Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 09 Sep, 2011
Tourist cable-ways that operate all year round (as opposed to winter-only ski lifts) are situated in three locations the Slovakian High Tatras, one for each of the main resorts that are strung on the Cesta Svobody between Strbskie Pleso and Tatranska Lomnica.**Strbskie Pleso boasts a…Read More
Tourist cable-ways that operate all year round (as opposed to winter-only ski lifts) are situated in three locations the Slovakian High Tatras, one for each of the main resorts that are strung on the Cesta Svobody between Strbskie Pleso and Tatranska Lomnica.**Strbskie Pleso boasts a chair lift up the slope of Solisko mountain to Chata Pod Soliskom. This lift covers an altitude difference of 430m, travelling from the altitude of 1386m to 1814m. The adult return ticket cost 10 Euro at the time of writing (2011). The chairlift trip is very enjoyable, especially further up as the cable climbs more steeply and above the tree line. The Chata Pod Soliskom mountain hostel offers refreshments, as does a cafe at the top station of the chairlift. I am not sure though if the chairlift trip itself is worth the hefty price tag (after all we are talking close to 30 Euro for a family, minimum). However, the chairlift offers a huge advance on those intending to climb to the minor summit of Predne Solisko (2093m) which is accessible by a steep (18% gradient) but short (nominally 45 minutes) route from the top station of the cable car and offers magnificent views. **Stary Smokovec has a funicular to the popular resort area of Hrebienok. The Stary Smokovec - Hrebienok Funicular covers a distance of 2190m and climbs 255m to the altitude of 1272m. It can transport 1600 people an hour from the bottom station at Old Smokovec to the small ski resort of Hrebienok. There are several walking paths, easily accessible from the top station, some leading to mountain hostels and waterfalls. The adult ticket costs 7 euro return, 6 euro up and 4 euro down (2011 prices). Children under 6 years old travel free. There is also a possibility of buying a combined deal ticket for the funicular and the Skalnate Pleso - Tatranska Lomnica gondola cable car (each one way) and walking the 2 hour stretch of Tatra Highway (Tatranska Magistrala) between the two stations This cable-way takes litterally just a few minutes and is a completely unexciting ride in itself, with no views as such. The top is very busy (this is the cheapest and fastest of the High Tatra cable ways). However, it saves a 45 minutes (standard time, and more if you have kids or aren't very fit) and over 250m of a dull ascent, taking the visitor to a starting point of quite a few great Vysoke Tatry walks, from genetle strolls to the waterfalls of Studeny Potok to moderately easy, short walks to Zamkovskego Chata (Zamkovsky's Cottage) and further on to Tatranska Magistrala to Skalnate Pleso and its to station of the cable car or the opposite way to Silezsky Dom. Longer and more sternous walks also start from Hrebienok and several different colour-coded trails pass by. One of the best value options for a nice, high-altitude walk takes advantage of a "Magistrala" joint ticket that for 13 Euro offers a ride up on the Hrebienok funicular and a ride down the Skalnate Pleso cable car to Tatranska Lomnica (or a ride up the cable car and ride down the funicular), allowing for a two-hour walk on the stretch of Tatranska Magistrala between the two stations. **The most exciting set of the High Tatra cableways is undoubtedly in the Tatranska Lomnica. In the actual fact it's three different cableways that include a gondola cable car from Tatranska Lomnica to Skalnate Pleso, a suspension cablecar from Skalnate Pleso to the Lomnica Peak (Lomnicky Stit) and a chair lift from Skalnate Pleso to Lomnicke Sedlo. The Cable Car to Skalnate Pleso, near Vysoké Tatry, constitutes the first (and entirely separate) part of the cable car journey from Tatranska Lomnica to the peak of Lomnicky Stit. This itself is composed of two cable-ways carrying the passengers from the bottom station at the altitude of 903m via the intermediate station Start at 1173m to the Skalnate Pleso itself at 1772m. This cable car operates 4 person gondolas and costs (2011 prices) 10 Euro one way or 15 Euro return. Children under 6 travel free. Skalnate Pleso is above the tree line and surrounded by alpine landscape of High Tatras, with close views of the peaks as well as views to the settlements below. It features a small loch, a nature walk round the loch as well as a restaurant and (in a separate building) an astronomical