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

24 April 2017

Splendid Spis spermophiles

1 April 2017

Spis castle

Spis castle

Thoroughly recommend our hotel in Kosice – the Bristol. Lovely rooms, totally central, very good breakfast. Though they do a stupid thing where each person gets their own (tiny) single duvet, which is just weird and inconvenient. Anyway, after a fresh stroll around the middle of Kosice to admire it in the daylight of a sunny spring day, we jumped in our hire car and headed out into the countryside.

Us at Spis

Us at Spis

This really was a beautiful spring day, faultless blue sky overhead. We took back roads through winding little valleys and past a mixture of farmland and woodland, the trees still bare of leaves. A small herd of red deer dashed across the road in front of us. Villages were small, invariably with a church and a scatter of colourful houses.

When you come around a corner and see the Tatra Mountains for the first time, even at a really great distance, you will gasp. We did. They are the most perfect shark-tooth range of snow-capped peaks, rising above the rural landscape. They are for tomorrow, though. For today we were visiting Spis Castle.

Looking down from the tower

Looking down from the tower

This epic medieval ruin also deserved a gasp when we first clocked it from a distance. Up close it is even more impressive. This is a huge castle, and even though it’s now a ruin the whole structure is still fundamentally in place. We rambled around it for a couple of hours, poking our noses in every tower and undercroft, taking oodles of photos. I think we were in luck being here at the start of April; we could see whole car parks dedicated to castle visitors down in the nearest village, completely empty today but probably jam-packed in the summer. We even got to do some unscheduled mammal watching, because the lower courtyard was home to a colony of European Ground Squirrels, also known as Sousliks and also known as Spermophiles… which is a really weird name. Anyway, they were cute, and it was fun to see how most visitors were completely oblivious to them. We’ve got mammal watcher’s eyes!

The surrounding villages have been included into the UNESCO area that covers Spis, although rambling through them we didn’t find anything in particular to marvel at. Perhaps they are important for their historical context. They’re certainly barren in terms of useful cafes for a bite of lunch! We didn’t find anything until we got to our hotel in the sleepy town of Levoca. We found some dinner in a restaurant on the ramparts (not as romantic as it sounds – whatever was once outside the town walls, now it’s the ring road) and it was much more along the local cuisine lines you might expect, goulash and grilled meat, although to be fair it was certainly full of locals too.

Spis looms over the villages

Spis looms over the villages


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