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.
The hike to Jelenia hora was taken on a whim. My neighbour and I wanted to go for a quick hike and I had seen a photo on Instagram nearby. The trail to Jelenia hora heads south-east from town, at first a dirt road winding through fields. On the right side stands the ruins of Plavecký hrad, one of a chain of fortifications guarding the former border along the Little Carpathians. Along the Malé Karpaty, from Devín on the Austrian border to Dobrá Voda, a distance of 65 km (40 miles) as the crow flies, there once stood 18 castles in use.
This hilltop must have strategic placement, as a Celtic fortification was built there three thousand years ago. After the Hungarian Kingdom was established, Plavecký hrad was built in the mid-13th century and saw numerous battles and enlargements until 1706, when it was damaged beyond what the owners wanted to repair. More info in English about the castle here, which includes a link to a detailed tour and what the castle would have looked like in its heyday. The aerial view shows how large the castle fortification was.
We also saw some mouflon, a wild sheep that has naturalized here in the last century and live in the Malé Karpaty hills.
To get to the viewpoint, we cut off the road and headed up a steep hill with a narrow trail. The view below quickly opened up until we ended up at a queer rocky outcropping. Anybody know anything about rocks and how this would have formed?
Through some dry coniferous forest, then into beech and oak forest, the actual Jelenia hora spot is a small hill through the trees, with twisty trees along the ridge. The whole hike/walk took 1 hour 20 mins return. (Map below)
On the dry hillside were beautiful and delicate Slovak pasque flowers (Pulsatilla slavica), a type of Anemoneae.
As we walked back to Plavecký Mikuláš, a rock face shone above another valley, called Kršelnica. As I discovered recently, these rock faces are a climbing spot.
This past weekend, our family went hiking and climbing on those rocks. We followed the road through the town into the hills. The hills rose steeply on each side, houses squeezed between the hillside and the road. Many of the dwellings are older houses or small cottages and most of them had lovely yards.
Almost at the end of the houses was an unmarked trail that climbed steeply up the hill. The children scrambled along, the younger three fighting over who could go first and lead the way.
We came out to a view over the town, and then scrambled up to the main rock faces, where other climbers were already at play.
Now, my husband is a climber and has no problem with heights. I am not a climber and do have a problem with heights. It was interesting how each of the kids’ characters came out on the face, in facing their fears (or lack thereof) and perseverance. I was perfectly comfortable taking girl twin climbing – she went a little ways, was kind of awkward, and didn’t care to go a second time. Such an activity is part of overcoming fear and new experiences and all that.
However, boy twin practically flew up the rock and had no trouble leaning back on the rope to come down which, for anyone who has tried it, goes explicitly against all instincts of self-preservation. True, he had already gone once with his dad this spring and learned to trust the rope, and he only went as far as he felt comfortable, but it made me nervous for what he’ll be climbing when he is 16, nevermind 6.
I was perfectly fine belaying and had no desire to climb myself but, at the prompting of my husband to give the kids an example of overcoming fear, I climbed a little ways myself. The view from the middle of the rock face was fantastic, from the hills coming down to the flatland and the castle ruin the in background, but I didn’t have anything to put a camera in to take up, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
As we neared the end of climbing, dark clouds moved in and thunder began to roll. There was a short but intense rainfall, but we were mostly sheltered in the trees; the canopy is so dense that very little actually came through.
Here is a hiking map on the area. The areas I mention are underlined in white. To go to Jelenia hora, follow the yellow trail south-west of town until it meets the green trail. To go to Kršelnica we followed the green train through town and almost at the end of the houses took an unmarked trail north-east. See here for more info on climbing routes – be aware some routes are closed until the middle of June.
A longer hike I think would be beautiful is to take the blue -> yellow trail to the north-east of town, which passes along the top of the rock face and will afford a great view without having to climb. Then join onto the red train south, take the blue trail west to Plavecký hrad.
More photos – of course!
Jelenia hora photos
View from the top of Jelenia hora
Many yards had cellars built into the hillside
Find the blue helmet
Baby grasshopper and dirty hands
The photo doesn’t do justice to this tiered yard
New fancy schmancy houses are being built too
Kršelnica is in the back
After the rain
Church, May pole in front, and so many cables