observatory. There are also numerous high-altitude walking trails. It is also the bottom station of the suspension tramway to the peak of Lomnicky Stit and the access point for the chairlift to Lomnicke Sedlo. The suspension cable-way Skalnate Pleso - Lomnicky Stit near Vysoké Tatry is the second part of the cable-car ascent to the peak of Lomnicky Stit, following on from the gondola cable car that connects Tatranska Lomnica to Skalnate Pleso.. This cable-way starts at 1772m and ascends to 2625m, the top of the second highest peak in the Tatras which is only otherwise accessible to mountaineers and experienced hikers on a guided climb. The cable car costs 24 Euro (2011 prices) for a return journey. Tickets can be bought in advance online and are for specific journeys, allowing visitors 50 minutes at the top. The total cost of a return trip from Tatranska Lomnica to the top of the Lomnica peak is thus a whopping 34 Euros per adult. Despite its price, the peak cable-car gets booked up really quickly and in the high season you need to be up on Skalnate Pleso pretty early to have a chance. It is also possible to book tickets online in advance, but obviously this doesn't take into account the changeable mountain weather and you might end up paying the final 24 Euro for a while-knuckle ride in a cable car to the second highest peak in the Tatras... and see nothing but a meteo station, some rocks and a sea of clouds. On a good day, the views are stunning and apparently worth every cent, stretching towards the Polish lowlands on one side and beyond Low Tatras into southern Slovakia on the other. The only other way to reach the Lomnica peak is to climb it with a guide (it's not on the public trail network) which not only requires hiking skills bordering on mountaineering as well as reasonable fitness level, but also is rather more expensive than the cable car. The cheaper alternative is to take the chairlift to Lomnicke Sedlo. Skalnaté pleso - Lomnické sedlo Chair Lift, near Vysoké Tatry, offers an alternative - and substantially cheaper - means of travelling above the Skalnate pleso to the suspension cable-way to the peak of Lomnica. The lift covers a distance of 1138m and climbs up 408m from 1772m to 2196m above the sea level. Lomnicke Sedlo (Lomnica Saddle) is the starting point for the guided ascent of Lomnica Peak itself and also offers wide views of the surrounding areas and the alpine landscape of the High Tatras. The return journey (compulsory as there is no trail) costs 8 Euro per person (2011 prices).Many people take just the trip up to Skalnate Pleso and either take the gondola down or walk on one of the many paths available for hikers there. Skalnate Pleso itself offers a taste of the high mountain environment, with a small and shallow tarn in which the precipitous walls and the peak of Lomnica get reflected. There is and educational path around the tarn, a kids' play-park next to it and a couple of minutes away, the Skalna Chata mountain hostel that offers refreshments in a slightly more intimate surroundings that the cafe at the top station of the gondola cable car. The main trail that passes Skalnate Pleso is Tatranska Magistrala. Close
Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 06 Sep, 2011
Having spent more than 24 hours in the car and crossing five countries in a space of four days we needed some way to reconnect with our own bodies and the basics of the physical world. We thus stopped in the Slovakian High Tatras and…Read More
Having spent more than 24 hours in the car and crossing five countries in a space of four days we needed some way to reconnect with our own bodies and the basics of the physical world. We thus stopped in the Slovakian High Tatras and decided to take a high-altitude walk along an easy three mile stretch of Tatranska Magistrala ("Tatra Trunk-road"), a 30-mile long walking trail crossing the mountain range from west to east. **We park at Stary Smokovec, an old Tatra spa and resort that boasts a funicular which saves about an hour of the most boring ascent from the resort to the starting point of many walks. The ride is brief and unexciting, but we emerge closer to the high country and an easy trail (suitable for pushchairs and disabled) leads us (and numerous other visitors) along a path on a wooded hillside. Above, the alpine-like peaks of High Tatras gleam sharply in the sunshine. Soon, we arrive near the Studenovodskie Vodospady (Cold Waterfalls) a series of lovely rapids and waterfalls to which the trail descends along a stone made-up path. From the large waterfall it's up and up, on the same kind of path: