walking in slovakia


After the exhausting efforts of the 17km trek up into the mountains the day before we thought we would give the dogs a rest in the van while we took a cable car up to the top of Lomnicky Stit the second highest peak in the Tatras at 2634m. There was cloud hanging around the summit but we thought we could do some walking at the half way stage until it cleared. Unfortunately, when we got the tickets we were told we had to go now and that we only had an hour up there. It looked like a fairly hairy ride almost vertically up 900m of cliff face.  


We slowly disappeared into the cloud and emerged into a strangely smart little bar like an upmarket hotel lobby with doors leading out to a savage wildness. Although today it was all a bit muted in a total grey out. There was a board pointing out all the peaks visible.  

 And a man trying to get the TV aerial to work- left a bit !! 


Eventually the clouds started to part tantalisingly to reveal patches of mountain around us fleetingly.  

     We could see the track snaking up the valley we had hiked the day before way down below the viewing platform projecting out over the abyss.  

 The cloud played peek-a-boo for the rest of our stay up there and all too soon in was time to squeeze back into the cable car with the guard whose job it was was to sit with his face jammed up against people’s arses all day and lock and unlock the car door. Nice work if you can get it. 

At the half way station we had walked from the previous day we headed in the opposite direction, past the observatory  

 and up into the dwarf pines.  


It  only about 4km to our target, a minor peak called Vefke Svistovka at 2036 m. It was slow going over a jumbled sea of rock and boulders.  

 This was followed by a steep zigzagging ascent but all our efforts were rewarded by the views from the top of the valley below us and we were relieved that we were not continuing on down the switchback path to the lakeside chata on the valley floor.  


So , back down once more after the sarnies past a whole gang of chamois and over a whole heap of rockfall.  


What we thought was going to be an easy day had left us knackered again by the time we got back to the van so promised ourselves a day off the next day. 

It didn’t quite work out like that as we were at it again from 7 till 5 but very enjoyable anyway. It was a fine clear morning 

 with a rosy glow to the peaks in the sunrise. It looked like it was going to be a hot one so we decided to stay down in the shade and do a riverside walk through the trees up to some waterfalls. 

It allowed us to see close up the recovery from the Bora, the great destroying wind of a decade ago. I wrongly said in my previous post that it took out 24,000 hectares when in actual fact it was only 12,500 hectares.  5 million trees came down and they covered 230km of walking trail that had to be cleared. The Slovakian Olympic team,trainers, committee and staff were some off the first volunteers as well as scouts and schools. An all hands to the pumps effort apparently. 

The recovering forest is lovely in places with a mass of young birch and rowan filling the gaps  

 but unfortunately the wind was only half the damage. A beetle that kills the surviving pines took advantage of the new conditions and created havoc by destroying countless more and a battle is being waged against them by setting up thousands of pheromone traps. We had been seeing them in the woods since East Germany and it now made sense.  

   It was sad to see all the damage but the cascades still made for a beautiful scene.  


We got up to a chata in a clearing where we were amazed to see a wild fox hanging around the picnic tables.  

   The whole place was impressive, run by a character from a distinguished line of chata men and porters who stuffed his little but with memorabilia.  


We surprised some wildlife and ourselves on the way back down  

   but managed to escape unharmed. 

Not surprising of course as they were stuffed and in display cabinets I the national park museum we visited later.  

 I wouldn’t want to meet one of these guys or the big brown bears. 

Next door was a nice spacious botanical garden containing all the plants we had been admiring in the wild and loads we hadn’t spotted.  

         Including the famous, thanks to Engleburt Humperdink, Edelweiss. 

Back to camp after another busy day with just enough time to sample some of the local elixirs before dinner. 


The rain never came on our night under the bridge but it was a fine park up a anyway and we weren’t disturbed by the cars or all the people going to mass in the early morning. Been surprised how early things get going in hard working Poland with a lot of people out and about when I get up around 6. 

The river next to us was popular for rafting 

 and we watched some as we climbed up the nearby trail to a viewpoint before heading off over the border. One of the things that has impressed us here is the trail markings and a new one on us was the one to warn you to pay attention coz something’s changing.  

 I guess we’re fairly easily impressed. 

We were in yet another spa town,( these are mineral rich hills), so we had to do the obligatory tasting of the healing waters.  

This one was supposed to be good for the digestive tract and I must say the following morning I produced the proof of that.   It still didn’t taste too good. 

Speaking of mineral springs we have discovered that the “greasers” mentioned in the last post were actually harvesting crude oil that came to the surface in a few places around Losie and had been at it since the 16th century. How about that?

So we spent the remains of our szotys on a bizarre selection of local produce and some tasty beers and drove up and up to the next country on the itinerary, Slovakia, and strangely, there did seem to be an immediate difference. 

The countryside was more open, less forested, wide rolling plains, and getting nearer by the minute the rising bulk of the dramatic Tatra mountains. The towns seemed poorer, the buildings a little shabbier and more plain blocks of flats. There didn’t seem to be any of the traditional wooden houses we had seen so many of in Poland. 

We didn’t have far to go and were soon settled into a campsite with a view of the peaks.  


Our early start the next day came to nothing as the thunderstorm finally arrived and we had to abandon the mission to the mountains. We were glad we hadn’t managed to get up there when the heavy rain continued for hours and we hung out in town and camp drying off. 

We had discovered that you a take dogs on the cable car so yesterday we headed up to 1700m sweat free and even though it was cloudy too start,  

 had faith it would burn off later. 

And so it proved to be. After half and hour on the stone laid track we started to see some vistas of the jagged soaring peaks and it got better all day as we climbed through the pine forest and then the dwarf pine.  

  We past areas prone to avalanche  

 and a lot of dead or dying trees. In 2004 there had been a devastating wind in the High Tatras which had felled 1000’s of trees. In all about 24,000 hectares was destroyed along with railway lines and every road blocked with uprooted trees. It took months for teams to clear the wreckage and the once hidden villages were open and exposed for the first time. Some areas have been replanted, some left to naturally regenerate and some left open to benefit from the new vistas that have opened up.  


After seeing a bold as brass otter swimming beside us in the lake the other night and the bear skin on the shed door we were wondering if we might come across a wolf or lynx or wild boar all of which live in these forests. We didn’t but getting up high, above the chata or ” mountain but” we’d stopped at for lunch at over 2000m, we heard the screaching of a marmot and soon after spotted a big chamois peering down at us from a rocky ledge.  

   We’d got up past patches of snow and ice by this stage 

   and we were on a section of trail that only opens mid June. We got to a section that involved the use of secured chains to haul yourself up the rock face and the dogs gave up. Sally stayed with them and admired the view while I clambered on to see if I could get to the next pass and get a look at the highest tarn or lake in the whole of the Tratra’s.  

   Time had run out on us though so we had to hurry back down the valley, pausing only to re-hydrate at a chata, to catch the last cable car.  

 Down past the tumbling streams we had seen emerging from the mountainside earlier 

 and along the path with views that had been hidden to us in the cloud before.  

   We got back without enough time to experience the hospitality of the final chata unfortunately  

 but we have learnt to appreciate what a wonderful service they provide. Everything is portered in but prices are still really good. We are trying to find out if we can stay in one with the dogs and so go deeper into these amazing mountains.