Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for Slovak Republic

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England

9th September Slovak Republic
Stary Smokovec
Crossing the border between Poland and Slovakia - Click to enlargeThe people in the internet cafe in Szczyrk were very interested when Nick told them about our website and what we are doing. They suggested that, as we like mountains and the countryside, we should go to Zakopane, in the very south of Poland and the "gateway" to the High Tatras. We had to decide whether we would really be fussed about not going to Prague, as planned, as the trip south would knock us off course for the Czech Rep. However with the prospect of the High Tatras, and crossing the Slovak border in the mountains instead, there was no real contest! (Forgive me, at this point, those who would maintain that a tour of Eastern Europe is not complete without Prague on your list!!)

We travelled by bus to Bielsko Biala and by train to Zakopane. It was a long day travelling as the train journey was complicated by changes, and the weather wasn't too good. We arrived in Zakopane tired and hungry. We found the Youth Hostel, which was a bit expensive, so we settled for one double room, and set about cooking some tea.

The next day we took the bus to the border. We climbed slowly into the mountains with amazing and dramatic views of snow-capped rocky peaks. We got off the bus at Lysa Polana and walked through the border controls. At that point the actual border is marked by the river Bialka; a crystal-clear, gushing, fast-flowing stream. On the Slovak side we took a photo and then stopped for a picnic lunch and a beer from the cafe/shop, before catching the bus down to Stary Smokovec - another beautiful and panoramic trip. Stupidly we missed our stop and went on to the next village. We trudged wearily back to Stary, in the hot sun, with our packs and, 2 - 3 hours later, found the local Youth Hostel.

We left the hostel in the morning and went in search of cheaper/nicer accommodation. We found something which was both. We wandered down to the bus station with the intention of meeting someone who would offer us a room. We were not disappointed. About six people surrounded us all saying they had "very nice room, very near, very cheap!" One man took us to meet a friend of his, who greeted me, "morning ladies!", and this became his name for the duration of our stay! He took us to a very clean, private apartment some way out of Stary, but in neighbouring Horny Smokovec, where there are plenty of restaurants and bars, and we agreed a price of 800Sk p/n (about 15 pounds). We booked four nights.

We spent the next few days exploring a very beautiful area, although Nick had a cold which kept him in bed on one day. We took the funicular up the mountainside near Stary Smokovec and walked to the 'Cold Waterfall'. It was absolutely gorgeous and very dramatic. The children loved climbing around on the rocks and drinking the pure, clear mountain water. Walking back through the woods we saw a deer, fairly close by. She looked at us and then tiptoed away and disappeared into the woods. She was the second we had seen since arriving in Stary.

9th September Slovak Republic
Stary Smokovec
Above the snow line on Lomnické Seldo - Click to enlargeSurely it can't get much better than this! We got up at about 8 o clock and had a decent fry-up for breakfast. We took the little local train to Tatransky Lomnica and walked to the cable car. It was hot in the sunshine at this level, although the mountain air in the Tatras always felt fresh, and we were peeling off layers as we went. We took the cable car to Skalnaté Pleso (1751m), but the Lomnicky Stit cable car was sold out. (It looked a bit scary, though; one small car suspended in mid-air, climbing around 100m from Skalnaté Pleso to Lomnicky Stit - 2634, highest in Slovakia). We weren't too disappointed, as we were able to settle for the chair lift, which took us above the snow line to Lomnické Seldo (2190m). It was great. There was deep snow on the ground, which delighted the kids, and the views on all sides were tremendous. The air temperature did not feel too cold and we were all wearing several layers, so we stopped for our picnic lunch up there. Then we took the chairlift back to Skalnaté Pleso and began the rest of the descent on foot.

It took us four hours in total to reach Stary Smokovec, walking on rocky paths carefully constructed (Nick pointed out) to minimise erosion! We went through forest and past gushing streams and waterfalls.

Back in town we went for a pizza at a restaurant where they bake it in a stone oven. The kids had ice cream and we drank beer, and then we all returned to our nice, cosy flat, where I had a bath, Thomas and Esther went to bed, and we drank tea together while the fresh, mountain breeze drifted through the balcony window. This had to be one of the best days so far!

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