a good way to prevent erosion on such a popular route but hard on feet, particularly little ones shod in trainers. After a bit of uphill effort along steep switchbacks we reach Zamkovskego Chata (Zamkovsky's Cottage), a mountain hostel and a restaurant sitting in the woods at 1475m. All food and drink has to be carried here from the funicular station – even on the way we see a guy with a beer keg on his back! Prices certainly reflect this, as well as fairly captive audience, but the food is a solid and tasty Tatra fare and we don't begrudge the mark-up. Thus refuelled, the children clutching their certificates confirming the visit in the Chata, we are ready to go. The sky is getting cloudy, though, and we can hear a distant thunder. This puts us in a quandary as to whether go back to the funicular station or continue on our original route to Skalnate Pleso. We planned to take a cable car from there to Tatranska Lomnica, but yesterday's thunderstorm damaged it and we are not sure if it's working. People walking from Skalnate Pleso direction confirm that the cableway is running and thus reassured we decide to go on. The path climbs some more and soon emerges from between the trees and follows a hillside, a cutting through a thick Tatra kosodrzewina (dwarf mountain pine). The sky is a show of intermingling grey, white, blue and black, and we are sure to get soaked whichever way we go – especially as, with heads clearly addled by two months of uninterrupted sun in the Med – we left the waterproofs in the car. With every thunder, the Older Child whimpers dramatically, but being the Bad Parents we are, we go on, while lecturing on lightning conductors and the like. On the way we meet several well kitted out, but still dry, people going the opposite way and a Russian-Irish (or is it Irish-Russian) mother and daughter (in trainers) going the same way. The Older Child is encouraged by a presence of a peer and stops the squealing. The views down the valleys are dramatic: a patchwork of dark rain, grey clouds and golden sunshine illuminating bright green squares of fields. The Skalnate Pleso station of the cable car comes into view ten minutes before the rain catches up with us and just before it starts really bucketing down we dive into the Skalna Chata (Rocky Cottage) hostel, where a taciturn "chatar" (cottage-keeper) serves us tea, coffee and hot chocolate. A request for milk for tea is met with a stern "You don't have milk in tea" grunt (in Slovak) but a query about photos on the wall which depict the chatar as a champion of stuff-carriers (207kg in one go, up a mountain) makes him a little bit more amicable if not less grunty. We meet a Polish couple who tell us that the cableway is not working at the moment because of the storm and thus await the end of rain. The rain doesn't end but a short break means that we can run the three minutes to the cableway station in not much more than a drizzle. The station and its restaurant are full of people – including babies in prams and stick-wielding pensioners who clearly rode up in the cable car but cannot ride down. A window in the rain allows us to admire the severe, almost bare rock of the Lomnica Peak (Lomnicky Stit) that raises above the small tarn of Skalnate Pleso. The suspension tramway to the very top looks precariously tiny and I am not sure I would go in it even if it was going and cost less than the astonishing 24 Euro per person for a return trip (on top of 12 Euro for the gondola cable car to Skalnate Pleso, though that bit can be walked on marked trails). Under the dark cloud punctuated by lightning and frequently disappearing and appearing again small windows of bright blue, the corries and rock faces of Lomnica look imposingly beautiful, as if to tell us that human hold on those last edges of wilderness is still a little precarious. The storm takes two hours to pass alternating between a drizzle, a violent downpour and hail. We contemplate walking down but our children's lack of walking boots and approaching dusk mean we decide to wait. Eventually, a rainbow appears below, the cable car gondolas start to move and we can descend. The cableway doesn't work all the way down, but a shuttle bus takes us from mid-station (confusingly named Start) to Tatranska Lomnica. The Other Adult gets a lift from the Polish couple to recover our car from Smokovce and soon we are on the way back to our pension. Once there, we discover the our Most Important Bag was left in the couple's car. Luckily, it contained my phone which, even more luckily, they answer before driving too far off into Poland and thus the bag is recovered and we can eventually retire: the Younger Child asleep in our arms before we even reach the room. Close
