Trip Start Jun 29, 2012
8Trip End Ongoing
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Well it's not been tooo long since the last blog, but gosh have a fair few things happened! Read what you will, at your own leisurely rate, it's all good, I swear! ... pictures will be arriving shortly!
So after a day of cancelled buses and a failed day trip from Prague, we decided to just leave to Slovakia. Our aim was to go trekking in the High Tatras, setting up our base camp in Tatranska Strba. We chose a bus that arrived in the nearest big town, Poprad, fairly late in the evening
We eventually arrived in Poprad and managed to find a train to Tatranska Strba at eleven o'clock. After stumbling across what must have been the best restaurant in Poprad we got on the train, with a beautiful vintage-feel carriage all to ourselves. We peeked out at the approaching mountains, warmly lit by the full moon. As we passed progressively smaller and smaller villages, we wondered whether this was a good idea, arriving so late, but concluded that we felt safe in each others company and that "we always find a way!".
Well after getting off the train at the wrong stop (kindly rectified by the conductor) we managed to make it to our destination. But with no map and no one around we failed in finding our campsite. What we did succeed in though was finding a fantastic field to pitch our tent in. Raised higher than the road, on what seemed like a meadow, tucked behind some trees we set up our tent in our first wild-camping spot. I moved the foodstuff 40 meters from the tent in an effort to reassure Cat that we were safe from Slovakian bears. Initially I felt quite nervous, not from the wildlife or any serious danger, but more that someone might get annoyed that we were on their land. Though, with a population of just 5.5 million, Slovakia has plenty of space. That was the best night sleep I have had yet, sleeping right through till the late morning sun. As we woke and opened the tent, we found ourselves in the most beautiful meadow. Wild flowers growing everywhere, a sea of butterflies and even wild strawberries growing! If we hadn't of needed a shower so much, we would never have checked into our campsite!
After a successful transition to the campsite and a well deserved breakfast, we followed some vague directions, "five minutes through the forest", we found a small clearing for the station of the cog railway which headed up the mountain. After about twenty minutes a small rumble gave away the approaching train and we boarded it up to the town of Strbske Pleso, where we followed a walk around the lake and stumbled across a chair-ift up the mountain
The next day we hopped back on the forest cog train to hike through the mountains, which was as beautiful as we had expected. We wondered off the track at one point and found a gorgeous river peppered with large rocks. We sat on a rock in the middle of the river in the middle of a pine forest, and ate our fruit lunch feeling fantastically peaceful and serene
The High Tatras was such a beautiful introduction into Slovakia that we decided to visit another national park before heading to the capital. We managed to hitch a ride back to Poprad, and then jumped on a bus to Podlesok, which is hardly a village and really just a campsite seated at the start of many of the hiking trails through Slovenky Raj National Park. We thought Slovakian weather had been strange in the High Tatras, sunny one hour, thunder storms the next, but Podlesok was something else. Completely unpredictable and when it rained it poured and when it shone, it blazed. Perhaps its our English skills, but we never once got caught in the torrential downpours. One evening we were having a beer in the covered terrace of a restaurant. It had been sunny an hour before, and out of nowhere hail started pelting down over the village. Then rain, a three minute incredibly strong wind that set car alarms off and blew everything in sight, I think it may well have been a tornado. A thunder storm above our heads, and three other storms to be seen in different directions. Amazed and slightly concerned, our thoughts turned to the Banshee 300, which, like a little trooper withstood with ease the strongest onslaught yet! After half an hour it passed, and as we walked back to our tent we could see the stars clearly with not a cloud in sight.
The next day we were blessed with sunshine for our grueling eight hour hike. Firstly up the track known as Sucha Bela. The name gives no indication as to what you are in for
Slovensky Raj and the High Tatras are incredibly beautiful national parks which are so easy to reach. As the camping options are so good, I'd encourage anyone who loves a good hike to catch a bus over there, you won't regret it. As lovely as they were though, we felt we were in need of the city, and some good cafe options, having been confined to essentially one restaurant the entire time. With the day stretched ahead of us, we decided we would attempt to hitchhike from this tiny village to the capital, Bratislava
Another success from Zilina to the outskirts of Bratislava, we managed to hitch in a lorry of a Polish man on his way to Italy
After a well-deserved nights sleep, we wondered into the ruggedly beautiful Bratislava. We'd finally found the cafe galore we had wanted and we have spent the day drifting between cafes, bars and shops, in this underrated capital. The Slovakian mountains allowed us to adjust into stress free travelling, seeing beautiful sights at their best, the only question that remains is where to go next. It's my birthday in two days ( :-D ) and we're wondering; Vienna or Budapest?!