I had a few days off in the last week of June, so I made use of my regained freedom to travel for visiting Slovakia and the Slovak Paradise (Slovenský raj) for the second time in this year.
Admittedly, my first blog-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 hikers.
This article tries to bridge this gap somewhat, and I want to illustrate why one should not forget to come out of the comfort zone and get in contact with other people, even more so after a tedious and months-long isolation time.
Reaching the Slovak Paradise in the heart of Slovakia is pretty easy, and there are a lot of different routes available (by foot, car, or train).
I rode with the train from Bratislava to Poprad (15 Euros), and from Poprad in about fifteen minutes to the very small train station in Vydrník (only 80 Cents for the ticket).
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 1,50 Euro.
I was surprised that it was so cheap after all, because maintaining the infrastructure and cleaning up lost items and garbage from hikers, as well as protecting the unique nature seem quite expensive endeavors in this small but rich Slovakian national park.
And there is a lot of infrastructure in the Suchá Belá ravine to make it a safe hiking and climbing experience for visitors: long metal ladders, metal attachments like steps, handles and ropes, wooden planks and further wooden supports of various sizes and shape (see pictures).
One has 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 hikers. So turning back is not possible, a certain fitness and familiarity with balancing in heights mandatory (and good hiking shoes of course).
The map on my phone (an app called mapy.cz) told me exactly where I was allowed to walk and where not, so I highly recommend downloading this free app (or a similar app) before you set off for your trip.
I’ve also spotted a few rare animals like the pictured fire salamander, this one was swimming lazily (see video) 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, lead me after finishing the green marked trail over a yellow and later a red marked path back to Podlesok.
There are many variations possible, of course. For this tour one has to plan around four hours.
Don’t forget in any case to reward yourself with a beer (pivo) or an ice-cream (zmrzlina, love this word) in one of the restaurants in Podlesok afterwards.
The day before as a warm-up I made a short hiking tour in the High Tatras (Poprad where I was accommodated is situated quite close to the High Tatras) through the Malá Studená dolina valley to the Téryho chata (on 2015 meters).
Curiously I ran into a girl I’d seen a couple of hours before during breakfast in the hotel restaurant – of all the tours that one can do in the High Tatras, she picked exactly the same for this day.
I caught up with her during the descent from Téryho chata, as to figure if she was up for a conversation (funnily 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 a inquisitive fox.
The girl was even from the same area in Germany, and, on her own accord, the “first German tourist since Corona” in her previous hotel.
And if I had to guess I would presume that we two were the very first German tourists in Poprad on this weekend.
My trip was again accompanied by odd coincidences that made it again exciting and remarkable.
It is astounding how easy it is to make new friends when you make use of the opportunities and coincidences that present themselves during the day.
So I look forward to pandemic-free summer for cycling, hiking, and of course finding new friends in Slovakia or anywhere else in Europe.
Featured image: Entrance to the Suchá Belá ravine, Podlesok