Written by UK Flower Girl on 05 Dec, 2005
Wooden Protestant Articular Church open 9-12 and 2-5 daily May-SeptemberNew Evangelical Church open open 9-12am and 2-5pm daily, May-SeptemberAfter our morning on the mountains, we were looking for some culture or history. We drove east of Tatranská Lomnica through some little villages and then north…Read More
Wooden Protestant Articular Church open 9-12 and 2-5 daily May-SeptemberNew Evangelical Church open open 9-12am and 2-5pm daily, May-SeptemberAfter our morning on the mountains, we were looking for some culture or history. We drove east of Tatranská Lomnica through some little villages and then north to the Polish border for a quick lunch. We didn’t find anything very interesting in that area so we drove back south and ended up in Kězmarok, a town not too far east of where we started that day. My guidebook suggested stopping here to see some of the churches the town has to offer. We visited two: the New Protestant (or Evangelical) Church and the Wooden Protestant Articular Church next door. To our surprise, there was another church being built across the street from here. These two buildings offered us a stark contrast: one church was stark white and boring outside but one of the most colourful churches I have ever seen on the inside. The other church had amazing colour and shape outside, but the inside was bland on the inside.As we drove into town it was pretty clear where we were headed as we could see the tower on the reddish mosque-looking building from a distance. We found a free place to park and walked over to the churches. It is a reddish-coral colour with greenish and yellow accents. I expected the inside to be lavishly decorated. The inside was rather dull in contrast to the deep colour outside. The building isn’t as large on the inside as it looks from the outside, either. We visited the New Evangelical Church first. In order to view both of the churches, you must be shown around by a guide. It really isn’t as formal as it sounds; it was a little old lady guiding us and we were the only ones in the church. The ticket you purchase here is also used to see the Wooden Protestant Articular Church next door at no additional cost. We had to take a German tour of the church. Fortunately, she had an English sheet we could sit down and read before delving into more detail in German. Tom understood much more than I. He translated some of the bits I missed... what he could understand anyway. This pseudo-Moorish church was built in 1894 and was to be build somewhere in the Far East. Citizens of Kězmarok were in need of a new plan for their church and the architect Teophil Hansen from Vienna donated this plan free of charge as long as plans were carried out to his specifications. It houses the mausoleum of Imre Thököly who fought with Ferenc Rákóczi against the Hapsburg takeover of Hungary.Three notable things to see in this church: columns, windows and the mausoleum.Black marble columns stand at the back of the church capped with a contrasting series of arches. Look for the small stained-glass windows that were brought here from a synagogue. The windows were made for the synagogue and then didn’t fit when they went to put them in. Lastly, the most important part of the church seems to be the mausoleum of Imre Thököly. It acts as a sort of shrine with wreaths, ribbons, flowers and a flag.From here, we visited the plain white church next door, the Wooden Protestant Articular Church. Such Protestant "articular" churches were erected during the period of the counter-reformation in the 18th century. However, a limit of two per royal city was imposed. They had to be built outside the city walls and were not allowed to have bells or a steeple. This church in Kězmarok was built with financial help from Sweden and Denmark. It is said that Swedish sailors helped construct it, which explains the upturned boat shape of the roof and the round windows in the lower part of the building.
The church was made totally of wood (well, 99% as the Vestry is made of stone, part of a former Inn) and had no foundations; even the nails are made of wood. I was truly in awe when I walked through the door. Yew and lime are two of the types of wood used to build the church. Brightly coloured paintings surround you as you wander around exploring. Even the ceiling is painted to be a mock sky with clouds and Biblical figures. Be sure to schedule some extra time here because you will want to just sit and admire the beauty.
