Cycling

Slovakia: Day 1

I have spent today wearing a pair of trousers that must rank as the most comfortable pair of trousers that I have ever worn in my life. I thought I’d share that with you. They are made by a company called Marmot and are made of a baggy Lycra kind-of material and have an elasticated waist band which I should normally find alarming but the sheer comfort of the things outweighs any embarrassment in making such an admission. I think I may well be wearing them for the rest of the week… Or even the rest of my life.
First of all a catch up on day 1. After our arrival here in Tatranská Lomnica, we ate surprisingly nice cabbage soup and pork that had been cooked for us by Paul’s girlfriend’s mother(& the mother’s sister) who had been staying in the flat a few days ago. It had been left for us on the hob. I was, as you might imagine, a little sceptical as to the virtues of cabbage soup but in the end I was lapping up second helpings. Highly recommended and perhaps there is a gap in the cookery book market for Soviet era delicacies after all. We then trudged off in the snow to find a beer in Tatranská Lomnica’s most kicking & trendy bar. It had the unique feature of having a large Chrysler people carrier car suspended upside down from the roof. It’s one of those things that are beyond the question ‘why?’. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me as I prefer quiet bars) it was also almost deserted so we were left with no proof (other than Paul’s assurances) that is was indeed trendy and kicking. The pheasant beers were nice (that’s the name, not the flavour if you were wondering).
I was the first out of bed this morning & when I looked through the window the sky was blue and the sun shining. On arrival yesterday we had not seen the mountains as they had been shrouded in cloud but in the bright morning sunlight they were standing loud, proud and (most importantly) visible from the town. I snapped a few photos before the clouds once again descended and shrouded their summits in their grey blanket. Breakfast eaten, the plan was to head off on the train to Stary Smokovec just a few stops along the valley. from there we climbed the mountains to Hrebienok where our walking holiday could finally start. All today’s trekking was on snow and it made at times difficult going but the scenery was spectacular and a world away from the grimness of some of the towns that we had passed through on the train ride to the Tatras yesterday. We paused for coffee at a mountain hut where a fox was lurking around the entrance looking very cute in the expectation of being given something to eat. He was in no luck and all those present were far more interested in taking his photo than feeding him. Inside, the small cabin was a riot of mountaineering memorabilia and we sat sipping coffee. A German TV crew arrived and asked to stay for a few minutes so they could film the ambiance so should you ever be in northern Germany and watching a travel documentary on local TV, you may well spot three English blokes trying desperately to look cool and make normal conversation. It’s a long shot but you never know…
Our walk continued through the increasingly idyllic forest. The trails were very quiet and we only encountered a very small number of walkers and the occasional cross-country skier heading in the opposite direction. Paul and James were convinced that they had spotted bear prints in the snow at some point but I chose not to dwell upon the reasons why they were so sure. I took some comfort in seeing postcards of other, potentially less lethal animals that were on sale in a large mountain refuge called Zamkovskeho Chata whe we tucked into garlic soup and Hungarian goulash for lunch. It was the kind of place where you could quite easily have spent an entire week, not just a hour or so one afternoon; warm, cosy, comfortable, good food in abundance and a beautiful view from the window.
The final section of our walk took me to the limit of my comfort zone. Still in the snow but in the main outside the protection of the forest where any avalanches that came our way might have been stopped in their tracks by the trees. No such security on the open slopes of the mountain. At least we would have seen any bears coming but as to where we would have run, I’m not quite sure. Occasionally the clouds reduced visibility to only twenty or so metres but it made no sense to turn back. After around an hour we arrived at the safety of the ski station above Tatranská Lomnica and a cable car back down into the town itself.
The afternoon was rounded off with a mild panic on my behalf as I thought I may have left my wallet half-way up the mountain only to discover that I had left it in the flat, more food back in the flat courtesy of the mother-in-law’s pork risotto and an evening of amusingly crap television courtesy of Slovak TV. Thank-you Mrs Mother-in-Law. Thank-you Slovak TV.

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