It’s the middle of July and it’s bloody hot. I find myself with my friend Nina in Krakow, Poland. We’re on our way to cross the Tatras Mountains to Slovakia, where we’d spend the next four days of our trip. The Tatras are a rare sight themselves, but we were only able to witness them while travelling through them. On the Slovakian side: Slovensky Raj – A small national park some 45 minutes by bus from Poprad, which is also where the nearest bigger supermarket is (mind you: buses go like 4 times a day, oops.). Loaded with our backpacks + 10 kgs worth of food, we hopped on the bus, destination Hrabusice (Population: 2300).
There was only one bus stop in the village and we had no idea when that would be. The bus driver didn’t fully understand us and (Murphy’s Law kicking in again) we ended up somewhere else. Luckily it was only a 3km walk from there, but my feet were full of blisters, it was 40 degrees Celsius and we were both packed with massive backpacks and the aforementioned heap of groceries. Oh, we also didn’t know which direction. Asking villagers didn’t help much, as the knowledge of English was abysmal. German? Nope. French? Nope. Dutch? Didn’t even try 😛 . As if it was a real movie scene, all villagers looked out their windows and came outside to talk to their neighbours about “these weird-looking girls” stranded in the middle of their… What? …Territory? Righty then.
In the end we did reach our destination, albeit a few hours delayed. I’m guessing the meat in the bags was already slow-cooked by this time. I need a shower!!!
The park is better known under the name of Slovak Paradise and it sure deserves it! There is a kind of wild nature that you really can’t find in Europe anymore (on the West side of the continent anyway), which comes with a very subtle serenity. We stayed at Homestay Emka, a B&B run by a small family of whom only the son can speak a few words English, but who were extremely kind and welcoming. They even invited us to join them on their Friday night BBQ :D. The view from the room is stunning and at night the sky is dark, which allows for long and amazing star gazing sessions. From there, equipped with a small kitchen, an internet connection and a comfortable bed (from which we happily devoured a bag of crisps while watching Brother Bear, give us a break 😛 ), we could prepare our hikes.
The Park hosts a wide variety of hiking trails, some of which are more touristy than others -by which I actually mean that there’s a small chance of encountering maybe five other hikers along the way-, but all of them provide amazing scenery and are challenging enough for the fit hiker, all the while remaining enjoyable and definitely family-friendly. (Note: If you’re very fit and mostly looking for a real physical challenge, maybe the Tatras Mountains are a better choice in the area.) The most famous aspect of the park is undoubtedly its deep cliffs through which and over which you will walk and its majestic waterfalls, which you will climb with old wooden ladders. The park has tons and tons of caves, of which just one – The Dobsinská Ice Cave – is open to public. Further possibilities include biking and horseback riding.
There are multiple starting points for your hikes and it is also possible to hike from one place to the next for a multi-day trek. The most common starting place is in Podlesok, where there are also buses going directly to different places as well as the most hotel-like accommodation in the area.