Sunday 6th April, Rabka

We ate well and plentifully last night for much less money than we've been spending before (but not as tasty as some meals). In the morning it was snowing hard. Our little balcony covered deeper and deeper and snow dancing in the air. We ate breakfast in the big terrazzo floored function room -I tried all the bits, but except for Gabriel's swynka (ham) nothing was an improvement on bread and jam and coffee. It was too snowy to take the car out so we wrapped up well and took the road down to Rabka 2km. Gabriel was fairly patient about snowballs. Once in the town commons by the river he and Peter had plenty.

Took the route of the red balisage up Ul. Urkha through a snowy park where we saw bars and luckily were able to buy a 1.75,000 map from a kiosk. Shared a snickers bar by the sanatorium and on and on through the dancing snow, all the sky grey with snow and trees full of it. At the last, yellow-gabled house we stopped and built a very fine snowman, with birch twigs for arms, berries for eyes, a snow nose and twig teeth. And on, across the "lovely hay fields" -snow driving, dancing, drifting -; following the red balisage. The poles they use to build haystacks round stood up out of the white, in some places there were bands of firs. The wind was fierce it was v. hard going. After about an hour we reached the shelter of the forest and then it was truly beautiful. Deep snow underfoot into which we sometimes plunged in unexpected drifts, snow laden in herringbone pattern on the tall trees, little Christmas trees buried like snow statues. It was just like the forest in Pauline Baynes's illustrations of The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe. Up and up... at last we reached the hut we'd seen from far below on a clear headland among the trees, but it was a false friend: not the snack bar as we had hoped but just something to do with the ski drop & the wind leapt on us as we came out into the open. But we decided to go on. We were now on the ridge among open fields. Ski tracks, footprints lead us on, the sky and air all white with snow. Gabriel trod in our footprints like Wensceslas's page. It was now 3pm. I was afraid we must turn back or we might be caught in a white-out and lose the balisage and in this cold and wind we'd be in real trouble even so near the houses. The big pointed roof of the A frame snack bar, as we thought, appeared. (Actually, this was marked as a youth hostel on our map: snack bar was further on). It looked shut! I called to Peter that we must turn back but he had climbed over the fence and looked in the windows and seen people eating! So we went into a magically warm, dry shelter, a little wooden hostel dining room. Carved ram heads on the chairs, tiny Easter things hanging from the ceiling on threads, lace doilies in the windows. On the advice of 2 walkers who seemed to be staying, (maybe we had followed their footprints) we ordered food. It took a long time -but proved well worth it. I had Russian dumplings, Peter had sour soup and Gabriel had paroki (frankfurters). They had pepsi, I had hot lemon tea. Then came the best part -marching down through the snowy wood, renewed and refreshed by the food. We all loved this bit. Took the black balisage (more drifts than ever!) for a short cut and soon were tramping into Rabka through ranks of old and new holiday homes -a long, long way. It began to snow again. In town, I took pictures of the wooden church in a brief gleam of sunshine, and we failed entirely to find a bar open on a Sunday afternoon. So Peter said we could follow the red balisage all the way back to our motel, through the fields. At first this worked very well but after the allotments and after passing a little shrine we lost the balisage and couldn't find it again at all. There followed a nervous time as it was not afternoon now but sunset, very cold and still snowing. We were never in danger, as we could always have headed back to Rabka, the lights of the town clearly visible behind us, but we kept heading the wrong way (=by the sun) and I didn't like it. Casting about for ages, finally we found an out door stations of the cross. At station XIII Gabriel and I said a quick Our Father with the intention -please God, let us get to a nice bar soon. The views of the Gorce under snow and the clearing sunset sky were v. beautiful. Skirted two valleys in woodland, the road visible but not easily reachable beyond. Finally, came across the tracks of a lone deer. Peter and Gabriel fell to talking about how a deer runs -pushing from her haunches and landing fore feet first, hind feet close after, in long bounds. Gabriel practised being a deer and looked very sweet. The deer seemed to be heading our way so we followed her tracks and went on following them into the woods until they stopped. She had left some fresh droppings at the foot of a tree, and turned away-. Then we realised we could see roofs. We were directly above the bar in the layby opposite our motel. So we were saved by our miraculous deer.

The bar at first seemed fierce when we met 2 suits in the entrance, who were not pleased at our snowy apparel; but it got better. Gabriel's corduroys, which he'd been wearing over his wellies, were frozen hard. We hung everything to dry around a stove and settled for a fine session. Round1: 2 duze, (large beers), 1frytki (chips) 1Sprite. Round2: 2 duze, 2 frytki, 1 Sprite. 3, we got onto beef ribs and chips twice (excellent ribs!); and 4 back to plain beer.

We were very glad of our hearty lunch too, it helped to soak up the beer.

Back at 9.30 or so to our little room with the sugar-white, violet scattered quilts. And more snow falling. And so to bed.

Falling Leaf