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HISTORY TALKS...

From “Ohnisko” to a stone chalet

Long before curious hikers and explorers made it to some of the more remote parts of the High Tatras, they often headed for the Skalnatá dolina (i.e. Rocky Valley). This valley was relatively accessible and its visitors were rewarded with a tremendous view of a group of mountain peaks, dominated by one in particular called Lomnický štít (štít means “peak”).

Long before curious hikers and explorers made it to some of the more remote parts of the High Tatras, they often headed for the Skalnatá dolina (i.e. Rocky Valley). This valley was relatively accessible and its visitors were rewarded with a tremendous view of a group of mountain peaks, dominated by one in particular called Lomnický štít (štít means “peak”).

Prior to when hikers and tourists began exploring the area, shepherds used to come here with their herds, lured by its large, lush green meadows, as well as its easy accessibility. Today, there are no traces of these meadows, as years of being trampled by sheep turned them into an inhospitable stone landscape.

Getting back to the hikers, abrupt and dramatic changes in weather in the area meant it was often necessary for visitors to seek shelter. The most obvious place to find cover was an overhanging boulder called “Ohnisko”, which means both fireplace and focus. In 1841, additional boulders were moved so as to wall the space in on three other sides. The author of the first printed guide to the High Tatras, Karol Lohnmeyer, was one of the nature enthusiasts who participated in this improvement.

In 1877, the then owner of the Skalnatá dolina, Andrej Spóner, constructed a wall around “Ohnisko”, transforming what began as a primitive haven into a protective shelter. The Imperial Hungarian army contributed by adding concrete reinforcement, bunk-beds, windows, a heater and an iron door. Thusly equipped, the structure soon came to be known as “the cavern”. In 1931, the Club of Czechoslovak Hikers built the Tatra Arterial Road (Tatranská magistrála), which led directly in front of “the cavern”. Four years later, the first stone chalet appeared on the site, thanks to cottage-keeper Michal Tomčík.

The chalet still exists today, and it can be seen in this 1930s postcard with Lomnický štít in the background.

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