Speaking as someone who is terribly afraid of heights, these last few days in the Tatra mountains have been terrifying and probably knocked a solid few years off the end of my life (which is alright--I plan to die young). But as someone who loves mountains, whose sister loves them even more, and who loves a good challenge, it was a fabulous experience.
We arrived mid morning on Monday, after catching a train from Hlavna Stanica (downtown train station) at 5:57 a.m, after catching an even earlier bus to taht station. Upon arrival, we located our hostel--a task not quite as easy as it sounds, thanks to several innaccurate and ambigous sets of directions--where they upgraded us to an een lovelier room because we checked in early and the others weren't available. You could see the mountains from our windows. It was lovely. It was lovely also to see a Slovak room again--the layout and the beds and other furniture is different, you see.
After lunching in our room on rice crackers, cream cheese, tomatoes, smoked cheese, and salami, we caught a train up to Stary Smokovec and then on to Strbska Pleso. There we wandered a while, got much needed strong coffee, then took a ski lift partway up the mountain. After that, we hiked nearly the whole rest of teh way to the peak. We stopped probably 5 minutes away from the top, neither of us, perhaps, entirely sure why? Except that sometimes you just have to finish a journey later. (I never visit all the sites in a city, for instance--it is good to leave reasons to return.)
We then hiked the entire way down the mountain, through pine and grass and nettles, over slippery rock and loose gravel and sinking dirt. It was wonderful. Racing sunset and train departure time and my vertigo. I hate that I can't get over that (the vertigo), especially because it is incredibly draining to muster the courage and concentration no matter how much you know you really love climbing mountains and getting to the top.
When we finally reached the very last step off that slope and walked on flat ground at last, we made our way to a little wayside restauarant (where earlier we had that coffee). My sister had klobasa (a yummy meat thing, not quite a sausage) and I almost did as well since it sounded so good. I had to change my mind, though, at the sight of my dearly beloved Langose on the menu.
This, friends, is an excellent, ridiculously, positivley sinful tasting fried flat dough which I always order topped with syr, smotana, and cesnak (cheese, sour cream, and garlic). It's absolutely decadent, if you missed that. I was quite pleased.
After that, we were perfectly boring--just catching our train back to Poprad, walking to our hostel, and going to be dearly. VERY early (too early!).
The next day, Tuesday, we woke early (by which in this case, I mean slept in til 7:30 am), ate breakfast (same as Monday's lunch), checked out of our hostel, got my tickets at the station, checked our food and sweaters into the station lockers, and then had some coffee at a nearby cafe. After that, we headed out and up the mountains again to the highest peaks in the range.
It was exquiste. Terrifying, but exquisite. We took the ski-cars up and then up some more, and then got on the ski-lift and went up to the second highest peak. We couldn't make it to the very top because we would have missed our afternoon train back home. Alas! But again... something to return for. We climbed all around those cliff tops, scaling the rocks. My sister is half-goat, I swear.
You can see so far from up there! It's breath-taking. And as you can see, we were quite high up... I don't think I want to know the actual height. But it was so lovely, to be up there again.
Our trip back home was bittersweet. Hard to leave the mountains, but it was good still. We sat in the dining car of the train the whole way home, just talking and writing and looking at the view. And despite hours of hiking and climbing, we walked the whole way home with our bags and weary feet from the train station. Just because by foot is the best way to see anything.