Slovakia is a country steeped in tradition, immortalised by Slovaks throughout the country who are nothing if not proud of their history.
But Slovak tradition is a state of mind rather than a destination, so more and more Slovaks, and even curious foreigners such as myself, celebrate Easter with a trip to the gleaming Tatra mountains. Often, it’s the last chance to get some skiing in before the warmer weather melts all the snow away, but for those who prefer to celebrate their holidays on level ground, the Tatras are teaming with possibilities.
Adopting the Slovak mindset, I decide to hop on a train to the Tatras just before Easter. I leave Bratislava, the land of tulips, in the morning, arriving in the land of always winter (not to be confused with the home turf of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones) in the afternoon.
Splash of spring
The journey to Poprad takes just under four hours but goes by surprisingly fast. Having a window seat makes all the difference. There is a thin layer of snow covering some of the northern towns as the train slinks slowly by, but under the strong spring sun, it glitters fantastically.
What better way to celebrate spring, the season of renewal, then by splashing around in AquaCity Poprad? Even for a semi-water phobic individual like myself, the cooling waters and plentiful steaming saunas seem to rid my body of the lingering dregs of winter. However, the heat of the saunas remains on my face for the rest of the trip.
Post sauna, I venture through the cobbled centre of Poprad, lined with a string of charming cafés and festive store fronts. Although the Tatra peaks are still dusted white, the temperature is mild and pleasant.
From Poprad, I take a short train ride to the beautiful village of Starý Smokovec, where skiers welcome spring with one last weekend of skiing. Walking around the quintessential ski town is just as fun, so I weave through crowds of adrenaline junkies and take the funicular up to Hrebienok peak.
The best Easter eats
No Slovak Easter is complete without some hearty local delicacies.
On Hrebienok, after walking up and down a few of the off-shooting trails, I find a table at a traditional chata restaurant and order šúľance, a dish I have heard so much about since moving to Slovakia.
This sweet, buttery plate of dumplings, mixed with butter, sugar and poppy seeds is divinely delicious. It may not be the most visually-appealing dish, but it is scrumptious-beyond-words and thus the perfect way to celebrate the holy Easter season.
I dream of fresh mountain air and mouth-watering šúľance on my journey back home to Bratislava, where temperatures are already creeping towards summer levels (by New Hampshire standards). The journey home seems to take a little longer, perhaps because I am already yearning for the Tatra mountains, resplendent in their springtime glory. When I hop off the train at Bratislava’s main train station, I resolve to make another Easter-time trip to Slovakia’s best mountain range.
But for now, it’s time to track down a recipe for šúľance.
This article was created with the support of Železničná Spoločnosť Slovensko (ZSSK) who provided the author with return train tickets from Bratislava to Poprad.