Today I woke up early to see the Belianska Jaskyna caves, I was at the bus station at 9am to find information on how to get there and I was on my way. I had to cross the border from Poland to Slovakia which is where my trip got interesting. I was waiting on the bus when two hikers who had just finished a couple weeks of training as mountain guides hopped on and started a conversation with me, their names Polina and Miroslav. Before I knew it Miroslav is running across the road to buy each of us a beer!
We continued to talk and I told them my plan for the day, which involved getting off at a bus stop about 10 minutes into the 1.5 hour bus trip… which we did not know.
Laughing about this and trying to figure out my best plan of action after arriving at Starý Smokovec, they told me of some things to see nearby in Hrebienok Tatry. So as all Slovaks do, we sat down in the pub at 11am and started drinking beer and doing repeated shots of borovicka (special flavoured vodka at about 42% strength). During this time they decided to delay their travels and join me on a day trip up to see famous ice sculptures from the Tatry Ice Master world championship held here a few weeks earlier at the end of January.
After seeing this, we decided to hike further into the high Tatras to see some waterfalls, it was here that we found a small hut in the mountains called Rainer’s Chalet which housed one of the most famous sherpa’s in this area as well as a museum of gear! His name was Peter Petras and he spent his whole life being a sherpa and owning to meet and care for tourists in a museum/chalet in Vysoké Tatry. He had written books on his life and had wooden statues made of him in the main area of Hrebienok about 30 minutes hike from this museum. It was here I tried tatra tea which was a mixture of beautiful herbal tea flavours, boasting 52% alcoholic strength – perfect to warm you up and prepare for more hiking! (More about Peter Petras here).
Finally we made it to see some frozen waterfalls before turning back around as it was getting dark. We caught the train back down to Starý Smokovec, only 10 minutes away – which is where we sat down for more beer and borovicka to plan the evening.
Finally we arrived at the train station where their friend was waiting, who took us straight to a pub! It was a tiny little bar called Elefant in the middle of Martin which had a pull-up bar in the middle. They told me you can do pull-ups to get free beer, so I tested my metal and did 25 pull-ups for two beers but with the price already being just one euro for a pint, I retired after that! It was here I found out that the friend I had just met, was a famous Slovak rapper with over 50,000 views on multiple video clips of his on YouTube, his name was Richard Karkuš and one of his songs is called Savannah ZMRD for anyone interested.
After a few more beers we went home to sleep for a few hours before starting the next day. Which we started with a coffee in one hand and a beer in the other – apparently the best way to combat a hangover! We spent the day in Martin until our transport came and we parted ways. But before I could say goodbye to these new friends, a young Slovak girl called Barbara asked if I needed help at the train station – which is perfect as she showed me where to get off and where to swap transport! Finally I arrived at Lsyna Polana on the Polish/Slovak border. But much to my dismay, buses were no longer running. So I did the only thing my training and body prepared me for at night in the mountains, I started to jog to the next town. After 30 minutes of running in the dark while it was lightly snowing, a car came by and I was able to wave it down and communicate to a lovely old man that I needed a lift to a town, saving me an hour of hiking. Here I was able to get a taxi and upon getting to my hostel, didn’t even shower or take off my shoes before falling into bed and passing out!
P.s. The Slovak side of the Tatras is much more beautiful than the Polish side, sorry Poland!