This church also had an English guide for you to read as you wandered around the church…and remember your ticket from next door gets you into this church for no extra fee. Kězmarok has several other churches to visit such as the Gothic Basilica of the Holy Cross, St. Michael’s and St. Elizabeth’s. Stop at the Gothic-Renaissance Town Hall, the Castle, and the Old Town for a perfect day of sightseeing.
Driving: Infrastructure wasn’t an issue at all along here. Petrol (gas) stations were available when we needed one. Roads were much better than I had expected and driving along the country roads was actually a pleasurable experience. Suggestion: Buy a map of Slovakia at a…Read More
Driving: Infrastructure wasn’t an issue at all along here. Petrol (gas) stations were available when we needed one. Roads were much better than I had expected and driving along the country roads was actually a pleasurable experience. Suggestion: Buy a map of Slovakia at a petrol station once you arrive in Slovakia. We purchased a Freytag and Berndt map of Slovkia and the Czech Republic (ISBN 80-7316-026-9). Not only did it help us on the highways, but it helped us in cities, too, as it has several city maps for both countries. Getting lost wasn’t an issue and we didn’t have to spend too much time looking for one before we arrived. We used a general Europe map we had purchased at home to guide us along the obvious major routes.**Note on petrol stations**: At each of the petrol stations you visit you will be given the opportunity to have your windscreen washed. This is usually done by young, good-looking women wearing tight clothes that show a bit of skin whilst working. Your husbands and boyfriends will thoroughly enjoy this and will want to have the windscreen washed several times. Ladies, don’t let them wash the windscreen each time, your significant other will not stop talking about it for a month or longer and may proclaim they want to marry a Slovakian woman! These ladies don’t have a set price and don’t really care what currency you give them. Tom gave one girl a Euro and she was perfectly happy.Money: Since we were visiting Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic we were going to need four difference currencies. Once over the border into Slovakia we stopped at a cash machine to retrieve some cash. The first cash machine was out of order. The second one worked, but not with our US debit card with a magnetic strip. We had to use our British bank account card, the card with the security chip on the front. As Tom is still paid in dollars even though we live in the UK it is much more convenient for us to pay in $US. For nearly all of our holiday we had to use the British card because the US card did not work in cash machines. I would imagine if you were to visit more “on-the-beaten-track” you may find this not an issue at all. Another issue with so many currencies is trying to predict how much cash you will need to minimise needing another stop for cash and balancing that with not taking too much home with you. We failed miserably. I have loads of Slovakian Koruny if anyone is going there soon. Eventually most of these European countries that have joined the EU will use the Euro and this will not be an issue anymore (and I will still be stuck with my koruny!)Parking: It seems that parking is a roaring business in this country. We found that much of the parking you do here will not be free. In fact, you may find a place to park to have someone appear out of nowhere with a bright orange or yellow vest. My suggestion: pay to park once and walk unless you need to go a fair distance. Even hotels will charge you to park…many of them with outsourced parking companies.Farming: One thing that struck us as interesting in Slovakia was the farming. To us it seemed like such an old-style way of doing things. Most fields were worked by manual means rather than mechanical means. We saw horses pulling huge wagons full of hay and families travelling together using horse and wagon transportation. Yes, we saw a few tractors, but we also saw horses being used to plough fields. You could see families working in the fields together, often times dressed in traditional dress (dresses and scarves for women). Hay was raked into piles and then put up on wooden frames by hand to dry.Romas/gypsies: During our time in the High Tatras there were many groups of Roma/gypsies selling berries and mushrooms on the side of the road...sometimes ten or more lined up down the road all selling the same thing. They always seemed very happy when a car would approach, jumping up and running to the side of the road to get your attention. High populations of gypsies live in Eastern Slovakia. Romas or Gypsies are a people without a state, no place to call “home”and there are approximately 1 million living within Slovkia and the Czech