A dot on the horizon
photo: Dušan Guzi
FLYING into the Poprad-Tatry airport in eastern Slovakia on a clear day gives tourists a strange sense of otherness - below them is a wide flat valley with the majestic peaks of the High Tatras on one side, and the more sedate Low Tatras on the other.
Between them a railway and highway snakes along the green fields until seemingly disappearing into some alien artefact that should have no place in such a beautiful valley - Poprad.
A stepping-stone to the tourist havens of the Tatra region, the town itself has traditionally had little to offer tourists.
The area has been settled since ancient times. The oldest written record of the town itself dates back to a property transfer document from 1209. From the thirteenth century onward; it had a sizeable Germanic population and its name was eventually changed to Deutchendorf (German Town).
The town's development took off dramatically at the end of the 19th century with the construction of a railway through the region. Tower blocks in the south of the city testify to further development in the second half of the 20th century through the engineering and food industries.
However, Poprad has made great steps forward during the last decade. Like many other Slovak towns, the centre, around the historical Spiš Square, has been renovated extensively and a pleasant afternoon can be spent among the churches, the Tatra Valley Museum, and the House of Photography.
If you find yourself in Poprad, the best way to spend an afternoon is to escape up to where the real beauty can be found - the resorts of the Tatras are only a half-hour away and wonderful to visit at any time of year.
15. Sep 2003 at 0:00