Winter Wonder on Čierna Skala
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.
Above, driving into Smolenice. Below, from the same spot, looking towards Čierna skala.
I was excited at the chance of hiking in the snow, and the hike did not disappoint. First we hiked through woods and meadows…
the snow got thicker and the trail got steeper.
We past a group with a number of older people, including a few spritely but rather eldery women. Every year they make the hike up to Čierna skala for the past decade or so. My friend and I were inspired, ready to follow their example into our old age.
These were my hiking companions. Notice, if you will, the beer. I realize that many people take beer on hikes but Slovaks take more alcohol hiking than I’m used to. On this little hike, on offer were beers, radlers, mead, and slivovica, brandy made of plums with about a 52% alcohol content. At the top of the hill we met another group of hikers, and they offered us slivovica as well. Another common hiking drink is strik, wine mixed with water and drunk exactly like water or sports beverage.
Just below the top there is less top soil and the trees are twisted and gnarled. Some of the snow drifts here were hip height.
Throughout the hike we had been under the clouds. When we got onto the top, we were above some clouds that played and danced about, changing the scene before our eyes.
Čierna skala is a long cliff of rocks standing above the forest in the Malé Karpaty, the Little Carpathians, stretching out east and west.
On the way down, we met up with uncles of my hiking companions, who we were supposed to meet on the way up and somehow missed. One gave us some of his own hazelnuts, which were sweet and crispy, the best I’ve ever had. Not even comparable to store bought.
Is it possible for something to feel both luxurious and necessary? I felt so fortunate to be able to go for hikes in these beautiful hills, snow draping over the trees and burning lungs taking in the fresh air. At the same time, hiking in nature also feels necessary for sanity, for calming the overactive stressed mind and grounding spirits often caught up in this digital world. I know that so many are not able to partake of nature’s offerings, which is why I feel fortunate, but I also think that everybody needs some connection with nature, which is why it feels necessary.
When we came back down, the snow above town had already started to melt. I’m always surprised how a little change in elevation changes winter conditions so much. I wanted to run back to the not-melting snow, but alas. On the way back to town, we stopped to pick up my neighbours’ children at their grandparents. Everyone was offered another shot of slivovica, which I took in politeness. Then the glass was filled again, my protests coming too late. I usually don’t feel the need to be polite in these matters, but this time I did, and I quickly downed another shot. I don’t drink much alcohol (wine makes me sleepy and most beer is too bitter for my taste), so by the time I was making supper at home my head felt rather lightweight. A Slovak way to end a hike?
Cynthia S. Mickle
Jan 31, 2018 @ 17:39:03
Beautiful pictures! You look like you had a lovely, albeit frosty time. As to names, there is a place we visit in Florida called, “Shark Valley”. There are no sharks and it is not a valley. Go figure.
Feb 01, 2018 @ 13:46:04
No sharks and not a valley – that is hilarious! It wasn’t actually that cold (depending on what one considers cold), it was just cold enough not to melt.
Jan 31, 2018 @ 21:34:10
I love the look of trees with snow clinging to them. There are many photos like this in your post. Interesting account of you and your companions hike. Having an alcoholic beverage as part of the drink to make the hike is a different concept for me.
Feb 01, 2018 @ 13:45:07
Alcohol is a lot cheaper here and just much more a part of the culture. Glad you like it! I love snow on trees too.
Feb 01, 2018 @ 07:05:23
How beautiful ur pictures are! Thank u for sharing. They look a little like the state where i was born: Arkansas, in the United States, the very northeastern part.
Feb 01, 2018 @ 13:44:19
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed them! I’ve never been to that part of the US but it must be beautiful.
James A Yenchus
Feb 01, 2018 @ 07:23:59
I loved your photos and the description of the hike. You never disappoint because you have a great eye for photography and a way with words that also paint a picture in my mind. I can understand your comments about the alcohol as I experienced it first hand. Many years ago when my mother and I went back to visit the village she was born in the drinks were non-stop. Everyone we visited was a relative or friends from Mom’s village. I can say that was the kindest, caring, make-your-self-at-home group of people I have ever met in my life. I learned early on when I had enough of what ever spirits were offered, I would turn my shot glass upside down. If I did not it was filled as soon as it was placed down after a shot. I loved the Family TV spot, and watched all 27:41 minutes of it! I picked up meaning to as much Slovak as I could understand and found it enjoyable. I look forward to seeing it with subtitles so I can understand all of it. The producers did a fantastic job telling the story of you and your families life, you have a beautiful family and they were a joy to watch! I smiled as I watched and listened to you explaining the blog title Almost Bananas. I felt for you as you got choked when you mentioned your children and where you grew up in Canada. Once again, thanks for sharing your memories.
Feb 01, 2018 @ 13:43:44
Thanks for all your comments James, I really appreciate them!
Eben van Ellewee
Feb 02, 2018 @ 07:40:54
Great photos and story Naomi!
For another winter wonder in Slovakia, though with less walking required, check out the frozen falls at Šikľavá skala. Needless to say, you need to confirm that it’s currently frozen 🙂
A search on instagram would show you what it looks like over there from recent photos.
Feb 03, 2018 @ 12:32:17
Thank you! And thanks for the tip – it looks really beautiful all frozen.
Feb 03, 2018 @ 15:04:19
Many thanks for your beautiful pictures from winter forest near your home. I know these part of Male Karpaty. Before cca 25 years I liked walking through these mountains.I can also say you that I was also suprised with the tv spot about you and your family.It si very nice wiev about your live. Once more many thanks.
Feb 04, 2018 @ 16:22:21
I’m glad you enjoyed the photos and the tv spot! 🙂
Feb 05, 2018 @ 05:08:58
Thank you for the wonderful description of your adventure Naomi! I have recently started reading your blog ( and started fermenting vegetables :)Your writing is so enjoyable to read. I hiked my first mountain this past year, and I can really relate to how you feel the experience of nature is both a luxury and a necessity. The winter hiking must be more physically challenging.
Feb 05, 2018 @ 14:51:39
Hi Nikki! Thanks, I’m so glad you enjoy the blog! The weather was relatively warm and the snow not too deep, so it wasn’t really more challenging. Congrats on hiking up your first mountain!! An event to remember 🙂
Feb 08, 2018 @ 20:54:48
I love to hike in the winter as well! Here in my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario in Canada, we have the Bruce Trail. Although we call it a “mountain” it is part of the Niagara Escarpment so it dwarfs in comparison to Čierna Skala. I hope to one day visit the Old Country with my son and take him there. Thank you for sharing your winter adventure. 🙂
Feb 09, 2018 @ 00:12:17
Winter hiking is underappreciated! Part of the Niagara Escarpment, it must be beautiful. I hope one day you can visit Slovakia too! Glad you enjoyed the story.
Feb 13, 2018 @ 05:42:28
Your winter sounds like ours this year: snow, melt, snow, melt, etc. Glad you got in a snow hike before it was too late! I got to sled ride and hike last weekend but it started to rain so it could’ve been better.
I agree with you…getting out in nature no matter the season is a necessity!
Feb 16, 2018 @ 11:00:19
Rain on snow, so soggy. Nature both calms and rejuvenates the spirit.