Rail route of the month: Slavic magic on a gentle trip to Zakopane, Poland

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Our slow travel expert discovers the legacy of popes and revolutionaries on a trip south from Kraków to the resort town in the Tatra Mountains

Nine trains leave Kraków each weekday to climb up to Poland’s premier mountain retreat, Zakopane. In 1936, the fastest trains to Zakopane took under 2½ hours. Almost a century later, after infrastructure renewal work lasting several years, just one of those nine trainsmatches the 1936 time. Such is the state of railways in some parts of rural Poland.

Anyone in a hurry to reach Zakopane from Kraków will take the bus, which runs nonstop and takes two hours. But the train is a gentler, greener option. With time on my hands, I opt for one of the slower trains, which promises 48 intermediate stops. Yes, 48. There’s a dash of Slavic magic in the litany of stations along the route: Sieniawa, Skawina, Stronie, Stryszów, Szaflary.

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