Week 6: Monday 3/08 – Sun 9/08
Crossing Hungary – Tuesday
After this quick visit of Ljubljana, we decided to head to Slovakia, and in particular towards the Tatras National Park. We changed our plan at the last minute. Indeed, our first idea was to travel through the Balkans, more precisely through Bosnia and Serbia until Montenegro where we were planning to work in the National Park. However, Bosnia closed its borders as well as Macedonia, and together with the other Balkan countries the Covid’s victims are growing quickly. For this reason, we decided to proceed north east in order to reach Ukraine, one of our dream destinations.
The first step is crossing rural Hungary to reach Komarno, the first city of Slovakia, on the border with Hungary, therefore, on the Danube.
After a quick stop in Ljubljana’s shopping centre -we really needed to buy a piece of rope for new cordelettes and 2 carabiners, this is what we lost on Velika Baba’s first attempt- we drive until Ljutomer, where we refill our gas. The only stop we make is at Trojane, to buy the traditional Kofri, donuts with vanilla cream inside, and to eat our sandwiches.
STAG Dance Club
The road passes through some of the most rural landscapes of Slovenia and Hungary. If on the one hand Slovenian countryside seems densely inhabited, the roads are full of holes and it is a continuous up and down; on the other hand, Hungarian roads are perfectly even and flat since the first kilometre, we see no villages and it seems like there are only fields, sunflowers and from time to time solar panels.
When the sun is setting we start to worry about our daily beer, we wanted to drink one before dinner to relax after a day on the road but we didn’t find any bar or supermarket in Hungary yet. A few kilometres before our night destination we finally spot on our right a restaurant “STAG Dance Club”, with many trucks lined up in the large parking lot. We decide to stop for a beer, hopefully we can take it with us -in Hungary there is a severe 0.0 alcohol policy when driving- and drink it by the pond. And so it is, we pay in euro, which is probably not convenient -4 euros for two beers- and leave for our night-stay, just after Nadasd: Magyarszecsodi kavicsbanyato, a fishing spot with tables and a dry toilet. It’s cold, rainy and windy. It seems like summer is over, it’s the 4th of August and we go to bed exhausted.
Györ and Komarno: two nice stops on the way to Tatra mountains – Wednesday
As soon as we wake up we hit the road. We stop for a coffee at a truck restaurant where paying in euro doesn’t reveal to be a good decision -we didn’t want to change money for just a night in Hungary. However, the coffee is good the toilet clean.
We then proceed until Györ, where we park under a bridge on the river Raab with the help of a homeless person to whom we give the only euro we have left -that apparently is not enough and it’s not their currency, as we already knew… For lunch we have two Langos -a sort of fried pizza dough- with garlic, sour cream and cheese on top. For not even 2 euros we eat too much -we changed 10 euros in Hungarian Forints. We walk all over the town, on the river, passing by the national theatre and the numerous statues. Györ is Hungary’s third richest city.
We have some issues concerning showering, we do not feel like showering in a parking lot with people passing by, but at the same time we do not find any campsite where it’s worth to spend the night. Checking online we realize that we could visit a thermal centre where to enjoy the hot water and take a nice shower. So it is decided. We drive until Komarno, just after the Danube, the first city of Slovakia, and park in front of ‘Termalne kupalisko’. The entrance after 5pm is only 3.8 euros -yes in Slovakia euro is the currency- and it’s definitely worth it. Even though according to western European standards the centre might look a bit old and not so clean, it’s definitely worth a visit. The hot water, the bubbles, a quick swim in the 33 metres outdoor swimming pool and a quiet garden are perfect to relax after driving. When we get out we are definitely clean and ready to park on the Váh riverside where we are spending the night after a walk and a beer in Komarno beautiful city centre.
Towards Low Tatras National Park – Thursday
The roads of the part of Slovakia we are crossing to reach Banská Bystrica -similarly to Slovenian countryside- are irregular, with a lot of holes. However, Slovaks do not seem to mind and overtake us at certain speeds that are prohibitive for our van.
