After a 9km long rafting of the Dunajec, we got out of the raft in Lesnica, and on our mobile phones warning messages flashed, received from the Polish Mountain Rescue Service about the coming storm.
The sky was blue, the sun shone much warmer than we expected once we were up in the mountains, so we set of on our journey.
We continued to the small ferry, which took us, and a group of Polish tourists, to the other river bank.
Since then we have received many more Polish storm warning messages. But that's another story.
Let's talk about fear.
About respect. And about bravery.
Dunajec and Červený Kláštor
The Dunajec is a wonderful river. It belongs to us, and yet does not.
It begins in Nowy Targ at the junction of two short mountain rivers, Czarny Dunajec and Biały Dunajec (“Black and White Dunajec”). From Slovakia it runs to the Baltic.
We got in the raft in Červený Kláštor.
And we started to explore Pieniny.
Červený Kláštor is that place where since forever, the unique mineral spring “Smerdžonka” emerges from the depths of the Earth. Due to its particular scent of Hydrogen sulphide, locals believed it came from another supernatural world. They named the place, where water and gases came to the surface, the “Pit of death.”
This morning was magical.
Fresh air, from the first breath and the first sunrays glittering on the water.
Crowns and monks
The view of the gigantic limestone klippes, which formed the romantic gorge, Prielom Dunajca, let us speechless.
The view from the water has always this kind of magic.
And so we looked at the majestic Tri Koruny (“Three Crowns”), three rocky towers, the symbol of Pieniny.
There are at least five. Or even seven.
Like the rocky towers, the “Seven monks“. These roof-shaped rocks are, according to legend, seven monks which turned to stone when they picked the forbidden flower.
The slowest part of the Dunajec is Lenivé (“Lazy”). A place where wooden rafting was born. The most beautiful mountain of Pieniny is Sokolica, the Mother of Pieniny.
The steepest place is Jánošík's Jump. It is only 10m wide, and 12m deep.
While on the river you can also admire Barštyk. Here you can see foam on the river, which is actually made of dissolved limestones. The name of Pieniny is derived from this foam.
At the end, a karst stream ,“Centenarian water” rises, and which even in winter does not freeze. Everybody who drinks from this stream will live a hundred years, legend says.
Discovering the Polish side
Our rafting ended in Lesnica and we continued to hike in Pieniny.
The blue marked hiking path built in the form of steps of diverse shapes and sizes, took us to the 747m high Sokolica mountain.
Among rocks and pines the view of the surrounding forest was open. And deep below us, the water of the meandering Dunajec glittered.
“There is a bear,” jovial Polish guys warned us.
“You are kidding, right?” we played the game and asked joyfully.
They just laughed and shrug their shoulders.
And we continued. Through the forest. Through the gorge.
Climbing more and more steps. Rocky steps, protected by chains, wooden steps through the meadows, until we finally reached Pieniny Castle, built in the 13th century.
The castle has a very atypical base. It is like a swallow's nest pasted to the northern cliffs of the 799m high Góra Zamkowa.
It was hidden deep in the mountains. A place where Saint Kinga lived. The castle was later destroyed by the Mongols, and the Hussites.
From the castle, we pushed on to Tri Koruny. The highest one is 782m high Okruhlica.
And there we found the steps again.
Almost 200 steps will lead you the observatory platform located on the summit.
A hike there is prohibited during storms.
Weather against us
As we hike to Klin mountain in the Western Tatras, it started to thunder. Once, and then again. The heavens were ripped by a bolt of lightning. We turned back, and did not reach the summit.
Mountains are our teachers. They teach us to be respectful.
They are much stronger than we are, and it is always their decision if they let us up.
On the ridge of the Lower Tatras we have experienced strong snow, and even stronger rain. We were always forced to stop and turn back.
This proud mountain range never let us up, it never showed us its mild face.
Maybe it was our fear.
Winston Churchill once said, fear is an emotion, bravery is a decision.
Fear makes us vulnerable.
But to show it, to declare an imperfection, is bravery.
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.
9. Aug 2021 at 12:00 | Gabriela Psotková, Valéria Polovková