Bring me interesting borders – I love them.
Poland’s main ski resort of Zakopane in the High Tatras has some fabulous wooden villas, quite unlike anything we’ve seen elsewhere in Poland. Sadly many have fallen into disrepair, and become crowded in as new hotels are built in the gardens of once grand residences.
The town felt like a transport hub, seething with people trying to get somewhere else. So rather than finding a place to park for the night we broke for the border.
Zakopane aside, the Tatras have cast a spell on us. It has been 10 weeks since we’ve seen much more than the most modest hill. So to suddenly climb into a significant mountain range with many peaks topping 2500m has had a wonderful impact on our vista, and probably our mood too.
The border crossing at Lysa Polana is the smallest and most pretty we have seen on this trip, in fact probably anywhere, and the change that the border brought about was immediate.
Even in the mountains Poland felt as if there was haphazard building of roads, houses, and whatever going on all over, but Slovakia feels immediately clean, calm and green.
Driving is suddenly a joy again. Better roads, and huge views, mountains stretching off in every direction, with clear, cold streams gushing through ravines. There are lorries, but few compared to Poland.
We pull into Tatraska Lomnica, the first proper town we come to and straight into the car park of a restaurant that offers overnight parking, with van facilities for €10.
With Polly off her feet there was no walking or exploring to be done, just dinner and an early night to rest up for a special day tomorrow.
In case you missed the Polly update at the end of the last post, the poor dog has damaged her already tender cruciate ligament. She can barely walk. She’s confined to bed for most of the day and has been since Sunday. She has gone from walking 12 or more kms a day to just a couple of hundred metres.
We’re both sad and worried. The little pop is so much a part of this trip, of our lives.
It’s the 18th September yet again.
Minty’s second birthday on the road.
Last year we were on the way back from Slovenia and we stayed in the lovely Hotel Seeblick near Salzburg. This year I wanted to do better and went for my dog walk (with no dog) to explore the options.
Less than half a mile from where we’d parked I found the fabulous Grand Hotel Praha, high on a hill, commanding a magnificent view over the mountains.
The Grand Hotel Praha.
I asked the price. I didn’t pass out. I booked us in.
Early check in. Late check out. Please!
Shortly after mid-day we installed ourselves into our gorgeous room a few floors up with a far reaching view from its balcony. This will be one occasion when we won’t be itching to get back into the van!
We followed a great dinner by a perfect sleep and an extensive breakfast. Now we’re just soaking up the last of our time here before heading off up the mountain.
Extensive breakfast? There was everything imaginable, including the most interesting salads, every kind of sausage, a dozen cheeses, and a chef ready to cook anything they hadn’t already thought of.
The Grand Hotel Praha isn’t cheap, but it’s not a silly price either, and offers fantastic value, with beaming smiles and great service. We love it! And just as your most recent great experience is always your favourite, staying here is our favourite hotel experience ever. I know that doesn’t quite make sense and I’ll try to correct it, but I’m sure you’ll understand.
Our hotel package included a cable car up the mountain to the 1751m ski station. There were lots of people at the café there, but the huge skies made it feel like there was room for us all.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave.
Staying on in Tatraska Lomnica.
Low prices in Poland helped us save enough for one night of luxury, but our budget wouldn’t stretch to a second. However we couldn’t drag ourselves away from the beautiful mountain scenery.
What to do?
Park in the ski lift car park and stay another night!
Minty had hotel luxury withdraws symptoms and our lights had to go out early before she got too blue.
Waking with this view, on another bright clear morning made it worthwhile.
Sitting outside at 7.30 with my first coffee I think about how place itself can feel so different. Without even looking at the view I feel so happy here. Although there’s traffic, the height brings a sense of stillness. The air is good. The temperature is already perfect. If I had to just sit for a day doing very little I’d be happy to do that here. Ideally back on the hotel balcony, but hey, the car park will do.
Tatraska Lomnica is spread out, a few nice hotels, a few pensions with restaurants, and a range of lifts. There are a lot of people, and the queue for the lift at 8am is huge, but there’s room for everyone.
We have to get the broken one to the vet though and so that day staring into the distance won’t be today.
This little place on the Slovakian hillside has been a joy, an unexpected three nights, each in a different spot, all within a mile of each other.
The vets, and the fourth night on the hillside.
The vet in Poprad, just 12 miles down the mountainside, has excellent reviews, and so we took Polly there. At first it was a strange experience, having to pass through a grooming salon before walking straight into the main room of the vet where various procedures were taking place. No privacy here.
We wait nearly an hour, during which time we were moved to a waiting room (we think because a poor little mite was put down in the main room), then we met the young vet.
Hannah examined Polly’s knee. She was very matter of fact in her questions, and she didn’t necessarily like our answers. She said an operation is necessary and that they can do it in 5 days time.
An upset Minty and Kelvin confer quickly and decide that, yes, we’ll have it done.
And we drove back up the hill for our fourth night in Tatraska Lomnica.
Minty researched the area and we set off west to find Vlkolinec. Described in the guide book as the village that time forgot, it was well worth the 100km drive.
Vlkolinec is high on a hill above the industrial looking town of Ruzomberok. Turning off the main road the scenery changes immediately from factories to small farming fields with the first livestock we’ve seen in a while.
The road climbs steeply, very steeply, for a mile or so, and suddenly you’re on the parking area outside the pretty little village.
There are 40 or so houses here, some with full time residents, others rented out to hikers during the summer, and most are brightly painted. It even looks as if there are a couple of new builds that will blend in after a winter.
The whole village is on a heck of a steep hill, and I bet it’s a seriously hard place to live year round. Today though it was near perfect, and we enjoyed it very much.
Hot springs, up that little lane just there.
We have a few days to wait until Polly’s appointment and so we’ll make the most of the beautiful Tatras.
It was the Park4night app that brought tonight’s interesting stop to our attention, a couple of kms north of Liptovsky Tepla.
Increasingly small lanes turned into a broken track where the mini-tractor is definitely the preferred mode of transport. We pulled into a rough parking area and walked a bit further up the track in the direction of a quiet murmuring of voices. We couldn’t see people, just a scattering of towels and shoes. Then we looked down and saw the curious sight of a couple of dozen people lying in a shallow pool with a water spout in the middle.
We stripped off and joined them, bathing for half an hour under the warm thermal spring. There’s a sulphurous whiff, but you soon get used to it, and it’s fully entertaining just watching the changing of the crowd, sometimes younger folk, sometimes older, and with a seemingly constant number of people, taking the waters.
We’ll sleep here tonight, and await the break in the eternal summer that’s forecast for tomorrow. We have been so lucky, and it’ll be a shame when the sun finally hides.
Late at night cars are still arriving, spirits are higher, youngsters having a laugh in the warm pool under the moonlight.
First thing in the morning I stagger up the lane past the pool – there are ten people in the water already. Steam rises through the cold dawn air.
Is it ever empty?
Meanwhile the rain pours down. We’re happy to stay inside listening to Saturday Live.
Polly’s operation is on Tuesday afternoon, so we’ve a few more days in the area. I’ll post this to the blog and we’ll study maps, books and apps to decide where we’ll be when the rain stops later.