Slovak Places

Téryho chalet and the valley of the five lakes

Teryeho chata against the backdrop of mountain peaks in the Slovak High TatrasTéryho chata is a chalet high in the Slovak High Tatra mountains, perched on the edge of a cliff with views down the long valley. Behind the chalet is a breathtaking valley with five tarn lakes, lorded over by craggy, austere mountain peaks.

Between an extra bank holiday just this year celebrating the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia (which doesn’t exist anymore) and a regular bank holiday for All Saints Day (my favourite tradition), the kids had a week off from school. My husband also took a few days off, and so we hightailed it to the mountains.

The fall is the best time to visit the High Tatras, as the weather is more stable, and this autumn has been particularly gorgeous. While it has snowed a few times already in the alpine, a burst of warm weather meant that only small patches were left.

Hiking with kids usually means we play it by ear – we don’t want to push them too far and so we plan on going only as far as they can manage. Téryho chata was our optimistic destination but my husband was doubtful we would get there. The chalet lies at an elevation of 2015 m (6210 feet), 19 km (12 miles) from Starý Smokovec, where we were staying. And the twins are only six, after all. But, as you will see, they surpassed our expectations.  Click to continue reading

Plavecký Mikuláš: hiking to Jelenia Hora and Kršlenica

view of Placecky hrad and fields, Slovakia

On the other side of the hills from where I live in the Malé Karpaty (Little Carpathians) is Plavecký Mikuláš, surrounded by numerous accessible places to hike. So far, I’ve gone on two short hikes, the first about a month ago to a viewpoint called Jelenia hora and the second more recently to the rocky outcropping above the town, Kršelnica, where we went climbing. Yes, the kind with ropes. With kids. And nope, I don’t like heights.  Click to continue reading

Winter Wonder on Čierna Skala

hiking in a snowy forest, Slovakia

Pretty much every year I complain that it’s not wintery enough where I live. Some years it snows, some years it doesn’t. This year it has snowed and melted, snowed and melted, repeat.

Just before the New Year I went hiking with friends to a nearby lookout, Čierna skala, which means black rock. It’s not black, so I don’t know where the name comes from. I hesitate to call it a peak…it’s a rocky outcropping with a lovely view.

It had just snowed, the snow literally starting at the base of the hills.  Click to continue reading

Košice Peace Marathon

Runners in Kosice Peace Marathon, Slovakia

Earlier this October I was able to travel with my husband to the Košice Peace Marathon, the oldest marathon in Europe. Inspired by the marathon at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, a Košice native returned home to organize a marathon run by 8 men. Today, over 10,000 people take part in the event with runs of various lengths, as well as inline skating and wheelchair/handbike disciplines.

We arrived on late Saturday afternoon, the city center abuzz. Tents set up displayed and/or sold various wares, the streets were lined with barrier fences, and the streets were busy with athletes, their supporters, and spectators. Small packs of Roma children ran through the crowd. By evening, more people were walking the main roads and the youth of Košice weren’t about to miss out, making me feel like an old stogy parent (some of them just looked so young to be roaming the night streets).  Click to continue reading

Kôprovský štít and Veľké Hincovo pleso: a jeweled lake in the grandiose High Tatras

Velke Hincovo Pleso in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

As long time readers of my blog will know, I run to the mountains at any chance I get. At the end of August my husband and I were able to get away for a night to the Vysoké Tatry, the High Tatra mountains. (Another weekend without children in one summer! The luxury of older children and teenage nieces and nephews.)

This time we’re off to the Vysoké Tatry, the highest mountains in Slovakia and the highest range in the Carpathian mountain system that stretches from Austria to Ukraine and down to Romania. As much as I love hiking, I haven’t hiked here much because of so many years of having children too big to pack but too small to hike far.

