In the last week of June I made use of the regained freedom to travel to visit the Slovak Paradise (Slovenský raj) for the second time in this year.
Admittedly, my first article about the Slovak Paradise cannot serve as a somewhat useful account of the national park, since I marched only through a small part in the east during February as I encountered plenty of snow, but no other outdoor enthusiasts.
This article tries to bridge this gap, and also wants to make a point about leaving the comfort zone and getting in contact with your fellow human beings in the light of a months-long isolation time.
Reaching the Slovak Paradise in the heart of Slovakia is not difficult, be it by foot, car, or train.
I rode with the train from Bratislava to Poprad (for some fifteen Euros), and from Poprad in about a quarter of an hour to the village of Vydrník (I had to pay just eighty Cents for this ticket, traveling by train is usually cheap in Slovakia).
From here, you can walk southwards in less than one hour to Podlesok, the northern gate to the Slovak Paradise.
Walking through the Suchá Belá ravine
My route on this humid June day led me through the Suchá Belá (“Dry Belá”) ravine on an about five kilometers long green marked path. The park administration demands for this tour an entrance fee of one Euro and fifty.
Not much money in my opinion. Maintaining the infrastructure and cleaning up lost items and waste from hikers, as well as protecting the unique nature seem costly endeavors in this small but rich Slovakian national park.
And there is quite a lot of infrastructure in the Suchá Belá ravine, making it a fairly safe hiking and climbing environment for visitors: long metal ladders, metal attachments like steps, handles and ropes, wooden planks and further wooden supports of various sizes and shape (hopefully recognizable on the pictures).
You have to be attentive not to walk the ravine in the opposite direction in any case. That would not only be very dangerous for yourself, but also for other visitors. So turning back is not possible, a certain fitness and familiarity with balancing in heights mandatory (and proper hiking shoes of course).
The map on my phone told me accurately where I was allowed to walk and where not, so I highly recommend downloading an app like mapy.cz before you set off.
Along the way I spotted a few rather rare animals like the pictured fire salamander, this one was swimming lazily below a big rock formation and a cascade. I can’t remember seeing such a strange creature ever before.
The whole tour, which I had chosen to be circular, led me after finishing the green marked trail over a yellow and later a red marked path back to Podlesok.
There are variations possible, of course. For this tour you have to calculate around four hours.
Don’t forget in any case to reward yourself with a beer (pivo) or an ice-cream (zmrzlina) in one of the restaurants in Podlesok afterwards.
The day before as a warm-up of sorts I made a hiking tour in the High Tatras (Poprad where I was accommodated is lying quite close to the mountain range), through the Malá studená dolina (“Small cold valley”) to the Téryho chata (on 2015 meters).
On the way upward I ran into a girl I’d seen a couple of hours before during breakfast in the hotel restaurant; of all the tours that you can do in the High Tatras, she picked the very same one on this day.
I caught up with her during the descent from Téryho chata, as to figure if she was up for a conversation (funnily enough she’d already identified me as a German tourist because of the brand of my backpack).
And then we started doing some small-talk in front of an inquisitive fox.
The girl was even from the same area in Germany, and, according to her, the “first German tourist since Corona” in her previous hotel.
And if I had to guess I would suppose that we two were the very first German tourists in Poprad on this weekend.
My small adventure was again accompanied by odd coincidences that made it once more an exciting and remarkable experience.
It’s astonishing how easy it is to make new and valuable contacts when one is aware of the lots of opportunities and coincidences that present themselves during the day.
So I look forward to a pandemic-free summer for activities like cycling or climbing mountains, and of course finding new friends in Slovakia or anywhere else in Europe.
Featured image: Entrance to the Suchá Belá ravine, Podlesok