From the heart of Europe: Tour de Slovaquie (1)

From the heart of Europe: Tour de Slovaquie (1)

It seems like I can’t stay in a place for long. I got itchy feet barely a week after I had finished my round the world trip. So on the ninth day after the trip I hit the road again to see a bit of my homeland – Slovakia.

Day 1

I visited Slovenský Betlehem (Slovak Nativity scene) in Rajecká Lesná first. It’s a masterpiece of Slovak art not only depicting the nativity scene but also the history of the Slovak nation. You can see moving figures engaged in numerous activities such as mining, grape harvesting, potato picking, hunting, weaving all with beautiful architectural heritage like Orava castle, Bojnice castle, St. Elisabeth Church and the amazing Kriváň Peak! All carved out of wood. Impressive.

Slovenský Betlehem
Slovenský Betlehem

I then went on to visit the picturesque village of Čičmany with its fairytale houses and a folk heritage museum.

On top of that my first hitchhiking attempt in Slovakia was a success!

And I got to couch surf for the first time in Slovakia after 10 years of couch surfing making Slovakia the 30th country I have couch surfed in.

Brilliant!

A painted house in the village of Čičmany
Painted houses in the village of Čičmany
Day 2

I went to the village of Terchová, the birthplace of Juraj Jánošík, a national hero and a brigand.

Then I went on to hike to Jánošíkove diery a series of ravines bearing the hero’s name where I hiked along a stream and numerous small waterfalls on mounted platforms and up different ladders.

I wanted to hike on to one of the peaks in the Mala Fatra range but the weather had changed. But as soon as I saw a bit of blue sky again I carried on. It wasn’t an easy hike. I seemed to be out of shape and it took longer than I thought but I made it to the top of Veľký Rozsutec (1610 m) missing the sun by 5 minutes. But patience paid off and the sun came out for a bit again.

The village of Terchová and the national hero Jánošík
Hiking through Jánošikove diery
Hiking through Jánošikove diery
Malá Fatra mountain range from the peak of Veľký Rozsutec

A storm was imminent so as soon as the sun disappeared again I started jogging down. I got caught up in rain half way but it rained the hardest while I was trying to get a ride back to the village. No one wanted to stop when it was raining cats and dogs.

I had no accommodation booked and finding a place to stay was harder than on any given day during my RTW trip. People were turning me away because their places were full or they were unwilling to accept a single person for a single night. After looking for a place for an hour also while raining I decided to take the advice of a local and go to the priest’s office at the church.

No one opened the first time I came. I went away and came back later finally being offered a place to stay. For free. The priest that opened was obviously a foreigner but could speak Slovak. The curiosity got the better of me and I went to talk to him. He was from Maumere, Flores, Indonesia. My jaw dropped. I told him I had been there in April. His jaw dropped. He was one of three Indonesian priests on a mission in Slovakia. It was an interesting chat.

Days 3 & 4

I took a ride along historical forest railways in Vychyľovka and Orava.

I also went to check out the wooden church in the town of Tvrdošín which is the second oldest building in the Orava region (16th century) and was originally built without a single nail. Now UNESCO listed with other unique wooden churches Slovakia is famous for.

Vychyľovka forest railway
Orava forest railway

I went on to visit the Orava castle – the oldest building in the Orava region. The oldest parts are from as early as the 13th century.

I ended the day by my first ride on the regional train locally nicknamed Oravka.

UNESCO listed wooden church in Tvrdošín
Orava castle
Day 5

I made it to Ďumbier, the highest peak of the Low Tatras mountain range at 2046 m asl.

Did I plan it? No, not at all. I decided in the morning abandoning another idea I had.

I hiked to Chopok first, another of the highest peaks at 2024 m asl. But the weather wasn’t very good so 400 m below the peak I waited for 40 minutes for the weather to change and then I spent another hour and 20 minutes in a restaurant just 20 m below the peak again waiting for the weather to change. A lot of waiting is not my style but it paid off.

Vrbice mountain lake/tarn
At the top of Chopok, Low Tatras
Hiking up to Ďumbier, Low tatras

I then hiked on along the ridge to Ďumbier. And I loved it.

The sun at the peak was a real reward. I spent an hour there. Just the way I like it. I also got to see a family of chamois. Just wow.

It was the most rewarding day.

Hitchhiking back to the city – I got a lift in two minutes. Hitchhiking was a really nice surprise. It was easier than in any other country on my RTW trip. Amazing.

At the top of Ďumbier
Low Tatras mountains
At the top of Ďumbier
Days 6 & 7

After the big hike on Monday I crawled out of bed at noon on Tuesday. I wanted to have an easy day.

Slovakia boasts hundreds of caves 12 of them being the main ones that are accessible. We have 9 dripstone caves, 2 ice caves and 1 aragonite cave. If there is something worth seeing in the little big country it’s the caves.

I went to the Cave of Freedom first. And it was one of the most beautiful caves I have seen. The fees for photography are high, higher than entrance fees so I have no photos only a postcard for my collection.

The following day I went to Vlkolínec another picturesque village with houses that make up architectural heritage of Slovakia. There are only 18 permanent residents in the village, most houses are cottages of people from around Slovakia and two Dutch people, too. Beautifully colourful, colourfully beautiful.

The village of Vlkolínec
The village of Vlkolínec

My last stop was in Harmanec cave.

Hitchhiking was a success apart from being stuck in the city of Banská Bystrica for 3 hours. I hitched the last ride just before it got dark. Anyway out of 21 rides I got perhaps a half in up to 5 minutes and 75% within 15-20 minutes. One of the most interesting ones was with a guy who served 11 years in the army and was also on missions in Afghanistan or the Balkans. I love meeting people with interesting life story.

2 Replies to “From the heart of Europe: Tour de Slovaquie (1)”

  1. Keďže poznám miesta, ktoré si publikoval Rajec a okolie sme absolvovali pre mesiacom a tak mi nevadilo, že text je v angličtine Jedinečný dokument chválim a som hrdá na Teba pokračuj teším sa na ďalší dokument!!!

    1. Ďakujem pekne! Momentálne publikujem články každú druhú stredu a o týždeň bude ďalší článok opäť o krásach Slovenska.

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