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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

24 April 2017

First (only?) snow of the year!

Tatras mountains

Tatras mountains

2 April 2017

There’s been no snow at all in Cheltenham this year. Or if there was a sprinkle, none of it settled. So the snow-capped Tatra mountains were an irresistable draw. Poor breakfast at Hotel U Leva – we’ll find a cafe tomorrow. And then we were into the car and on our way. We allowed ourselves to be distracted by the little town of Kezmarok, which has an important wooden church. Locked up tight on a Sunday morning. It was a pleasant ramble around the town though, even sleepier than Levoca. On to the mountains!

There’s only one road that rises out of the plains and up towards the Tatra mountains, and it really just runs parallel through the foothills. As far as I can tell, no-one ever bothered living up near these mountains until tourism and mountaineering was invented, because the only villages are effectively big collections of chalets, winter sports shops, hotels, restaurants and ski lifts. So we parked the car in one of them – Stary Smokovec – and got out for a walk. This would have been

Snowy path

Snowy path

fine, except that all the hiking trails were still covered in a thick layer of well compacted snow. So what was billed as a two hour ramble past a waterfall and up to a mountain chalet ended up being a four hour slog with occasional peril, mildly shattered nerves and more exercise than we’d really dressed for. At least we reached our destination chalet, where there was hot chocolate and sausage with mustard to recharge for the trek back. These chalets (there were three that we passed) are odd, clearly too close together and too close to the town to actually be mountain lodges for long-distance walkers and mountaineers. I guess they were built as rustic accommodation and refreshment places for tourists that want to get a little way into nature! Like us, on this occasion! And, well, lots of other people. Apparently everyone in Slovakia goes walking in the mountains at the first sign of spring sunshine, it was packed.

Reward!

Reward!

The drive back to Levoca along the main road gave some beautiful evening views of the mountains. To be fair, we haven’t done any real hiking, but in my mind the Tatras are a range of mountains that look most exquisite and picture-perfect from quite a distance, from the plains below them in fact.

We ate in our hotel. Slovakia, more than most countries, seems to have pretty conservative opening times; most things are closed entirely on Sunday, many places only open for a half-day on Saturday, and it even looks like Monday isn’t a great day for stuff opening either! So, it being Sunday evening we ate in our hotel. After all, TripAdvior says it’s the second best place to eat in Levoca. You should be able to hear sarcasm dripping from that sentence. When will I get wise, and start deliberately avoiding anywhere that TitAdvisor claims is one of the top 3 restaurants in an area?

So, it was basically a pretty awful meal; creamy and tasteless gnocchi, duck in a bizarre red cabbage puree with Findus potato croquettes. Which goes along with the duff breakfast and the pathetic pillows and stiff mattress to leave us with a poor impression of Hotel U Leva. I guess it was only £40 a night!

Tatras chalet

Tatras chalet


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