We decide to stop at Cvičné skaly za Kremničkou for lunch, which is supposed to be a climbing spot with a short via ferrata on the hillside of Banská Bystrica. However, we soon realize that in this beautiful pre-Alpine forest there cannot be climbable rocks but only soft soil, streams, and the shadow of the compact canopy. On the only humid rock in the area, someone equipped a metal rope for a pseudo via ferrata that, after a quick sandwich by the watercourse, we have fun doing 2 or 3 times, it’s not even 30m long and looks more like a path than a climb.
Banska Bystrica -we are stopping here just to do our laundry- it’s a city counting almost 80.000 inhabitants and lays at the bottom of Low Tatras National Park. This protected area is located in central Slovakia between the rivers Váh and Hron, it’s the largest national park and is home to a growing population of bears and lynxes. Ďumbier is its highest peak -which we didn’t climb- we preferred a shorter walk and a day of work on our computers in a beautiful parking in the nature. Indeed, we spend the evening and the night in the parking of Turecká abandoned ski station, where the snow cannons’ lake has become a meeting place to chill and jump in the water.
Working and resting – Friday
After a long morning -that becomes afternoon- on our computers, we decide to walk down to Turecká centre to have a beer. We have a close encounter with a local party: low quality but high volume music, mysterious remixes, vodka, beer and vodka, grilled meat. People hugging each other, talking, passing by the barbecue, drinking, singing. M amuses herself drinking her beer and watching the party. When we climb back to our beautiful parking, the sunset is amazing, we enjoy it eating the watermelon we bought on the way here, from a young Slovak under her gazebo on the roadside.
We do not have the level to climb in Slovakia – Saturday
A beautiful climbing spot awaits us today. It’s located just in front of Dolny Jelenec village. On the road 59 -which crosses Low Tatras National Park- in between Staré Hory and Motyčky. The spot is known as Jelenec, it has more than 60 pitches from 5 to 9+/10. It’s definitely a place for strong climbers, which we aren’t. However, we manage to conclude something. It’s only at 4pm that we realize that we didn’t eat. We decide to eat something local in a restaurant on the road. And our choice falls on Bryndzové halušky, some sort of gnocchi with cheese and bacon. We asked for the dish without bacon, maybe it was an unfortunate decision because it missed something. It was still very good and abundant.
Today we aren’t lucky with the parking. Being in a national park there are not many places to sleep in the nature, and around Liptovská Osada we didn’t find anything. We end up spending the night in a small parking right on the main road. Fortunately, there aren’t many cars passing and we can have a calm and long night sleep.
A long day – Sunday
Today we are visiting Vlkolinec, a village that in 1993 entered UNESCO World Heritage List because it’s featuring all the characteristics of traditional central European villages. The 45 log houses are perfectly intact in their XIV century style and the village as a whole has not undergone relevant modifications since then. It is definitely worth a visit even if it is crowded with people -at least in August.
We then drive through Ružomberok and further to on our way to High Tatras National Park. We decide to stop by Liptovsky Mara. This lake lays in Váh upper valley, in between low and high Tatras. When we reach it we realize that going to the lake not far from two cities on a Sunday in August might not be the best idea. There are cars parked everywhere and, though the lake is big, it takes us a lot of time before to be able to park. The lake shore is not as beautiful as we expected, there are plastic bags and other objects -like a red shoe- all over the place. The water doesn’t look much better, it is dark brown and shallow where we are. Even if it is hot we prefer not to bath, maybe we shouldn’t have gotten used to Slovenian water quality… After bouncing rocks on the lake surface for a good half an hour, we decide to move on and reach a beautiful place where to spend the evening and the night.
Our choice falls on a small climbing spot located just before the village of Lučivná, not far from Poprad. The climbing wall it’s just a few metres from the road, it’s small and cosy. We climb until we are too hungry to go on. Then we park the van on the side of a secondary road and shower in the nature. The only drawback of this spot is that we can hear the noise of car passing on the main road.