Saturday, July 11, 2020

Lake Life

Krakow is hot, but not miserably so. We seem to fluctuate between weeks that have highs near 30 degrees Celsius (around 86 degrees Fahrenheit), and cooler weeks that are in the low twenties (around 70 degrees F) and have intermittent thunderstorms. The heat isn't too much, but the humidity is worse than what I'm used to. Similarly to Seattle, many people live without air conditioning but our apartment does have some sort of central air system, even though we haven't quite figured out how to use it yet.

Looking at a map, it seems like Krakow is well situated for traditional summer fun. The Vistula River runs through the city, plus there are a smattering of lakes that are within easy walking/biking/bussing access. Disappointingly, most of these water ways do not allow bathers. 

The river is quite brown in the summer, due to regular thunderstorms and flooding. Also, it's known for being polluted, which is the main reason for the "no swimming" signs. Nonetheless, as Coronavirus restrictions lift and more families start enjoying their summer holidays, more and more people are out on the river in rented kayaks and on stand up paddle boards. A few times I've also caught sight of some crew teams out for early morning trainings. 

My favorite water spot is the quarry lake, Zakrzowek. I've already raved about this lake before, but it is really beautiful: the water is blue and clear, and it's surrounded by steep quarry cliffs. When you first happen upon it, it seems like you've stumbled upon a hidden secret. Normally, this is a swimmable lake, but sadly not this year as it is closed for renovation to secure the rock walls with mesh and to build up formal bathing facilities. From what I've seen and read, this used to be Krakow's secret "Little Croatia," but if the city is investing money into renovations, I doubt it will stay a secret much longer.

 I also doubt that the nickname "Little Croatia" is one that is popularly used, since I just read that part of Bagry Lake (sometimes called Bagry Lagoon) is doing renovations as well and the eastern part of the lake will be called "Park Little Croatia." Cameron and I have done a run/bike ride to this lake, and it was nicely set up so that most of the lake was surrounded by reeds and fishermen, but a section of the lake was very clearly laid out as a bathing beach. Even here, though, I was seeing "no swimming" signs posted. Perhaps that's because of the nearby construction on Park Little Croatia, or maybe I just don't know how to interpret the posted signs because when I search for "swimming areas in Krakow" this lake always pops up as an option.

In those searches, Kryspin√≥w kept coming up as a favorite swimming spot for Krakowians, so last weekend Cameron and I set out on a sheep dogging adventure. The lake (also sometimes referred to as a lagoon) is about 10km due west of downtown Krakow, but we took a bit of a round-about route through the Wolski Forest to get there. It was a hot day, and even though we left the house at 9:30, I was very sweaty after 1.5 hours of biking. The last kilometers were on unshaded asphalt near the airport, and was a relatively uninspiring stretch of road, but it seemed quite suddenly we turned off onto a sandy dirt road. We passed by someone walking barefoot, and then a small paid parking lot. Then, after half a kilometer or so we saw the beautiful blue lake. It looked like a real treat for two sweaty people. 

The bumpy dirt road continued to wind above the lake, and it seemed like a relatively steep drop to get down to the water. Nonetheless, we saw quite a few naked men climbing up and down the hillside. We elected to continue along a little further, until we hit a second small parking lot. I locked my bike shortly after that and we walked to a small sandy beach, already filled with families lounging and splashing. We found a small shady space to lay down our beach towel (carried along in my backpack) and made haste to get into the water. It was so refreshing! 

The water was cool enough that I hesitated to fully emerge myself, but once I was in I never got cold. The lake bottom was sandy, there weren't any sneaky water plants, and the water was pretty clear for a lake. As we swam into the middle of the lake we could see our little beach was one of many, and on the far side were a few really large, very full beaches. There were a few motor boats on the water, even more rented paddle boats, and even a few sailboats and windsurfers, but they were mostly on the far end of the lake. We swam on the perimeter of the lake for about 30 minutes, and popped back on shore to check out a little snack cabana. Turns out that beach was a paid beach but accessing it via the water is a sneaky way to bypass that fee. 

Eventually, after snacking and loafing at our beach towel, we convinced ourself to head back before it got too miserably hot. It was about 13:00 by the time we left and our little beach had probably doubled in attendance. We returned home on a different route and passed by one of the bigger beaches on the far end and it was packed! Based on the surrounding traffic, people were probably waiting in their cars for close to an hour to find parking only to end up on a far end of the beach where it would be impossible to stay the mandatory 2 meters away from others. It actually made me happy to be on my bike!

Some SUPers on the Vistula River. You can tell this photo was taken a few month ago because that hot air balloon in the background popped recently in a big wind storm.

Some morning mist on the Vistula. 

Zakrzowek- the far end is what is typically the bathing area.

Cameron inside the fence surrounding the quarry cliffs. 

Some hammocks surrounding Bagry Lake. 

The beach at Bagry Lake; again, this photo was taken a few weeks ago, before true summer weather kicked in. 

The more lagoon-like lake right next to Bagry Lake. 

Dirt path on the way to Kryspin√≥w. You can barely see the man infront of Cameron, but that's the barefoot guy. 

We arrived around 11:00; the beach we laid down at already felt full to me. 

Cameron with his hands up in the deep water. 

This was our beach when we left about two hours later- definitely a bit busier. 

This was the super crowded beach on the far end of the lake that we passed on our way home. 

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