Slovenia & the Tatras Mountains
Walking in the Tatras Mountains in Slovakia and other areas of Eastern Europe including walking in Slovenia has always appealed to me but I have never actually got there. JP did visit , and his mutterings are below but it would be good to hear from other people who have walked in the area – I know many go back year after year so there must be some great opportunities to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Walking in the Tatras Mountains
What shall we do for our summer week away this year? Never been to Prague, why not start there and make it up? Needless to say, there is always a hill in the thinking.
Canny weekend. I like Prague, dead easy to get to, dead easy to sort accomodation. Now what, we have 5 days until our flight from Koscice in Eastern Slovakia. Ok, Krakow by overnight train, arriving 6:30 a.m Monday morning. That’ll do nicely. Very reasonable prices too (bear in mind this was 1999).
Krakow. Wow. The vast central cloth market was interesting and the castle easy to reach. The afternoon took us to the salt mines by local bus. Whacky! The miners had carved vast chambers in the salt, leaving altars and cutting statues and sculptures into niches. Impressive.
Booked up a minibus to go south to the Tatras. After a silly night out in Krakow we headed off early to the forested ski resort of Zakopane. A FIS slalom hosting town, it’s been well known for many years, and has an associated level of joie de vivre. We took straight off for the last cable car, leaving the crowds behind and headed up to the ridge.
Looks good. The weather was fantastic, clear and warm. We had noted that camping was verboten, the requirement being to end up in one of the many well equipped mountain huts. This meant we needed to get on with it, we were going to be going into the night.
A short walk later and we hit the first peak at 2,300m. What a view. Endless jagged mountains confronted us. All rock and drama, a double sized Cuillin. The Tatras are not a big range but contain the highest points in Poland and Slovakia, topping out at over 2,600m. You’ll need a permit to have a go at climbing some of these, it’s not just for walking. No wonder Poland has such a high pedigree alpine reputation.
Chains were needed to drop off that first peak. The hills glowed red as the sunset. We descended a well marked, very steep trail, into the wide central glen. A full moon rose. We were walking with moonlit shadows. Memorable.
Over-nighting at a lochan-side hut, we rose early to have a go at Rysys. At 2,499m it’s considered a rite of passage for the Polish. Evidently Vladimir Lenin got up there, though I’m not sure that the Poles are that bothered. Up and over a col, then down through brush to the popular Morskie Oko hut by the twin “eyes of the sea” lakes. Book in, leave the packs and off we go. 800m loose scree, very much a “stone shoot”, led us up to a last couple of hundred metres of rocky steps. The summit had it’s ration of rite of passage adherents and was situated tight on the Polish border with Slovakia. Tempting to cross there, but the law may have had words. The top is airily situated, the drop offs north are quite knarly. Very in tune with the Cuillin, fantastic views of razor peaks.
Back down at the hut we ended Wednesday with well earned beers and a good night’s kip. It’s an easy walk out, and a very popular one. We whizzed down it and hotfooted to the coach station to get a bus to Tatranska Lomnica in Slovakia. Granhotel Praha cost us $20 for a room. We booked in for a couple of days and made use of the efficient railways and reasonable cable cars to explore. Grand trails, far reaching views of sharp hills, excellent cream cakes, huge servings of pork, extensive forest below 1500m, cascades, there is much to recommend to the walker in summer. The highlight is probably the cable up Lomnicky Stit. At 2,632m you must gain a permit to climb the precipitous slopes, but if you are not a rock jock the cable is must for the view
Pity, but the week was near it’s end. Sunday morning train to Poprad and thence to Koscice, a quick look around an attractive town centre, then off to the airport. Just made a bounce out of Vienna and we were home in time for a well earned rest.
We knew the Tatras were popular, so we anticipated getting some pretty good maps and sure enough there were loads on offer. Well marked and blazed trails abound. It’s steep though, you don’t go off piste here, half the trails have chains in places. The following offer excellent links to find out more ( Morskie Oko and lomnicky stit).
Walking in Slovenia
The Julian Alps: dramatic limestone peaks busting out of fertile plains, soaring to over 9,000’, their skirts covered in forest but their crags and summits standing proud.
Slovenia is the size of Wales and has really diverse scenery. From the Adriatic Venetian coastline, through rolling green farmland to the mountains bordering Austria, there is a new view around every corner. A caver’s paradise, the country is riddled with holes, but it was the north west that drew us.
The scene of bitter WWI struggles, the Soca valley is one of Europe’s prime white water sites. The peaks around the valley were the front lines in WWI, trenches went right over their ridges. The drops were so vertiginous on all sides that these trenches barely moved for years. Most casualties came through avalanche and cold. It ‘s the forgotten war, but was just as bitter as the Western Front.
Just east of the Soca, and south of the border and the ski resort of Kranska Gora, sits the highest of all, Triglav. At over 2,800m, it is girt with cliffs, but many chained trails also struggle up it’s ridges and Dolinas (glens).
We based ourselves in Bled, a pretty and lively tourist town set on a dramatically positioned lake. Having flown into Ljubljana (no frills airlines make it easy) Bled is a mere hour away. Visit the castle (Blejski Grad) and take a boat to the chapel on Otok island, visit Vintgar gorge or take the chair lift up the wee hill on the south side. Great food and views are to he had all round.
Weather was ok, high cloud. Off we went on our 2 day climb. Starting in the forest to the south, we followed well worn trails to the first of the staffed huts. Skirting high above the valley we were aiming to overnight in Dom Planika. Situated at 2,401m it’s a big, comfy hostel sitting on the edge of the southern cirque of Triglav.
A neck craning morning followed. The chained path went straight up a cliff. We were later told that a guide was usual, but what the hey, we’re Geordies! 400m later we were on the top. White out. Bah. At least we were spared the local habit of having your bum switched by birch twigs (or the end of a frayed rope). Pity we could not see the near 1,900m northern cliffs.
Dropping off west, our fingers stinging from rock contact, we set off over a shattered limestone landscape, 1,500m above the Soca. Though it was August old snow filled many hollows. A couple of ups and downs, magnificent and far reaching views, and we were at the top of the Valley of the 7 lakes. A lovely long walk later we re-entered the forest. We were headed for the massive Lake Bohinj, a beautiful but cold finale. The sting came as we came to the edge of the lake, we were at the top of another cliff, still 500m above the lake! Where the hell was the way down? A tremendous goat track later and we stumbled back into tourist land, absolutely dry and gagging for beer. Friends awaited, beer on table. Not for long. It had been a very long day but one that remains clear in the memory years later.
Visit Slovenia. Nice people, wonderful and varied scenery. Do it this year. Push it to the top of the list. More information to be found here