It was a very long day yesterday: when we disembarked from the train in Cracow, we had a two hour trip into the mountains ahead of us on a coach, and then a minibus to take us to our “Willa”. Of course, it was pitch dark, but it was already obvious that we were in a ski resort — you can always tell. The local architecture is all timber, with the favoured look for the lodges being slabs caulked with rope. I wonder what their fire regulations are!

This tour goes at a cracking pace. There is little downtime, so the washing bag is becoming interesting. We were out and about after a very traditional Polish breakfast (sausages, hard-boiled eggs, cream cheese, cheese, cold meat, bread and pickled everything), finding our way to the old iron road that ran through the Tatra valleys, carrying iron ore to the smelters below. For us, it took us to a traditional cheese dairy and smoke house, which was instructive as sheep’s cheese is a traditional local delicacy and smoking is the preferred method of preservation. I don’t know how they stood it: one minute in the smokehouse and my throat was burning. The valley, notwithstanding the ski resorts, is beautiful and we left the hut to walk along the trail beside the national park, stopping for coffee in one of the little cafés that dot the path.

We came out of the woods near the International Ski Jump Centre, and met the world of tourist tat, but this was just a stop before minivans took us to the cable cars that run to the top of the Tatras, on the border between Poland and Slovenia. It had not been warm all morning, but once at the top we were in temperatures below zero and a wind-chill factor to match, as the gale tried to blow us off the ridge. We were at 2400 metres and climber another hundred or so to the summit for photos and a bit of kudos! The clouds were roaring out of the south and, as we moved inside for a snack, it started to rain.

The cable car is an engineering marvel and, in one of those sad but uniquely Polish ironies, was completed as an engineering marvel just before the War. The area is dotted with references to JPII, as he loved to hike up the mountain, even as a sixty year old. One understands the psychology of Wojtyla a little more having been in Poland, because it is very different culture from much of Europe and really quite distinct from the West. The cemetery we walked through on the way to dinner illustrated this very well

The afternoon was spent vainly searching for a new hair-straightener for Paula and a new backup battery for the iPads. Of course, I saw them at the airports and didn’t get one! Then we had a truly ordinary meal — probably Raf’s only mistake so far, because there were some good restaurants around, and the rather two-dimensional Polish cuisine takes on a truly disappointing hue when done badly. Paula is hanging out for a good white wine, but has taken to flavoured vodka in lemonade. I’m OK, because there are some interesting dark beers around as well as vodkas with which to conduct human trials.

Time to pack for another move. Tomorrow is Auschwitz.