Today we headed in the opposite direction on the electric railway, aiming for a place called Strbske Pleso. We wanted to take the chairlift to Solisko, a height of 1840 metres.
The ride on the chairlift was gentle and extremely quiet. As we ascended, we had plenty of time to admire the greenery around us, and marvel at the tranquillity. I don’t know that I have ever experienced such an absence of sound. Just the occasional birdsong. And even though we were less than 200 metres short of yesterday’s height, the mountains were much greener.
At the top of the chairlift there is a panoramic view, a bistro, and a rocky track leading up to Predno Solisko, which peaks at 2117 metres. It was at this stage that Jay decided to demonstrate her skills as a mountain climber. We stared up at the climb – it looked steep, rocky and strenuous, but Jay was keen to attempt it. We agreed on a meeting time, and waved her off at the base.
She made good time up the climb. In fact, she returned a little earlier than expected, but she did forgo the last little vertical clamber just to ensure she didn’t keep us waiting. It was an amazing effort! I watched her come back down the track, a steady sure-footed ‘one foot after the other’ down the slippery rocks and pebbles. This is the advantage of long legs, I decided. I had set off myself about ten minutes after her, and to my surprise I found the first part of the climb relatively easy, but I stopped at the first plateau. Little black insects that looked like small fleas were biting me – that’s my excuse anyway. But for me to come back down was something of a skelter, my legs weren’t long enough to reach down to the next stepping place very easily. My descent was certainly nothing like as steady and precise as Jay’s.
Once more at the bottom of the chairlift, we ambled past the various attractions such as bicycle hire, and sports centre, and made our way down a track to lakeside. It is actually referred to here as a tarn – a mountain lake. The lake is a major feature of this area. I was keen to check out the rowboats for hire. In the end though, we decided against getting on the water, and just walked part way around the lake admiring the view instead.
Štrbské Pleso connects with the village of Štrba by a 1000mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) narrow gauge rack railway. We had heard that it was an interesting and scenic railway ride, and I understood the village of Štrba was built of traditional wooden houses and that older people there still wore traditional dress.
We were right on the first count. For around 14 kilometres the train passed through wooded countryside that was bursting with purple wildflowers and a bush with a red berry. As for the second part. Well we don’t really know, because we never found the actual village, as best as we know. We stopped for lunch in a newly built restaurant constructed in the timber fashion and with waiters dressed in local costume. The waiter did not speak much English, but what we understood was that if we headed up the hill we would find soviet style apartment blocks, and if we headed in another direction, the old village. We gave up looking for the old village after a while, and headed back to the station instead.
Štrba also connects with the main railway line of Slovakia, so in the end we rode this back to Poprad. We were surprised to find modern double-decker air-conditioned carriages, providing a quiet and quick connection. The line runs along the low Tatras, so we could look up and see the High Tatras – the mountains that we had been exploring for the last couple of days. At Poprad we connected easily with the electric rail back to our starting point at Pod Lesom.
We were very proud of ourselves for having completed an unplanned loop of both the High and Low Tatras, and for having experienced every rail system on offer in the area. And we had seen so much during the course of the day: the mountains, the hiking trail, the lake, the wildflowers and the rest of the countryside. And still back to our accommodation in time to enjoy a refreshing drink in the meadow-like back garden. Clever little vegemites.
Sunday 4th August 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Nova Lesna Slovakia