Štrbské Pleso

We arrive in the evening at Štrbské Pleso, one of the towns used as a base to go hiking from. A pleso is a tarn, a lake carved from glacial movement that leaves behind a valley/hole that fills with water. Štrbské Pleso mostly consists of hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Click to continue reading

Veľký Choč: the most beautiful view in Slovakia

View of west tetras from Choc in Slovakia

It all started with an Instagram picture of a cabin in the middle of the forest somewhere in Slovakia. I decided wanted to go there, basically bulldozed my husband into going for our vacation, and we went. Well, not that exact cabin, but in the area.

Going on annual family vacations wasn’t something I did growing up. And now as an expat, it seems like vacation is either going to visit family (which is awesome and beautiful) or saving up for it.

Just being

But this summer I badly wanted to just get away from it all. Not just from the daily grind of where we live, but from noise and technology and speed of life; I wanted to get away to the woods and just be.

We found a cabin in the hills of the Liptov region and the first day did nothing else but be there – some reading, a hot dog roast, exploring the immediate area. I roamed the hill cleared by a blow-down, picking mullein leaves and flowers. My oldest came along, picking strawberry leaves for winter tea; it was one of her favourite parts of the day. With no electricity we kept our phones on airplane mode, packed water in a bucket from the nearby spring (dear mountain water, how I miss you), and basked in the not-too-hot sun.  Click to continue reading

Chata pod Borišovom: an unknown mountain chalet

Sunrise from the top of Borišov

Ten steps in, my legs were burning and my lungs were going double time. It was rather steep, and we were only just beginning our hike. I’ve been exercising more regularly, but there is nothing like a steep hill to bring the ego back to reality.

My husband and I had a weekend away and he had planned where to go – Chata pod Borišovom. Chata means cottage, cabin, or even chalet; basically a house that isn’t lived in full time but visited. He had read that Chata pod Borišovom was where Pavol Barabáš, a documentary film director, takes international visitors. If it is a favourite of his, we had better check it out.  Click to continue reading

Heľpa Folk Festival: beautiful beautiful textiles

Putting gulky into the water

This weekend I was so fortunate as to visit two folk festivals. As I took about a million photos at each one, I’ll divide them into two posts.

Heľpa has held a festival for the past 52 years, Horehronské dni spevu a tanca, the region Horehronie days of singing and dancing. It was a wealth of folk costumes and, this year, textile arts.

I was looking forward to the trip, to take as many pictures as I wanted without running after kids or hurrying up for bored companions. On Saturday, I woke up before the crack of dawn to get an early train, and met a friend on the way to HeľpaClick to continue reading

The “Lazy” of Central Slovakia

trees in autumn glory

Last fall our family went for a weekend to a chata, a cottage, in the middle of Slovakia. It was amazingly gorgeous: rolling hills with swaths of meadows, brilliant fall colours and bell ringing herds.

Farm in Central Slovakia

In most of Slovakia, houses are clustered together surrounded by fields. When she was a child, my mother-in-law had to walk 3 km to the family’s field. In some parts of central Slovakia however, family farms are spread out, sometimes solitary, sometimes in a group of two or three houses. These solitary farms in the hills are called lazy (la-zee), although other dialects have their own names.  Click to continue reading

Chata M.R.Štefánika: a chalet in the Low Tatra mountains

Chata M.R.Štefánika, a chalet in the Low Tatra (Nizke Tatry) mountains of Slovakia - Almost Bananas

Nestled in the side of the hill under Ďumbier, the highest mountain in the Low Tatra (Nizke Tatry) mountains, Chata Štefánika is full of charm, comfort, and convenience.

Last week we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary by going for the first overnighter since having kids (9 years). I’ve been wanting to hike in the Nizke Tatry for some time, so even though the weather forecast wasn’t promising, we went anyway.

The Low Tatras are the closest mountain range to the west high enough for a tree line, which was handy given that we only managed to drop the kids off by noon. We drove through to Bystrá, a hamlet where the road was very narrow and had no shoulder and often no sidewalk. From Bystrá we turned off the main road and drove up hill towards ski resorts. We parked at Trangoška and started to hike up the green trail (map at bottom of post).  Click to continue reading

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