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Slovakia
 

 
Country Summary

 

We entered the Slovak Republic from the Czech Republic and travelled through the increasingly high mountains towards Zilina and then the Fatra mountain range. We then traversed around the Southern edge of the High Tatras before crossing the border into Poland. We were in the Slovak republic during the second/third week of June 2005.

 

 
Map

 

map Slovakia

 

 
entry & visas

 

As we are both residents of the EU, Slovakia presents no visa or entry restrictions for a cycle tourist. The border was fully manned but they saw a British passport and just waved us through - Isa didn't even attempt to get her passport out of her bag.

 

 
camping
 

We had planned to stay in Campsites in the Tatras and throughout Slovakia. As it turned out the campsites were poorly positioned and of poor quality. The couple of campsites we saw were virtually derelict, old concrete, wild trees and bushes - and worst of all right alongside main roads.

We were therefore forced to camp wild on most occasions (apart from our stop in Raztoky and a couple of nights in a mountain refuge in the Tatra).

The wild camping was not without incident.

 
 

wild camping views

Campsite overlooking Velky Choc - before the drunken Shepherds arrived with their 5 mad dogs

 

Campsite in the shadow of the Fatra mountains (before the hunter turned up)

  wild campingtastic  

 

     

 
cycle shops

 

We had no need for cycle shops but noticed that they were very thin on the ground. There were a number around the bigger towns in the Tatras

 

 
food & drink
 

There are a few things that must be tried when going to Slovakia. First of all, hats off for the Bread. It is excellent in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia. We suspect it is flavoured with a local spice called kmin (caraway seeds?), but we are not too sure.

The most typical Slovak dish that has been recommended to us on a few occasion is Brindzove Haluski. It consist of some kind of gnocchi with a local cheese and comes with bits of bacon. One of the variations is made of cabbage. It is very nourishing, good and cheap for hungry cyclists.

 

Typical Czech and Slovak bread

 
 
 

Vegetarians be afraid - be very afraid, translations seem to be somewhat amiss at times - still one can always try ones luck with the original Slovak description.

 

 

Help required - the long thin pointy vegetable is paprika, the one in the black coat is Isa - but what the hell is the round, root vegetable. It has the texture of a radish and is eaten raw in salads?

     

 
weather

 

Our first few days in Slovakia had terrible weather. The day we crossed the border into Slovakia the temperature barely made it to 7 degrees C - and it was pouring with rain. When we arrived at our hosts house it turned out that it had been their 7th day of continuous rain. When the sun shone thetemperature reached about 25 degrees. The weather in Northern Slovakia is influenced heavily by the prescence of the numerous mountain ranges - and as such the weather is extremely unpredictable.

 

 
medical

 

Well we still have our E111 forms and thankfully havn't needed to make use of them. We ended up with a big flu/cold aswe left the Tatras and had to delve into Isa's drug supply - we waited until reaching Poland for additional drug resources.

 

 
flora & fauna
 
 
 

 

Wild meadows with beautiful flowers everywhere.

We camped wild in the Tatras, this could have been risky as they are home to Wolves, Bears and Lynx - but luckily we did not see any. Terry kept shouting "deer!" when he saw a deer - much to the distress of Isa who kept hearing "Bear!"

 

 
graphs & stats

 

Total Distance in Slovakia - 275 km

Days Cycling in Slovakia - 5

Average km per day - 55 km

Highest point Cycled - 1517m at Popraske Pleso (highest point of the trip so far)

Most Southerly Point of the Trip - 40 degrees 9 Minutes (Liptovsky Mikulas)

Most Altitude in a day - 1169m (most of the trip So far) To Strbske Pleso

As you can see above not far cycled in Slovakia but it was very mountainous which led to so hard days cycling (still we managed some mountain walking on the rest day)

 

 
What we Did and When
 

11th June 2005 - chilling out with Joseph in Raztoky

Actually, it was no much chilling out. Joseph looked brilliantly after us and the day was action packed. On the night of our arrival, we went with Joseph to the local buffet (it is like a pub) where he was playing guitar. Joseph knows an impressive amount of traditional Slovak, Ukrainian, Romanian songs and there is no stopping him! He got all the people in the buffet singing. Isa was doing the rhythmic with a home-made stick with bottle caps (excellent instrument) and Terry was busy chatting up the local ladies. People were over-friendly, no doubt it was alcohol fuelled. Apart from the three of us, nobody was walking straight at the end of the evening and we are not sure people woke up in the right house the morning after!

 
 
 
 

On the Saturday, Joseph took us to see his uncle and we were treated to a Gulash soup and shots of Slivovice. Then we went to see his friend Emilio. We were treated to stringy cheese and Slivovice. Then we went to see the neighbours because their granddaughters were visiting and they spoke good English. We were treated to cake and Slivovice. I was slightly loosing my capacity to speak straight in English by then... Joseph actually does not speak English (he decided to learn after our visit) but thanks to our hands and specially Ivana (Josef's 12 year old daughter), who has studied English for four years, we were able to communicate. Ivana even wrote a small Slovak-English dictionary for us and it was a great help. Our Slav was finally coming on!

And we did a bit more goat milking at Joseph. We also ate some baby goat, yummy! Mongolia, here we come!

 

 
 

12th June 2005 - Raztoky to Terchova - 52 km

We left Joseph's house after lunch (the freshly killed goat) and he cycled with us up to Zilina on his racing bike (well Isa on the Road Bike and Josef on Isa's loaded touring bike). This was our first dry and sunny day for more than a week!

