This weekend we decided to have a break, leave the kids at home to fend for themselves, and go visit our our old friend Jana at her pension, Tatranska Krcma (formerly Polsky Krcma) in Horny Smokovec in the High Tatra Mountains, Slovakia. We were only there a few months back by motorbike but we just needed to get that Christmas feeling, and where better than in a snow-covered ski resort surrounded by mountain peaks?
As usual, Jana and her partner Dusan made us feel at home.
I love their bar/pension as it has a completely different style to the standard lodges and luxury hotels in that area. I hate to use the word hipsterish, but…
We left Dusan to run the bar while Jana took my wife and I out to the city of Poprad to do some shopping and see the Christmas lights.
One of my conditions was that we eat at my favourite restaurant – Restart Burger. I’m a simple bloke with simple tastes. An immense burger made with ground beef makes me very happy indeed. You will never see me going out for a pasta dish or an interesting salad…
We returned from the city and then head out again to the main resort of the Tatras – Tatranska Lomnica – to see the Christmas market. We walked all around the resort, and through the empty snow-laden park. The Christmas market was basically three overpriced wooden stands and a couple of braziers which made those around them look like homeless people (despite it being outside one of the most expensive hotels in the country).
Next morning we got up, had a continental breakfast and then Jana showed us to the start of our long hike into the mountains.
The first part, from Stary Smokovec up to Hrebienok, absolutely crippled me. My lungs have been bad for a while with a heavy smoker’s cough, and the altitude really showed me I was out of shape. We stopped for an overpriced bottle of luke warm water at the touristy apres-ski restaurant and I managed to sort my breathing out. Once recovered, we set off again, this time on a trail I’ve never been on before, to Rainer Chata.
This little stone building, similar to a bothy, was the highlight of the entire weekend. Inside it was decorated with antiquated skiing and mountaineering equipment, with an old ceramic stove in the corner keeping the interior much warmer than the sub zero temperatures outside.
A woman served us mulled wine (I had coffee) and we sat at a wooden table with three old ladies who were lifelong mountaineers. They even had some of their old equipment hanging up in the chata along with others of note.
One of them told us about bad falls she’d had and avalanches she’d survived. It was amazing to see how some people love their lives and continue living them even into old age, even if it means facing danger. Rainer Chata reminded both my wife and I of the little old man’s place up in the hills of Corfu where he served coffee while we sat and looked over a precipice. It’s these little places in remote areas, and the fascinating people you meet at them, which reminds you how you should be living and just what wonders life has to offer.
It was an amazing, extremely intense, but very short trip, but it definitely set the mood for Christmas. I seriously recommend booking a stay at Tatranska Krcma and experiencing the area.