Friday 17th – Sunday 19th July
The entrance to the Vratna Valley and home of Slovakia’s Robin Hood (Juraj Jánošík) was the perfect location for my weekend in “the nature” of “middle Slovakia” with a friend. Lovingly organized by an enthusiastic student, I had little part to play in the preparations other than buy my train ticket, which in true Grace in Slovakia fashion, did not go according to plan. I went to the train station with my written instructions on how to ask for 2 window seats, together, facing the direction of travel. When we got on the train the two seats were in separate cabins, not next to the window and not in the direction of travel. Thanks.
That was really the only thing I could think of being annoyed about. All connections ran smoothly, the pension was quaint, the hiking was epic and the weather was nothing to complain about. Perfect.
My hiking partner in crime and I rose early on Saturday morning, with high spirits, donned out walking gear and strolled out of our pension before 9am in the hunt of a hearty Slovak breakfast to send us on our way. Much to our surprise at the “entrance to the Vratna Valley”, start of numerous hiking and biking trails it was nigh on impossible to find anywhere other than a supermarket to sell us any food. Not even our pension was serving until 10am: 30 minutes after out bus to the start of our trail. We stocked up on various processed items, stuffed them in our bag, and strolled off to the bus, still excited about our nature day.
The start of the trail was obvious and they are well marked in Slovakia. We began along a footpath that lead us through a meadow, soon to cross a stream which we were to follow along its ravine over the next few hours before climbing out of it up a series of ladders and bridges. The scenery from the offset was spectacular: deep cliff faces draped in luscious greens of every shade, complimented by the rushing, fresh water of the river, dropping and cascading over rocks we scrambled over. Some parts of the trail were surprisingly challenging: climbing up rocks with metal rails and chains and climbing up slippery metal ladders over waterfalls and bridges high over the ravine. It was impossible to show fatigue as there was a group of pensioners complete with full picnic, hiking sticks and fresh faces doing the same as us, as if it were literally a walk in the park. We stood back gaping in horror as a Russian family (mums, children and dads carrying toddlers in backpacks) swiftly over took us, scrambling up the rocks wearing Crocs and flip flops.
I was unable to put my camera away at some points for my need to capture the moments and the
views and took as many opportunities as possible to stop and do so. Meadows filled with wild flowers, backed by dusty blue mountains, steep green valleys, green forest paths, leading to a world begging to be explored.
We hiked for 5 hours on the first day, and 3 the second, stopping only for photos and food and a good gossip. We had a slight moment of fear on day two when attempting a pretty steep climb because we convinced ourselves we might meet a bear and wouldn’t have the strength to climb the tree as advised. Still the photos turned out well.
The food in Terchova was top class, the hospitality, as always, was first class and the weather, even though the rain dumped on us twice, was much better than predicted and simply added to our outdoor adventure. It was one of the best weekends I have had. Thank you Slovakia for providing me with yet another reason to doubt my departure!