The face of knight with a remarkable chin, almost "hugable" from the mysterious sounding Caterpillar Black Pond - especially when frozen in winter - to just simply awesome from a little further afar. The Tatra Mountains are Poland's - and Slovakia's - pride, ski zone and hiking Valhalla.

The Tatras seen from the Polish Pieniny mountain range, further north.

Hiking or a cable ride up high
As the highest peaks of the Carpathians, the trails through most of Poland's Tatra National Park are relatively easy to do. True, for the diehards there are real challenges ahead if one aims for the higher peaks such as Rysy, Świnica or Gerlach, but at the same time one can take a comfortable cable ride up to Kasprowy Wierch which brings you to more than 1,900 metres ASL and can be good starting point to discover more. Gerlach (2,655) is the highest one, and like many of the other highest peaks of the Western Tatras entirely located in Slovakia. Rysy (2,500) is the highest on the Polish side. Make no mistake, even the lower Gods of the Eastern Tatras, such as the "knight" Giewont (1,894) can be extremely tricky to climb for the untrained adventurer.

Hala Gąsienicowa Rówienki, near the Schronisko Murowaniec, in winter 2021

Hala Gąsienicowa Rówienki, near the Schronisko Murowaniec. Roughly the same spot as the last photo, but now taken mid-April 2024.

Great-food shelters on the way
The great thing about mountain peaks in Poland and Slovakia, they typically come with great places to eat and spend the night (if booked way in advance). These shelters are called "schronisko" in Polish and are often located in the valleys or near the mountain tops. Kasprowy Wierch has the highest located restaurant (no shelter) of Poland.
A farmer on the roll in Łapszanka.
A farmer on the roll in Łapszanka.
The typical way of drying hay in the rural areas of the Tatras. Here seen in Olszówka.
The typical way of drying hay in the rural areas of the Tatras. Here seen in Olszówka.
The Tatra mountains come with their own people: the Gorals (Górale in Polish, Gorali in Slovakian). These highlanders are known to be very straigth-forward and honest in their communication, have their own phrases, sounds, dances and music. They typically enjoy life to its best, and weddings tend to last two to three days in the mountain regions, with the second day the party often in the local firestation - as it is sometimes the only place in the villages with a bigger room to house many guests.
Visiting the Tatras
The Tatras are an adventure in all seasons. Due note that if you'd like to bring your dog, your pawed companion is only allowed to enter the Slovakian side of the National Park.
As I just start processing the photos of my many visits to the Tatras, do come back more often. The small collection below is just the beginning. Underneath the quartet of photos below, special series of my "expeditions" into the Tatras will show.
Almost hugable mountains, from the bank of Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy (Caterpillar Black Pond)
Almost hugable mountains, from the bank of Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy (Caterpillar Black Pond)
Summer fields on the Polish-Slovakian border further north, with the Tatras looming in the distance at the end of the day.
Summer fields on the Polish-Slovakian border further north, with the Tatras looming in the distance at the end of the day.

Looks like a great day for hiking! Taken in one of the villages near the town of Zakopane, where sunrise comes with stunning views, April 2024.

Chochołowska Valley
Dolina Chochołowska is the longest valley in the Polish part of the Tatra mountains. In total it covers 35 square kilometres. Especially in March-April the easy hike up is very popular, as Poles are eager to spot the fields of crocuses. Timing of this visit is of the essence, as during my only hike up so far, back in 2021, I was just a bit too early. Searching the whole day for them, and with the flower fields expecting them higher up still underneath snow, I finally spot them at the end of the hike. When I left the parking lot to go.
Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy
The Caterpillar Black Pond (or Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy) is the fifth largest lake of the Tatra Mountains, in surface area, situated at 1,624 metres ASL. The lake, 51 metres deep, is a relatively easy 40-minutes hike from the PTTK shelter of Murowaniec. Once there, it feels one can almost hug the high Tatra Mountains, with the peaks of Kościelec, Kozi Wierch and Granat greeting you. You might spot fish in the lake. Records say the fish was added by humans in 1881.
The photos below I took in mid-April 2024, when the path to the lake was still narrow and full of snow. It was my third visit to Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy.
The trails to/from Schronisko Murowaniec
The best about hiking through the Polish mountains is that all the main routes pass by a "schronisko", a shelter with great food, accommodation to sleep, or just to take a break before continuing. Many of them have years of service behind them. 
Schronisko Murowaniec is no exception. It was opened on 12 July 1925, after three years of construction, and is located a mere 2 to 2.5 hours hike from two of the main entrances to Tatra National Park on the Polish side. Much of the building was renewed and rebuilt after a fire destroyed and damaged large parts of it in 1963.

A storage house near the Schronisko Murowaniec.

The Tatras coming up close when one sets out from Schronisko Murowaniec towards the mountain lake of Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy.

Like a century ago Schronisko Murowaniec is a strategic stop on many people's mountain adventure. It lies within the Valley of Gąsienicowa, which colours beautifully purple in August - and with the mountains as backdrop it is a stunning sight. For regular hikers there are relatively easy trails towards the "black pond", or Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy (see above) at 1,600 metres (5,249 feet) ASL, or Kasprowy Wierch at 1,987 metres (6,519 feet) above sea level. To the east lies Gęsią Szyję and Rusinową Polanę - a great and relatively easy hike too. Dare devels use Murowaniec as a jump spot to the more challenging peaks of Świnica, Kozi Wierch, the Granat peaks and some more, all way above 2,000 metres (6,660 feet).
The photo series below are from the blue trail leading between Schronisko Murowaniec and the start of the cable car up to Kasprowy Wierch. I took them very recently, in mid-April 2024.

The best part of the blue trail is the ridge down from Y-crossing of Przelecz miedzy Kopami at almost 1,500 metres ASL. From the trail there are great views to the east, west and north, including at some of the famous mountain peaks of southern Poland.

First photo: the snowy top of the Babia Góra (see my photos here) on the horizon, seen from the blue trail.
Second photo: the cross on the top clearly visible, this is the legendary mountain peak of Giewont (nicknamed "the knight").
Recent storms, a nasty beetle and diseases have killed many trees in Tatra National Park (left, view to the east). Some are cut (right) to prevent harm to hikers.
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