Archive for ‘Slovakia’  

Poland, Slovakia : Popping into Poland

Thursday, 15th May 2008

We had to bus our way back to Poprad again to catch the train to Krakow (Poland). We had originally planned a route from Poprad to the Polish border but the lady at the train station suggested an alternative route with a fast train and 1 change. When we got to Kysak to change trains, the lady at the ticket office there told us that they are working on the tracks and no trains run to Krakow from there. She didn’t speak any English, so with pieces of paper and hand gestures she managed to get the message across.

The next moment a train arrived at the station and from the Slovak announcement we made out something that sounded like Krakow, so we ran and jumped on the train. Another very friendly local helped us and double checked with the ticket inspector to confirm our destination. The journey was almost 6 hours and we arrived in Krakow at 17:45. It might sound weird, but at this stage 5 to 6 hours on a train with a few changes feels like a breeze. We have deffinately mastered the art of relaxing and letting the time fly by.

At Krakow we headed straight for the Old Town and found a very nice place to stay, Hocus Pocus Hostel, right in the middle of all the action. They offer free laundry (our 2nd load is already spinning), free internet (as you can see), free breakfast and great, clean dorm rooms.

We already had a half hour stroll through the Old Town and are about to go and sample some of the local cuisine.

Slovakia : Serene Slovakia

Wednesday, 14th May 2008

Photos of Slovensky Raj here

On Tuesday morning we caught the 10:00 train from Bratislava to Poprad in the north of Slovakia. From Poprad local busses run to the countryside villages and it took about 30 minutes to Levoca, where we decided to stay.

The accommdation we chose ended up being just perfect. Oaza (meaning oasis) is not a hostel at all but a family home with a little guesthouse (2 double rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen) at the back of the main house. This was one of the best accommodation experiences we’ve had so far and we highly recommend knocking on the Dubecky family’s door whenever in town. The Oaza website.

The owner, Mrs Dubecky, is a very friendly and helpful lady who gave us great pointers of things to do and see in the area and even printed out bus timetables for us. We were planning to do a 1-day hike and she suggested the ideal hiking route through the Slovensky Raj National Park – complete with maps and brochures. The pictures looked amazing and we were real excited about our first proper outdoor experience on this trip.

The next morning we had to catch a bus to Spissky Svrtok (don’t even try to pronounce this one!) and then another on to Hrabusica, but there was no second bus.. We asked the locals but there were no busses to the Park entrance and they told us we would have to do the remaining 6km by foot. Not too happy about this, we started walking and hiking at passing cars – at least the scenery was beautiful with the road winding through fields of yellow flowers. About 10 minutes into our hike, a local couple stopped and offered to take us to Hrabusica where we just had to walk the last 2km to the entrance.

At the park we started the trail at about 12:40 and the first section took us up a river gorge – absolutely stunning! The trail starts next to a stream but as you accend it quickly gets more serious and large parts of the route are ladder- and chain-assisted. It is pretty cool but also very scary at times because at certain areas it is very high with a shere drop-off right underneath you. We followed the instructions we got and linked about 5 different routes, eventually leading us back to the valley, lasting a total of about 5.5 hours. We were absolutely knackered but had an amazing time and it was a great change from city sightseeing. It was everything we expected and more – really reminded us of the Tzitzikama hiking trail.

The Slovakian countryside is really beautiful with so much to offer. Part our train journey took us past the snow capped High Tatra mountains – an awesome sight! So far our entire route through the Eastern European countryside has exceeded our expectations – lush, green fields, beautiful mountains, great coastlines, stunning old towns and last but not least very friendly and inviting people everywhere you go!

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Austria, Hungary, Slovakia : Tale of 3 Towns

Monday, 12th May 2008

We started the day with breakfast in Budapest (Hungary), took the train at 09:30 and arrived in Bratislava (Slovakia) at 12:15. We only had a few minutes to find a hostel, check in, drop our bags and get the 13:00 1-hour train to Vienna (Austria). So we covered 3 capitals in 4,5 hours..

Photos of Vienna here
Photos of Bratislava here

Like we said before, Budapest is a wonderful city to explore with loads to offer. Moving on to Slovakia, we never expected too much from Bratislava, which is why we decided to take a quick afternoon trip to Vienna. Of course Vienna is lovely and has some amazing sights, but in the end we only zipped through the main part of town in about 3+ hours to get a good feel for the place.

Catching the 17:30 back to Bratislava (where we’re staying tonight), we thought we’d have enough time to see the 1 or 2 sights here. We were wrong, Bratislava exceeded our expectations and is also a really lovely city with plenty of pedestrianised streets, lovely coffee shops and a wonderful atmosphere. These capitals are so close together and all have great things to offer that we highly recommended it for a long-weekend trip.

Easter weekend seems to follow us around – from Greece all the way to Slovakia we’ve hit public holidays. So far we’ve been lucky that it hasn’t affected train schedules too badly.

We’ve now seen and crossed the Danube river for the 5th time, but we have yet to take a cruise on it (too expensive so far). Eastern Europe have been a real eye-opener for us and countryside and people are lovely.

As a result of the extra countries we included in South-Eastern Europe we were 7 days behind schedule, but we managed to make up 1 day by cutting our stay in Budapest short with a day. We are fairly flexible, but have a maximum of +-15 days to play with because of our Vietnam visas.

Tonight will be spent in Hostel Possonium which has a great location for us – literally 800m from the train station – which is exactly what we needed today. We had never heard of them, but saw them advertised in the train station and walked straight here. Our room is a 10-bed dorm and unfortunately some of the other occupants are currently downstairs in the bar getting warmed up..

Tomorrow we are booked on the 10:00 train to Poprad from where we’re hoping to get the bus to Levoca to see a bit of the Slovakian countryside.

Vienna slideshow

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Photos of Bratislava here