I hadn't heard many good things about Slovakia. Literally every person I know who went inter-railing said the same thing: avoid Bratislava at all costs. Then the Hungarians I met in Budapest argued it isn't even a country just a rebellious Hungarian province. On the other hand I'd heard the scenery in some areas was amazing so I figured I'd give the country a chance. Things did not get off to a good start.
Trains are generally late in Eastern Europe but my train from Budapest was particularly bad and I had a connection to catch. I missed two trains to Poprad and ended up arriving at a train station somewhere in Eastern Slovakia. The word bleak does not even begin to cover it. I'll admit no train station at night is a pleasant place (except Munich Ostbanhof of course) but this place was worse than usual. There were junkies everywhere being slowly hearded around the place by police and I got the general impression the whole town was unaware Stalin was dead, let alone that the Iron Curtain had fallen.
I eventually found a train to Poprad and arrived at around 1am. I tried the hostels in town
but it was too late they were closed and not answering the door. So I ended up having to book into a hotel. €45 for the night, could have been worse, plus I ate at least €20 worth of food at the buffet breakfast.
From Poprad there's it's about an hour to Strbske Pleso, one of the main resorts for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. It would definitely have been a nicer place to stay had I arrived at a reasonable time. From there it's a pretty easy hike to Popradske Pleso. Then it's a more difficult but fantastic hike from there to Velke Hincovo Pleso, the parks largest and deepest park. Even in June there's snow all around the lake and ice in the the water. On the way up I felt like I was getting sunburnt by the time I got to the lake I was wearing a hoodie and still freezing!
There were quite a few other hikers around but I didn't hear a word of English all day, judging but the license plates on the cars in the car park people from all over Eastern Europe visit the park.
So moving past my overly friendly welcome from the junkies of Eastern Slovakia I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I may even risk a trip to Bratislava some day!
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