With more than 29 peaks over 2500 m high, the High Tatras are Slovak most spectacular mountains. It’s an area of outstanding beauty dotted with dozens of glacial lakes cut into alpine valleys. It is also home to our largest national park – TANAP.
The High Tatras or Vysoké Tatry are well-documented on the Internet, where you’ll find dozens of great pictures from professional photographers. Those I want to share with you today were taken on my trip to a small town sitting at the foot of Slavkovský Peak (Slavkovský štít).Starý Smokovec is one of a few towns in the High Tatras region that preserve their specific architecture and inimitable charm. It’s the main hub of a modern tram network (TEŽ), which connects all important tourist attractions with the main railway station in Poprad – Tatry.
I had been to the Tatra mountains many times before and knew what to expect at this time of year, so I wore a warm, wind-proof coat and a pair of winter boots with a good grip. This was fine for a walk around the town and the viewpoints above it, but it wouldn’t be sufficient for climbing the peaks.
The sky was overcast and the peaks shrouded in mist when I arrived on Saturday afternoon. A brisk walk helped me keep warm despite the cold winds blowing from the mountains.My sister and her family were staying in their holiday flat close to the local spa house, so I could join them for a nice hot meal and enjoy the view of Slavkovsky Peak from their cosy kitchen.
Starý Smokovec is usually full of tourists, skiers or holiday-makers, but it looked quite empty on that weekend. It might have been the lack of snow, or just a slack period before the coming Easter. Despite the unwelcoming weather, there was enough colours and cheerful design to meet the eye on every corner.I woke up to another windy morning the next day, but the skies looked brighter and the sun made a full appearance by lunchtime. The plan was to go up to the Hrebienok ski resort, the terminal of the High Tatras funicular and the starting point of several hiking trails.
But it wasn’t for skiing or hiking, or even sledging. I wanted to see the Tatra Ice Dome or Tatranský ľadový dóm – the project that has been running for three winters now. This year, the dome was built in the baroque style and there was going to be a concert of classical music inside.
It’s not often that the High Tatras bathe in sunshine, so instead of a 7-minute ride on the funicular I decided to walk up the hillside. The footpath was well-signposted and it took me about 40 minutes to get to the Hrebienok station.
I only met a few walkers making their way down, otherwise I could enjoy the crisp mountain air and the tranquility of the countryside on my own.
Feeling uplifted after the concert and still refreshed by the walk, I strolled around the Hrebienok station for a while. It was another 20-minute walk to the Reinerova Hut or Reinerova chata, the sign-post said. I’d heard they made wonderful tea at the hut, and although the vision of a nice hot cup was tempting, I was pressed for time.Back in Starý Smokovec I filled my travel bottle with fresh mineral water from a mountain spring, and went to catch a tram down to the Poprad – Tatry railway station.