Known and Unknown: Čutkovská dolina valley and Vlkolínec

Discover the beauties hidden in the Veľká Fatra mountain range.

VlkolínecVlkolínec (Source: VaGa)

When we decided to explore the Liptov region last year, we didn't know what awaited us. It was an equation with many unknown parameters.

The solution included a hike of more than 100 km.

We discovered Vlkolínec.

Forgotten in time

If anywhere time stands still, then this is the place. Here there are small picturesque wooden houses, embraced by deep and dark forests, where the alpha rules his wolfpack, she-bears watch their cubs, and where majestic eagles nest.

Here open windows invite you to gaze in boldly. And when the wind draws aside the curtain, you will see a stove with a pot cheerfully simmering atop it. A women sits in an old chair in the corner, a book in her hands. In front of the neighboring house, two men lounge on a bench. They smoke a pipe and chat. If you join them for a while, you might hear the story of the wolves who gave their name to this village. Vlkolínec is situated at the height of 700-800 m, and was already mentioned in 1376. Since then, it has been mentioned many times, and today it is listed as a UNESCO heritage site.

Here are no asphalt roads, no electricity, no water line.

This place is lost in an old, forgotten time.

It is known, but still remains unknown to most.

Discover the waterfalls

Continuing through the beech and oak forest, which at higher levels retains its wildwood character, we found ourselves at the entrance to a valley. The ringing of sheep bells floated in the air from afar. And with this soundtrack playing around us, we discovered the Čutkovská dolina valley.

At its heart, a 6.1 km long educational trail meanders. We stopped in front of each of its 10 signboards, ran across 6 bridges, rested on one of 3 benches. Until we hiked up the steep slope to the 24 m high Jelení vodopád waterfall. The noise of the falling water echoed all around us and showed us the way through the wet and slippery stones. As we stood before the mass of water, the silence of the forest swallowed us again.

But we pressed on to the 64 m long Za dierou gorge. It was created by the erosive power of the Čutkovský stream, which snaked its way through the limestones. Today it is the home to rare mosses and ferns.

We also discovered Lúčky spa, only a short while from Čutkovská dolina valley. In the middle of this village, the most beautiful Slovak waterfall is located. It is a 12-metre high cascade waterfall, Niagara in miniature, which falls into small pools from the edge of a travertine terrace. Slovakia can be proud of its more than 200 waterfalls. And more than 1,300 mineral springs, which strengthen the body, and heal the soul.

Where a Slovak Pavarotti sang

And where the Veľká Fatra mountains rub shoulders with the Low Tatras, we discovered a wooden church hidden in the shadow of the trees. A church, constructed without a nail, and with entry only from the side. The magnificent church in Svätý Kríž is one of the largest wooden constructions in central Europe, and one of five well-preserved articular churches in Slovakia.

The church dates from 1693. In 1774 it was rebuilt in 8 months to its present design by a master carpenter Jozef Lang. It's truly remarkable, because master Lang could not read or write!

As we enter, the silence drew us in. The light gently fell upon the baroque wooden interior. We closed our eyes, and saw the Slovak Pavarotti, Peter Dvorský, standing before the baroque wooden altar, and we were enthralled by his spellbinding voice bouncing from the Venetian glass chandeliers and wall paintings.

Veľká Fatra and its secrets

Last summer we discovered this region. It is calm, known and unknown.

The Veľká Fatra mountains are one of the largest Slovak mountain ranges. In its western part you can find rocky towns, windows, overhangs, gorges, and waterfalls. The rocks are decorated with edelweiss and fairy primroses, eagles and butterfly birds spread their huge wings in the air. The main ridge was deforested for pasture-land. The never-ending green meadows are, in the spring, covered by a violet carpet of crocuses, in a summer by a white blanket of rock anemones and troll flowers. More than 1.000 species of flowers bloom here, in the high grass more than 3.000 species of invertebrates hide.

Can it be connected with the fresh air, carefreeness, fresh fruit and vegetable, goat's milk, or lifestyle? Or it is because of the mountains and a lot of physical activity? Stamatis Moraitis from the Greek island Ikaria thinks, wine is this secret of longevity.

The Greek island Ikaria is one of the blue zones. Here, people forget to die.

As Hector García and Francesc Millares decided to explore the blue zones on the Japanese island Okinawa, they found out the concept of Ikigai, or the meaning life, is the key to longevity.

Life in the Veľká Fatra Mountains and Vlkolínec flows slowly. Here people eat half portions, the social interactions bloom in front of the small houses, the movement in the mountains is engineered to their lives. In 35 houses 40 people live, many of them are already centenarians.

Is Vlkolínec the Slovak blue zone?

Maybe.

We will go back to find out.

And to also to find out if Japanese the word "sinrin-joku", or bathing in the forest, could be Slovak.

VaGa Agency is an incoming company concentrating on active, adventure, cycling, and sport tours in Slovakia, in the unique, authentic and safe country, far away from mass tourism; offers undiscovered and amazing places, tailored-made solutions and very professional individual guiding. For more information please visit: vaga.agency and www.vaga-camp.com.

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