I don’t think I’m alone in having absolutely no idea about the country of Slovakia. Beside a vague idea that it was once joined with the Czech Republic, before visiting it I had no clue where in Europe it even really was. Next to Slovenia, I guessed? (FYI, I was wrong.) But after visiting, it quickly became one of my favourite places I’ve travelled to.
I skipped the capital city, Bratislava, because I’d just come from Krakow and Prague and was kinda over European capitals for a bit. They’re all just variations of cool old buildings near a river, if we’re being honest. Amazing to see, but every now and then you need a break. Instead I got a bus up into the Tatra Mountains, right near the border of Poland. I didn’t have many expectations, but I met a girl in Wroclaw who said it was beautiful, and recommended a great hostel. (Turns out, it was the only hostel, and the only place that spoke English for kilometres.)
The village I visited, Ždiar, is a ski village mainly frequented by Slovak tourists, which gave it a very different vibe from the tourism hotspots I’m used to. While some of the restaurants had English translations on their menus, the locals mainly just spoke Slovak. And because I went after the ski season had ended, but before the beginning of summer, it was pretty damn deserted.
It was amazing. As a nature-loving hoe, I was in my element. Every day I went for walks up mountains, through the woods, or by the river. The views were AMAZING: giant, snow-covered mountains as far as the eye can see, rolling ski slopes that, without snow, were green and sprouting flowers. And deserted as well – it felt so special to go on a trail and have the whole thing to myself.
Walking up to the green lake was probably a highlight. I’ve never seen water that colour, and there was still snow on the ground which added to the fairytale vibe of the whole thing. Plus, there’s a cute little lodge at the top where you can down a ginger and lemon tea before mustering up the strength to walk back down.
The hostel I stayed at- The Ginger Monkey – itself exceeded every expectation – it is cozy and homey and they have a dog who loves going for walks. I legit didn’t want to leave- I stayed for six nights, and only left when it started snowing and I got cold. It’s easy to get to – just get a train or bus to Poprad (from Krakow, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest), then a short bus up to Zdiar.
Yep, thats right. I woke up one morning and it was FULL-ON SNOWING! My Australian heart was so excited, I definitely wasn’t expecting that in May.
So this is me urging you to add Slovakia to your travel bucket list. It’s right between Poland and Hungary, the perfect pit stop on your way between the typical tourist hotspots. Whether you go for two days to hike, or a week to chill the hell out, you won’t regret it.