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Nature's treasures are hidden deep in Slovenský Raj

Dense forest spreads across the hilly eastern face of the Low Tatras, hiding an unique natural paradise. The national park that protects this area carries that very name, Slovakia's Paradise (Slovenský Raj).
Bustling streams shoot through high rock walls often tumbling over abrupt endings. Steel ladders and chains dripping with wet spray navigate these gorges and allow hikers to dive deep into the park. Fallen timber has also been shaped by man to give a foothold bridging difficult gaps and tricky bends. Life is abundant as trees jettison out of cliff faces, roots dangle from eroded rock, and underbrush tangles the path.
From the Dobšina ice cave, there is quick and easy access to the wonders of Slovenský Raj. Two tiny villages, Dedinky and Mlynky - tucked in the folding hills - provide lodging, camping, food, tourist information and transport in and out of the southern end of the park.


Through nature's nooks. Tourist trails take hikers along waterfalls and cliff faces in Slovenský Raj.
Daniel J. Stoll

Dense forest spreads across the hilly eastern face of the Low Tatras, hiding an unique natural paradise. The national park that protects this area carries that very name, Slovakia's Paradise (Slovenský Raj).

Bustling streams shoot through high rock walls often tumbling over abrupt endings. Steel ladders and chains dripping with wet spray navigate these gorges and allow hikers to dive deep into the park. Fallen timber has also been shaped by man to give a foothold bridging difficult gaps and tricky bends. Life is abundant as trees jettison out of cliff faces, roots dangle from eroded rock, and underbrush tangles the path.

From the Dobšina ice cave, there is quick and easy access to the wonders of Slovenský Raj. Two tiny villages, Dedinky and Mlynky - tucked in the folding hills - provide lodging, camping, food, tourist information and transport in and out of the southern end of the park.

Dedinky is the more popular of the two because it lies on a rather large damned lake perfect for cooling off in the hot summer. A white church steeple reflected off the silvery water contrasts strongly with the absorbing green of the pine and yew trees behind.

Always when hiking there is anticipation in those first steps of the journey. Pictures or scripted words describing what lie ahead slowly fade into reality. Tourist maps scribble a wavy line on the path that has waterfalls, ladders, and log bridges cutting through gorges.

To reach such an adventure from Dedinky, follow the red path to Biele Vody, a collection of wooden chaty (huts). Look for the green trail heading toward Geravy which is a round topped meadow. Immediately the trail engulfs you into the forest. A tiny stream gives no hint from where it has come.

As the trail snakes upward, a blast of drippy humidity hits the hiker like a wall. Far away, sounds of water gushing at an incredible force enter the traveler's consciousness. Four sturdily grounded logs bridge a short gap through which stream rushes gently. Gradually, the stream begins to speed up to an angry pace and the sides which it cuts become sharper and more defined. It is then that the roaring force of water hurling from wearying heights is seen and felt. A steel ladder, 20 meters high, is bolted into the rock next to the waterfall, only an arms-length away.

For an exhilarating twenty minutes each back-packer's feet play a tricky game with the slippery rocks, and muddy soil. Ladders at wacky angles conquer each waterfall. There is one stretch where the ladder seems to ascend up into the tree branches. At the top, the stream again assumes its calm demeanor and the flat earth reverts from a rugged slope back to a gentle one.

A friendly buffet serving bean soup and iced Czech beers await the happy hiker. The buffet is lodged in the side of a building at the end of a chair-lift that launches off from Dedinky below. Going further into the park from here brings beautiful views, but similar trails don't exist except in the very northern end of Slovenský Raj.

North Paradise

The green-marked path starting from Hrabušice, a tiny village north of the park, provides some of the most challenging hiking. Suchá Bela, the trails's name, is a stretch of waterfalls and dizzying ladders that do not disappoint. The rapids at Kyseľ provide another highlight. The path weaves in and over the stream as you hop from rock to rock, log to log.

The Kyseľ gorge also has its share of stories to tell. During the Slovak National Uprising in early autumn 1944, four boys escaped from a band of pursuing Nazis by hiding behind a waterfall.

They were never again seen, thought to have been caught. But an old woman with a wrinkled face and bright eyes assured me that they had escaped, showing the water chute behind which they hid.

In the east near Čingov, a rocky cliff 150 meters (465 feet) over the Hornád river at Tomášovský Výhlad offers a breathtaking view. The Hornád river gorge was impassable before metal steps were drilled into the side of the rocks.

Now, chains guide you from one metal grill to another. The river 15 meters below looks refreshing enough to jump into on a hot summer day. But beware: the water is ice cold and only the thickest skinned polar bear can bear it. Amidst the trails, meadows, ladders, cliffs and waterfalls in the northern section of Slovenský Raj is an island of rest, Kláštorisko. At this oasis, travellers meet and exchange stories while filling up on beer, bean soup and Tatranky cookies.

Deep in the park, the long Veľký Sokol trail weaves through a sharp gorge. If you prefer mountain paths with no surprises, trek up to Havrania skala, the highest point in paradise at 1,155 meters (3,582 feet).


S&S Travel Tips

Selinan Travel Agency - Burianová medzierka 4, tel.: 089/621-478.

Getting There

By car- From Bratislava, take Route E 75 north to Žilina (200 km).
By train- Every two hours a direct train from Bratislava goes to Žilina. Travel time takes less than three hours.

LODGING

Penzion Pastierňa- č.p. 42, Dedinky 049 73, tel. 0942/981-75. Prices double room: 350 Sk to 600 Sk. A short hop to the lake and chair lift.
Hotel Slalom- Prostredný Hámor, Mlynky 053 76, tel. 0965/493-293. Prices double room: 490 Sk to 750 Sk. A classy hotel with all the amenities and English and German speaking help.
Hotel Ruffíny- Dobšina Ľadová Jaskyňa 049 71, tel. 0942/982-27. Prices double room: 560 Sk to 840 Sk. This hotel is slowly sliding into the road.
Vila Schwarz- Dobšina Ľadová Jaskyňa 049 71, tel. 0942/982-27. Prices double room: 100 Sk to 200 Sk.
Autocamp Podlesok- Podlesok, Hrabušice 053 15, tel. 0965/902-81. A-framed huts holding two to seven people. Prices range from 180 Sk to 750 Sk per hut. 100 Sk to set up camp. Right next to the start of the Sucha Bela trail.
Hotel Čingov- Hradisko 1090, Smižany 053 11, tel. 0965/336-33. Prices double room: 300 Sk to 660 Sk. Another fully equipped hotel on the east end of Slovenský Raj.

Topic: Tourism and travel in Slovakia


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