Tatra Mountains - Pure Awesomeness
Before moving to Slovakia I had never heard of the Tatras. Maybe they had been mentioned in primary school but I had forgotten all about them long ago. Turns out they are a pretty huge mountain range forming the border between Poland and Slovakia. They are also known as High Tatras since in central Slovakia there is another range of mountains called Low Tatras. A colleague of mine has a cottage there, at which we spent the previous weekend.
We woke up in the morning in to a thick fog. But since we were anyway going to climb above the fog it didn't bother us much. The first plan was to leave for the hike at 7 o'clock. We didn't quite manage it. Eventually it was already 9 when we got out of the house. And the only way was UP!
We drove a little bit up the serpentine road to a chalet from which the path upwards started. And the view from the parking lot for a city girl who was born and raised in a country with no trace of mountains was breath-taking:
The picture above has a special meaning for me: it's literally the path in Hell. At that point we had walked about 8 meters. I had literally taken about five steps when I was completely out of breath as if I had just finished a 70-kilometer marathon in two hours. I was gulping air as much as I could but it doesn't help much when the air is as thin as it is up there. Also there were traces of hangover in my body so in addition to the lack of oxygen I was also seriously concerned that my heart might just explode. The first few meters were insane, there's no other word for it.
Half of the group was just fine and went on while me and Orsi made the rest of the group move rather slowly since we had to stop all the time to catch our breath. Even though the first fifth of the way was as challenging as it was I didn't even once consider that it was a mistake to go. And the rewards were totally worth all the struggle. The scenery.... oh lord. When we made it up the first hill I was ecstatic. I did it! I didn't die! There's about 10 of these still to go!
|The High Tatras|
Here I would like to take a moment to praise my sneakers! When I bought them last year I thought "These cost waaayyy too much!" And I was wrong. They have paid themselves back to me many times until now. Especially in this trip I was very happy I gave away money in exchange for them since I was pretty much the only one who survived the entire trip with dry socks.
|Two and a half hours to go... turned out to be more like three and a half hours actually.|
The scenery on the way was quite Lord of the Rings-like. And we even encountered a snowman, who we think was there as border guard or a customs officer, because he was totally blocking the way. But since he didn't ask us to declare anything we went around him.
Our destination was a chalet up in 1720 meters. It's a rather extreme chalet since everything, ingredients for food, building materials, everything has to be brought there by people on foot, climbing the same way we had just come up. The people who work there have to climb up there as well on their own and they stay there one week at a time. Because there's simply no way of going home for the night and climbing back the next morning. There was a list of volunteers who had brought things up there along the years. One of them was a friend of my colleague's and he had brought altogether 7000 kilos worth of things up there. Respect!
We had a great lunch in the chalet and then started a walk back. The way back was a little easier since it was mostly downhill. The challenge was not to lose your balance in some places where on one side there was a sharp-steep fall down for couple dozen meters.
|Waiting for ma bus here|
On the picture above things got a bit tricky. We lost the path but we knew we had to go downwards. The hillside was partly covered in snow and the parts that were visible were completely muddy. People were slipping all over the place. You could take two steps until you found yourself on your back in the ground again. Eventually I was so scared for my knees that I decided I would just not get up. Instead I would slide down in the snow on my ass. And I did and I laughed my ass off :D The rest of the way I felt like I had accidentally peed in my pants; my trousers were completely wet. But my socks were still dry!
On Sunday we woke up to the most glorious sunshine. So, before leaving we took a little stroll up the hill behind the cottage to a little house looking over the village in the valley. Turns out the house had been built with EU money in order to "regulate the hunting in the area" and stand guard above the village to detect fires and such. Most of the time, though, the house is completely empty.
But we got lucky, there was an old man in the yard when we got there. When asked if we could go in he said we might have to pay something. We didn't think it worth it. He disappeared for a minute and came back saying that we could go up to the tower though. Turns out he was just trying to make some money himself. A standard procedure here.
From the tower we had a nice view of the mountains we had climbed the day before and of the village. A perfect way to end the most amazing weekend.
After these trips the traditional beach holidays are completely losing their charm for me. Why stare at the horizon where sea meets sky when you can have scenery like the ones in Slovakia just outside the capital city even. After lying on the beach or shopping in some big capital and stuffing your face in restaurants every day you tend to feel a little guilty afterwards. After trips like these you just have this amazing feeling of accomplishment and you will be in awe about the things you've seen for many days to come. I am so lucky to have colleagues who arrange these trips.