Magnificent and dreamy, the hype surrounding ‘glamping’ is well deserved
Of all the commonly-used phrases in the English language, there can be none more disingenuous than the term ‘happy camper’.
Let’s get this clear from the outset, there is nothing joyful about camping, and as evidence I cite a European interrailing trip I undertook in 1994. Sleeping next to a bloke called The Wong, I’d find myself waking in Slovakian campsites with ants in my hair and my mate’s satisfied snores ringing loudly in my ear.
And believe me, those were the good times – the bad bits involved making my way to the kind of grotty bathroom facilities that had you walking on tiptoes to avoid accumulated pools of scum. Camping? No thanks.
But things have changed over the decades that have followed, and the evolution of this ‘lifestyle’ has grown to include something they call glamping.
Now glamping, if you don’t know, seeks to marry the rugged appeals of camping with life’s little luxuries in a way that enables city-dwelling high-flyers to enjoy the natural world without ever getting mucky.
In short, it’s the sort of thing you’d catch Kate Moss doing at Coachella. Poland, too, has embraced this fad, and today it’s impossible to scroll through travel blogs without being met head-on by a slew of glampsites promising the world. Well, I figured, I might as well as learn what the fuss is all about.
In short, that’s how I found myself at W Bańce last week, a campsite whose unique selling point is a portfolio of ten transparent bubble tents.
But why did I choose this place over others? Well, its location was key. With so many glampsites located in mountains or far-flung forests, reaching W Bańce is a piece of cake for those of us that never learned to drive. Just twenty-minutes in an Uber from downtown Łódź, it’s probably a shorter journey than most peoples’ commute into work.
And oh my, how rich is the contrast that this immediately presents. One moment, I was at a riotous (literally!) football match being contested by the city’s two clubs, and the next I was standing outside a countryside driveway enveloped in silence.
Arriving just short of 11 p.m., things could have easily gone wrong from that moment on. Faced with a bolted gate, alarm bells rung.
With rising panic, I messaged the owners. “So,” they replied, “you didn’t get our instructions on email.”
Obviously not, I wanted to answer, but instead bit my tongue and waited for more. Pretty much instantly my Whatsapp pinged with an entry code and an English-language pdf introducing the place.
Among the other tips it listed, were things like ‘bring warm clothes’, and ‘take shoes that you will not miss if there is rainy weather’.
Already shivering a little in my t-shirt, I looked down at my pristine white trainers and let out a ‘hmm’.
“Could have done with receiving this a little earlier,” I thought to myself. “You know, like before I left Warsaw.”
Still, my spirits were high and my mood undented – as opening hiccups go, I’ve experienced far worse.
Guided by a trail of orb-like lights lining a pathway, I made my way to my tent, first passing manicured lawns before plunging deeper into scrubby woodland where my accommodation sat.
Marked out by a little wooden sign post swinging from a branch, I made my way into the ‘Sunset’ tent I had booked only to find myself facing more potential catastrophe. Unzipping the double ‘doors’, I was startled to find the tent deflating all around me.
“The whole thing has collapsed on me,” I wrote to the owners. In a tone that exuded practiced patience, they replied in a jiffy. “Yes, as it says in the instructions, you need to zip the outer door shut before opening the inner door.”
Those damned instructions again, I cursed. “But give it a moment,” they continued, “and the tent will reinflate itself.” And indeed they were right. Happily, that proved the final calamity of my two-night stay. From that second on, I can only say that what followed next was an untrammelled pleasure.
Firstly, I cannot overstate the almost child-like happiness that you feel once you’ve settled into your bubble. Extraordinary in every respect, you find yourself on a high just taking it all in.
Simply furnished with a bedside lamp and table, the only other extras are a large squishy bed, an egg-shaped swing, telescope and an air-con / heating unit that’s far more effective than I ever expected. As it transpired, I need not have feared freezing to death.
Cocooned in the womb-like warmth of my bubble, I spent the following hours reading whilst listening to the gentle whistles of the wind. But it was when I eventually turned off the light that the magic really happened: only then do the stars really hit you, their dazzling tapestry glittering right above your eyes – it’s almost as if you could reach out and touch them. Wow.
Rising, you do so naturally, woken by the natural light that slants through the trees and falls directly on you. Ungodly as the hour may be, you lie there in happiness staring up at the clouds in a hypnotized trance. It is, simply put, a breath taking moment where time seems to pause.
In essence, it is for this reason you enjoy W Bańce: for that feeling of suspended reality during which you feel like the only person that exists in this world.
Extracting yourself from the tent is a big ask, but doing so brings further reward. Exploring, find a sprawling area complete with a couple of modern wooden cabins kitted out with contemporary kitchens and fresh, blooming flowers. Waiting for me in the fridge, a delicious breakfast bag composed of a fruit smoothie and hearty pastrami sandwich with pickles squished in.
Having showered – each bubble has access to its own private bathroom attached to the chalets – you then journey forth to discover a few points of interest: a couple of outdoor jacuzzi tubs and a hammock positioned to look onto a lake.
Offering varying sensations, in parts the property has been lovingly landscaped, while in others it feels magically untamed. Feeling like a little secluded realm independent of the rest of the planet, you walk around it in a zen-like state of deep meditation.
And that, I must say, is why you should be willing to pay the PLN 400 per night starting price – it’s an utterly ethereal detox for the soul.
True, I imagine during busier periods that some might raise questions about the privacy that it offers – but though most tents are visible from the spider’s web of walking trails, the trees and vegetation ensure that prying eyes should never be an issue.
Neither are things like food and boredom – with Łódź just a stone’s throw away I found myself cabbing into town for a pint and a curry before hurrying back to make certain I made sunset.
In a way though, I regret this little side-trip, for it swallowed a few hours that could have been easily better spent in this magnificent, dreamy enclave. One of the most memorable stays I’ve ever enjoyed, consider this a heartfelt endorsement for an exceptional place.