Slovakia Update #90 – The Smallest Biggest Mountains

The Vysoké Tatry (High Tatras) are some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, and I had the opportunity to visit them for the second time today. The twist this time however, was that there was multiple feet of snow, and blistering cold weather. I did not let that get me down though, and it allowed this trip to be one of my most memorable.

Note: I was having such a good time this weekend, I forgot to take note of the different places I had visited. Thankfully, I have a map of the area, and a pretty good idea of where I was. With that being said, I can’t guarantee that the names I am saying are the exact location that I was at. I will try my best for accuracy, btu again: I can’t guarantee it. 

Waking up early on Wednesday, I gathered my things and got ready for Nico’s (from Argentina) host dad to pick me up. I didn’t have much to bring, as we would be coming back the next day, but I can happily say that I did a good job packing and didn’t forget anything important. Before long, I was in the car driving away to our first destination: Starý Smokovec. From there, we took a short tram ride up to a small village called Hrebienok, where from there we visited the location of the Tatry Ice Master competition, where an ice church was being presented. It was inside a domed building, which for some reason had it’s air conditioning running even though it was warmer inside the dome than the outside.

Stepping into the dome, you don’t really being to understand the grandness of the ice church that was inside until you walk around for a little while. The intricate carvings of the animals and the architecture on the walls was intriguing to say the least. After some pictures in the dome, we left for the brutal zima (winter) that was awaiting us outside.

I couldn’t take my gloves off for the picture, so unfortunately I couldn’t get it to focus on our little snowman friend

We began our first, and certainly not last trek up into the mountains. On the way up the mountain, the severity of the cold began to set in. I didn’t have a way of checking the temperature at the time, but if I had to guess based on the temperature now and before we left, it was somewhere between -3C to -6C. And that is not factoring in the windchill and the snow that was ever so lightly falling down on us. It was when we first began our trek into the occasional knee deep snow that my poor little toes and fingers started to remind me that people should not be doing what I was doing with the clothing that I had. I know I did say that I packed correctly, but I do not own the equipment that would possibly keep my poor hands and feet warm.

After making our way back down the trail through the waist deep snow, we stopped inside the restaurant at Hrebienok to grab a bite to eat. I don’t even remember savoring the food, I just remember inhaling it: I was so very hungry after our trek through the neck deep snow to see the mountain Lomnicky štit. After we finished up eating, we made the decision (a mighty good one at that), that we would be going down the mountain in a toboggan. I know I mentioned a few days ago that I would be trying to put together a video of my trip so far, but this time I do mean it. And in that video I will include me and Nico flying down the mountain at breakneck speed, with a drifting finish.

Once our life threatening adventure on the toboggan came to an end, we began our walk to our next destination: Tricklandia. Tricklandia describes themselves as a “Family trick-art gallery in Stary Smokovec.” Although I didn’t know what I where we would be going, with a name like Tricklandia I was sure to not be dissapointed. And indeed I was not.

Tricklandia hosts a whole gallery of intricate optical illusions, from an “anti-gravity room” to many different murals which told different stories. What I found the most entertaining, was the mirror labyrinth. I took a video of myself going through there, and there were multiple occasions I nearly ran into a mirror, because it played such a good trick on my mind. Something that I found very interesting, was the fact that even when Nico and I were almost certain that we were right next to each other, when in reality we were half way across the maze.

With us wrapping up in Tricklandia, came the conclusion to our first day in the High Tatras. We all got some much needed rest in a hotel in the city štrbske Pleso, (the same city I stayed in when I climbed the mountain Krivan) and prepared ourselves for the adventure that would be occuring the next day.

We began our exciting Thursday morning with a quick breakfast, and then went on a walk across a lake. Normally I wouldn’t write about something small like this, but it absolutely amazed me that in just a few quick months, I could walk right on top of the lake I was considering swimming in just a few months beforehand. I guess that is what happens when you are from California and have never lived in the snow before.

After a little debate on where we should hike to, we chose to hike to a frozen waterfall (forgive me for I cannot find the name of the waterfall for the life of me). The beginning our our journey was a simple walk through some woods, with us occasionally stopping to admire the glimmering snow on the branches of the tree. It was all fun until we broke out of the tree line, and began our ascent up the perilous mountain slope. What made the walk up the mountain incredible difficult, was not the angle of the slope or the difficulty of the terrain, it was the blistering wind blowing snow into our faces, and the freezing cold soaking its way into us.

To be perfectly honest, the waterfall was a bit underwhelming. But the real sights to see were the cliffs to our left and right, and the Nizke Tatry (Low Tatras) off in the distance. I would have like to get closer to the waterfall to examine it further, but I think it would have been quite dangerous to do so, as the river was hidden under a foot of snow, just waiting for a victim to come and fall into it. After a short break at the top, we made our way down the mountain again, this time sledding part of the way down.

Like that, my short trip came to an end. Although it was short, I can say with certainty that it was one of my most memorable trips. The High Tatras in the wintertime are a sight that I would recommend to anyone with any interest in nature. They are something a photograph cannot capture, and must be seen with your own eyes to understand their epicness.



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