’s House”) in the typical Highlander style with a sloping roof. During restoration, Polish architects Tadeusz Brzoza and Zbigniew Kupiec, decided to explore local traditions tied to the Zakopane Style thus making Dom Turysty into a eye-catching structure with its stylish stone masonry, wooden window decorations and a steep roof. With the Tatra mountains just a few minutes away, it’s a great idea to spend the Christmas this plush hotel and usher the New Year in style.
A real fire-place
A warm welcome awaits me at the reception – stylish and reflective of the Alpine decor with its use of wood, the majestic fire place with a stone wall behind it is alluring. As you enter the lobby has a ski lift from the past adorning the space; a reminder of the tradition of skiiing and winter sports in Zakopane.
Checking in is smooth, and I love my room. Its warm and cosy, an exquisite decor with faux fur bedcovers that lend a warm feel, while the refreshing pastel colours, minimal yet classy artefacts make the room a great place to relax. As I look out of the window, there are icicles on the ledge making a pretty pattern.
Cheerful Christmas fare
It is a good idea to spend Christmas at Hotel Aries as an exclusive Christmas package in this iconic hotel includes a traditional Christmas Eve Dinner, a ceremonial Christmas Breakfast on 25th and 26th ; a concert of Polish and international carols with highland accents (December 25 – during Christmas dinner); Dinner on Boxing Day (December 26). Regional delicacies will be served during the breakfast buffet at the refrshingly designed Halka Restaurant that combines the best of Polish cuisine and local tradition. The interior boasts stylish furnishings, including the hand-carved “parzenice” (patterns in wood) a distinguishing feature of the region’s architecture.
During the festive season, enjoy a real, fragrant Christmas tree that you can help decorate; indulge in a Santa Claus gig for younger guests, carols and highland live music.
As a festive gesture, Hotel Aries has allowed guests to have unlimited access to the wellness area (thermal pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, saunas) and another surprise thrown in – a gift voucher for use in the hotel’s spa – Dr Irena Eris Beauty Partner! The spa is known for its philosophy of holistic beauty, and comprehensive approach to taking care of the body and spirit. The brand not only includes highest quality, innovative, effective and safe luxury cosmetics, but also individually tailored professional care.
What to do in Zakopane
On the outskirts of Zakopane stands a beautiful chapel called the chapel of Jaszczurowka built in the typical local style. Resembling a log cabin it has a stone foundation and a shingled roof. Adorned with wooden handcarved statues of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ and intricately carved frames. The highlight are the stained glass windows. Spend a few moments of peace in the chapel and admire the landscape when you step out.
Kasprowy Wierch is the peak that stands majestic and is accessible by a cable car. The top level offers skiing options during winter and hikes during summer. Just a few kilometres away from Slovenia, this peak has a scenic view of the valleys and peaks around. Relax in the restaurant and indulge in local Polish specialities.
A ride in the horse sleigh – If not for the reindeer, a ride in a horse sleigh is an experience in Zakopane.
The Tatra National Park is a great place to hike, walk or have a meal at the mountain shelter. Enjoy a horse driven sleigh ride, with a blanket on your knees to protect your from the cold wind as the horse trots over the snow.
If you want a drive out in the snow, visit a local cheesmaker and buy some fresh cheese or indulge in some retail therapy at the Krupówki Street
The local market is sheer pleasure. Tiny shops that sells local handicrafts, fur shoes, cheese, cranberry and other fruit preserves and plenty of Christmas decorations.
Thermal baths at Chocholow
For some warmth and water sport, visit the thermal baths at Chocholow. The Chocholowska Baths were opened in June this year. The pools are filled with curative water extracted from the depth of nearly 3600 meters. The healing zone has raw, sulphurous thermal water and a thermal pool with brine iodinated water. Sulphur water has positive effects on skin and circulatory system, it also aids in the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Besides all this the Chocholowska Baths has 30 pools and barrels of different size and specificity, including Poland’s first outside swimming pool filled with thermal water, and the total water surface area is 3000 sq m.