Republic. They tend to live in very poor conditions in small rudimentary housing in villages. As in other Eastern European countries, there is much prejudice against the Roma people. They did us no harm and I felt terrible for them just waiting for a car to pass in hopes that they could make just a bit of money. Slovakian Cuisine: Cuisine in Slovakia seems to be heavily influenced by German, Hungarian and Austrian tastes. It tends to be heavy and full of carbohydrates. I remember thinking “Where are the vegetables?” The side dish menu leaned towards potatoes, dumplings, sauerkraut and other forms of potatoes. Always expect a heavy meal when dining. It is no problem to counteract this with plenty of walking in such a beautiful place! Close
We left Budapest just after 8am our last morning in Hungary. We went north from Budapest on the 2A and then the 2 through the countryside and past the Danube Bend up to the Hungary/Slovakia border. Traffic was a bit hectic at this hour and…Read More
We left Budapest just after 8am our last morning in Hungary. We went north from Budapest on the 2A and then the 2 through the countryside and past the Danube Bend up to the Hungary/Slovakia border. Traffic was a bit hectic at this hour and I am glad Tom was driving because it was surely “free-for-all” driving. Pollution also seemed to be terrible on the busy city roads that morning. I guess the old Russian Ladas and East German Trabants that you see everywhere are not “environmentally friendly”.The air was heavy with moisture and out in the country it was difficult to see anything beyond the road due to the haziness. After an hour or so, the air cleared some, and we were able to see the pretty green countryside.Most of our European travels have been throughout Western Europe where you don’t need your passport between countries with a few exceptions such as Denmark (and other Scandinavian countries), Switzerland, and the UK. Going through the border was a breeze. The Hungarian official took our passports and stamped an H with an arrow for outgoing and passed them over to the Slovakian official sitting at the next window who stamped an SK with an arrow pointing the other way for incoming. No documentation needed for the vehicle. Be sure to take a good look at (or a picture of) the signs at the entrance to each country. It will tell you if you need a motorway permit (then again you should know about this already!), the speed limits on all of the roads in the country and emergency numbers. We didn’t buy the necessary Motorway fee for Slovakia since we would be staying off of the larger roads until we made our way into the Czech Republic a few days later. For now we would stay on the small roads and enjoy the slower pace. *Note: You need a vignette or nálepka (motorway toll sticker) when driving on the large motorways in Slovakia (denoted with green signs). You can purchase an annual sticker for ~600SKK or 15-day short-term sticker for ~100 SKK at the border and at most petrol stations. The fine for not having one is 5000SKK*. Slovakia’s rolling green hills were a gorgeous sight with small villages tucked into the hillsides and trees and green everywhere. As we drove north through the low Tatras the mountains grew taller and more majestic in the distance. The town of Tatranská Lomnica in the High Tatras was our stopping point for the next two nights. We took a breather at a German cemetery near the village of Vazec. I tried searching for it online when I got home and I am having trouble finding anything in English, only in German and I don’t know enough German to translate. I do know that they are German soldiers who died here in Slovakia during WWII. Stone crosses marked graves with four names per headstone along with “Unbekannte Deutsche Soldaten” (Unknown German soldiers). The backdrop to this amazing place was most incredible, the High Tatras only a few miles beyond.We had to choose from which direction to approach Tatranská Lomnica—from the south or west. Deciding on driving in from the west of the town, we made our way along the road that rings the base of the mountains. As we got closer something just didn’t look right—the trees were missing. Thousands of trees were uprooted and then cut off or just cut down. There were vast expanses of forest that were open fields now with large areas even burned. It looked like clear-cutting gone completely wrong. This went on for a few miles. Selfishly I was hoping that our town had trees since this view just didn’t strike me as something I wanted to see for the next two days. Luckily, as we drove east the lush green trees started to reappear. When we checked into the hotel I had to ask what happened to all of the trees. The receptionist said that a wind storm ripped through the mountains in November 2004 and uprooted thousands and thousands of trees. Very sad, indeed. Close