After saying goodbye to Joseph, we travelled far too busy a road to the towards the Fatra mountains and started looking for a nice camping spot. What a joy, we found it! Not bad hey? Tucked behind bushes, nobody could see us so we set camp happily and start cooking. And.... here comes the local angry hunter and his son. We assumed he was angry, as we understood not a single word of his ticking off, He might as well have invited us for tea. Ah... the joy of being told off in a foreign language..

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

13th June - Terchova to before Malatina - 49 km

Now we were really in the mountains. The day started climbing up (what did we expect?) and then down a fabulous valley North of the Fatras mountains. We crossed the weird city of Dony Kubin, which looks like a small mountain town with Marseille suburbs all around and found another dream camping spot on top of mountain pass just before the town of Malatina. The spot was well away from the road, but we rightly suspected that it was popular as the views back on the Fatra mountains and on the high Tatra ahead were simply fantastic. Terry found a tucked away hole on the side of the mountains and to walkers and bikers, we simply looked like we were pick-nicking.

 

 

 
 

14th June 2005 - Malatina to Strbske Pleso (just try to pronounce this!) - 75 km

We decided to set camp off early that day. It was lucky. As we were ready for breakfast at 8.00, we realised that a herd of cows was coming straight onto us. We barely had time to pack our pots before six dogs were surrounding us and two cow-herders were talking to us. Again, by some kind of magic, communication was possible. It was clear that we were invited to share shots with the herders, who were already well over the drink drive limit. Isa has learned a lesson: do not say "dobre" (= good) after a drink. You are bound to have another one. And so she had two and a half shot of rum, Terry more reserved only one and a half. The day started cycling up to Malatina with only rum in our bellies!

From Malatina, we cycled towards the Liptovska Mara, a big lake by Liptovsky Mikulas. The views were the best we had so far on this trip: on our left were the small Tatry and on our right the high Tatry, still topped up with snow that has fallen the week before when we were cycling under the rain and cold.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

After Liptovsky Mikulas, we headed North towards the High Tatry. The climb was at first nice but we had to give up trying to follow a cycling route too rugged for our big heavy bikes. We opted for the main road into the Tatry, which is shown as a green road on our Michelin map.

And then began the most boring ascent of the trip (everything in one day!). A straight long road cutting through a dense forest, with no views on the right, no views on the left, and speeding cars. We knew that wild camping was forbidden in the Tatry national park, but our slow progress was starting to making us doubt that we will ever reach the main town of Strbske Pleso. We were also scandalised that bivouacking was forbidden, but intensive logging seemed allowed. The forest was in various place absolutely trashed: tree trunk snapped and trees uprooted. Many workers were busy cutting wood late at night, which made it very tricky to find a spot.

 
 

 

The High Tatry

 

We finally found a place to pitch the tent. It was a miracle to find a flat piece of forest with no tree or no workers and not in view of the road. It was late and we fell asleep quickly. We remembered some stories about bears living in the Tatra forest, but this was not enough to stop our tired body falling asleep (bears are ones of Isa's nightmare: they run faster than a human and they can climb trees!)

 

 
 

15th June 2005 - Strbske Pleso to Popradske Pleso - 13 km

It was a short day, but what a climb (400m in one go!). We went to a mountain refuge in the Tatry, with the idea of spending a couple of days walking there. Luckily enough, the refuge had some free rooms, but only until the Thursday night. It is a popular spot and was fully booked for the week-end. We were also lucky with our timing: most of the Tatry walking path were closed until the 15th of June. We were bang on time!

The afternoon consisted of a siesta for Isa (massive cold coming on) and breaking his camera on top of a mountain for Terry, who said that he forgot how to walk with all this cycling! A bit of mending and we were luckily still able to take photos, but the process now involves a lot of swearing.

As we went through Strbske Pleso, we realised that the mad logging was also happening in the town. And then it clicked: the Tatry mountain had suffered a couple of weeks before from big storms and wind. And indeed some massive patches of forest have been uprooted. At least, there are now nice views from the very boring main road (small consolation)

 

 

The low Tatry

Making the hay while the sun finally shines

 
 

After a storm in the Tatra forest

 

16th June 2005 - walking in the Tatry mountains

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! We were hoping to reach the border with Poland walking through the Tatry mountains (some people are sponsoring us per border crossing, so we are keen), but the snow thwarted our plans. It did not matter much. It was beautiful and we took plenty of photos despite Terry swearing at his half broken camera.

Terry also took on carrying a 30 kilos bag of coal up to the refuge. The deal is that if you carry something for the refuge, you get a free drink of rum. But our walking shoes were not good enough to tackle the steep snowy slope to the refuge, so he had to give up after carrying it for 1 hour and a half!

 
 
 

Love it or hate it, the Tatra are simply amazing!

 

 
     
     
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 

The lake of Popradske Pleso

 

Terry and a 30kg bag of coal in the snow.

 
 
     
 

17th June 2005 - Popradske Pleso to Nowy Targ in Poland - 84 km

A great day for downhill, nearly up to the border with Poland. We lost in a few hours most of the altitude we kept on climbing for the last few days. Pass Strbske Pleso, the damage inflicted by the storm are really obvious and the forest has been cut through kilometres on end. It really opened the landscape up. The town on the South side of the Tatry are very touristy and boring. Terry has elected Tatranska Lomnica the grumpiest town in the world, and with reason - not a single smile was to be seen there! A bit further, we saw some amazing wooden villages in Zdiar. And then came the border...

 
 
         
 
 

 

 

For more information or questions please contact us at isaetterry@mac.com