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Risky travel in Hochwald

IN THE Middle Ages the Great Hungarian state was created. As there were several rivals interested in the territory of today’s Slovakia, the Hungarian state decided to fortify its borders through a system of border guard posts. In the north, the state was protected against invasions from Poland by the Spiš border county.

IN THE Middle Ages the Great Hungarian state was created. As there were several rivals interested in the territory of today’s Slovakia, the Hungarian state decided to fortify its borders through a system of border guard posts. In the north, the state was protected against invasions from Poland by the Spiš border county.

At the state’s western boundary stood the village of Mengusovce and nearby was the legendary municipality of Hovaldy, a name gradually deformed by locals from the original German name, Hochwald – meaning wooded areas closely watched by the army. Actually, there were several Hochwalds in the territory of Slovakia: the one near Mengusovce, then Štrba and, bordering it, Važec.

Today only fields and pastures cover the terrain of Mengusovce Hochwald, but as late as the beginning of the 18th century this region was densely wooded. Here, a smugglers’ path leading from the foot of the Tatras went through Ždiar to the Polish town of Halič. The royal road from Liptov to Spiš also led here.

Tradesmen did not like this part of the route as they usually finished their travels much poorer – if they were lucky enough to emerge at all. Soldiers were unable to stop bandits who ambushed and robbed the travellers.

The desperate authorities finally permitted the whole forest to be logged, which proved to be an effective solution.

The feared robbers could no longer hide so they moved to higher altitudes and the route under the Tatras became safe – maybe for the first time in its history.

In this postcard from the 1930s, we see two merry Mengusovce farmers heading to a Sunday church service.


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