3) Touring Slovakia – The North
Orava – where beauty comes alive
If you are a Finn, you might be giggling now. I know, orava is a squirrel in Finnish and it sounds funny that some region is called “The Squirrel”. Actually, you are right, it is really funny 🙂 Anyways, region of Orava in the north-western tip of Slovakia belongs to the most beautiful places in entire Central Europe, not only Slovakia. Picturesque hills and valleyes with many streams, the beautiful Orava castle, possibilities to ski in the winter, hike in the summer… I will point out only some places, but you can spend a whole week in this region and you will still find places to visit or try out.
First of all, Terchová (above) This village is hugely popular by Slovaks but also by foreigners who have somehow heard of it. One of the reasons is the skiing, the surrounding area offers two solid ski resorts called Paseky and Chleb. Slovak names, they sound strange, I know, but the ski opportunuties are really fine (don´t look for Austrian Alps here though, this is Austria in a smaller scale 🙂 ). Next to that comes the local museum with the story of folk hero Juraj Jánošík. He was the Slovak Robin Hood, who took from the rich and gave to the poor, however the truth is a bit different (I also mention him in the “Castles” section). You know how it goes with the folk stories, but the legend of Jánošík is very strong in Slovak cultural heritage and in the Slovak narrative. He was from this village and he was an outlaw who ended up hanged in the nearby town of Liptovský Mikuláš as a criminal in 1713. He was only 25 when he died but his story was later used by Slovak 19th century romantic writers as an example of a true national hero (for a nation which needed to be awakened) and later children stories were written about him. People have a positive attitude to him and you will really please Slovaks if you show an interest in this classic outlaw who became a legend. Juraj Jánošík even has a huge statue at the end of a village, it is really worth to take a picture there (see below). Also nice are the hiking tours in the surrounding of the village, some even adventurous with ladders on the rocks and so on. But the beauty of the nature here is breathtaking. And if you don´t feel like hiking, go up to the Chleb peak by a cable car – the view from the top is worth it.
From Terchová I will take you to Zuberec and the surrounding mountains of the Western Tatras. This area is good for a visit in summer, but ski lovers come here in the winter season as well (big time!). Just like Terchová, you can ski in several resorts (Spálená being the best one here) and hike here (depending on the season). The Western Tatras offer lovely tours and the hilltops offer amazing views with – when you are lucky with the weather – kilometers of oversight (even to Poland). Remember these names – Baníkov (a mountain top 2000+ meters above sea level with an adventurous hike – chains and so on), Sivý vrch (a nice hike to an over 1800 metres above sea hilltop) and Volovec (another 2000+ hilltop which marks the border between Slovakia and Poland, you can thus jump from one country to another – stone border marks are there). All these places are good if you are a hiker. The accomodation possibilities are fine in the area, next to hotels and pensions there are also private rooms and apartments. All for reasonable price.