How to Own Morski Oko

 View across Morski Oko Lake

The hike to Morski Oko is the gateway drug of the Tatras National Park.  It’s a quick jaunt out of Zakopane.  The whole hike is paved (though there are stretches you can take through the woods, if you like).  You can even ride a horse cart up if you don’t want/can’t do the hike on your own. 

 The Tatra Mountains behind Morski Oko

It makes a great entry point into these mountains.  It is a terribly rewarding day hike to be sure.  But, if you really, really want to know Morski Oko, there is nothing that compares with staying at the impossibly picturesque lodge at the edge of the lake.

My Deed to the Mountain

 Hiking around Morski Oko, toward Czarny Staw

Staying up there was as if someone wrote me an individual deed to the mountain.  All the people milling about, taking their pictures, didn’t bother me at all.  I knew they were temporary.  As the evening descended, they began to thin and then disappear.

 Snow pack on the hike around Morski Oko

It was only us, wandering the shore of the lake, winding our way around its edges.  We were alone to scramble up the path to Czarny Staw.  We were the only ones to watch the mist settle heavily over the lodge.  Our home for the night quietly transformed into something mystical and otherworldly in the mountain fog.  And, we witnessed it in solitude.

 Morski Oko Lodge in the Tatra Mountains, obscured by fog. 

Of course, we weren’t entirely alone.  But, there’s a sense of camaraderie with the few fellow lodgers.  Deep into the evening we sat in an emptying dining room drinking hot cocoa and eating charlotka.  Two men presided in one corner, reading tattered paperbacks.  A group at the next table over, pored over maps.  They anxiously watched a screen that flashed weather reports and live cams from the various Tatras lodges.  Snuggling into this scene, I wonder if this is what Yosemite felt like when my husband’s grandmother spent her summers there, 80 years ago.

Morski Oko as Juxtaposition

 Morski Oko and the Tatra Mountains

Morski Oko is, in essence, all about juxtaposition.  It’s a beautiful lake.  They’re striking mountains.  It’s a pituresque lodge.  Nestle that lake into the crook of the mountain’s shoulder.  Perch that lodge at the apex of the lake, and you have something altogether different.  It is more because it is together.

 View of Morski Oko from Czarny Staw

Things to Know Before You Go:

 Bunk beds in the lodge at Morski Oko. 

Book your rooms early.

Part of what makes the huts so charming is that they aren’t giant lodges that hold hundreds.  They’re small and they fill up months in advance, especially during the summer.  We booked our rooms five months in advance, and they were already filling up then.  Their website suggests booking a year in advance.  Reservations are made by phone, which can be tricky if you don’t speak Polish, but I assure you, it can be done.  The phone number and information about the rooms is found at the Morski Oko website (click the icon in the corner to change the website to English).

 

Know what you’re booking.

The lodge is hostel-style.  All bathrooms are shared.  You’re not renting a room, but rather a bed in a room.  However, if your party fills up a room completely, they will keep you together in the same room.  For us, it worked out perfectly to have a six bunk room and a three bunk room to ourselves, side by side.

The bunks each come with linens, pillows and blankets.  We brought up our own sleeping bags, because we weren’t sure.  But, it really wasn’t necessary.

At Morski Oko, there are two lodges (or huts).  Neither are meant to be five star accommodations.  But, there is a substantial difference between the two, and you want the new hut.

 A small play area in the lodge at Morski Oko. 

Bring cash.

The lodge, restaurant, and small concessions store in the lodge only accept cash.  There is an ATM at the lodge, but, best to plan to bring cash with you, in case you run into any trouble with it.

 

Eat at the restaurant in the lodge.

One of the things that makes it so easy to trek from lodge to lodge in the Tatras is fact that each lodge has a restaurant as well.  They're quite reasonably priced, and the food is filling.  It does get insanely busy during the day, but we’ve always been able to find a spot.  It may be only that I’ve only had them after a long hike, but I happen to think the hot chocolate and charlotka at Morski Oko are not to be missed.

 Cloudy skies over the Tatra Mountains

Stay abreast of the weather conditions.

Weather changes quickly in the mountains, and it can be completely different than what’s happening in the valley.  We were first in Morski Oko in October, and the weather was perfect.  We had a beautiful, sunny hike up, shedding our jackets as we went, because the day was so warm.  We made plans to come back in May to see the mountains in the spring.  Instead, an unprecedented snow storm the week before we arrived, dropped seven feet of snow on the mountains.  The point is, there is no real predicting what the weather will do.  The best thing is just to keep an eye on it as your trip approaches.  This website has both weather and live cams for various Tatras lodges, including Morski Oko.