Alone, Happily Alone, in the Tatra Mountains – Smart Media Magazine

Alone, Happily Alone, in the Tatra Mountains

Sebastian Modak

I was in Slovakia to spend time in the Tatra Mountains, the jagged artery of the Carpathians that forms a natural border with Poland. I was coming at an awkward time, smack in the middle of spring, when ski season was largely over, but some of the 370 miles of hiking trails in Tatra National Park were still closed because of snow and ice.

But all that really meant was that the crowds were thinner, the traffic on my drive across most of the country was sparse and while reveling in all the natural beauty that this small country has to offer, I was often left with my thoughts as my only company.

I recommend it.

The drive to and around the Tatras is half the fun of the trip, where with quick detours you can catch stunning views of green valleys and tiny villages. For a lot of the trip, I used Google Maps’ turn-by-turn directions more as suggestions and often made decisions based on what I could see on the horizon. There was no one around to tell me to do otherwise, after all.

A river valley separates the High Tatras, or Vysoke Tatry, from the Low Tatras, or Nizke Tatry. I based myself in the former — where the majority of the ski resorts are — which meant easy access to the best trailheads. But on your way in and out of the national park, it’s worth driving through the lowlands to take in the full majesty of the High Tatras from afar.

  • On drives, opt for the smaller roads, which though slower, will take you through the foothills of the Tatras and villages that give glimpses of rural life. Try to make sure to hit Routes 18 and 66 at some point — two of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever driven.

  • You can’t really go wrong with any of the lodges or family-run guesthouses in Vysoke Tatry — they’re all relatively close to each other, and a train connects the villages if you want to leave the car at home. I opted for the Grand Hotel Praha, an Art Deco mansion in Tatranska Lomnica that was plenty comfortable and offered easy access to the best hiking trails and cable car trips.

  • If you’re traveling to the mountains in the spring, bring layers. Weather can change suddenly and drastically — I found myself changing outfits three times on a four-hour hike. On one day, it snowed for a full eight hours; by the next morning it had all melted and the sun was shining.

The trails that crisscross the High Tatras are all well marked with distances and estimated times, so it’s easy to choose your route based on your fitness level and ambition. Most importantly, I felt comfortable taking them on alone without getting hopelessly lost.

Still, the moments I know I will remember most will be snippets of long walks through evergreens, jagged mountain passes and around still lakes, mirrors for gray skies and chalets. Over the course of my road trip, I had a number of passing conversations, but it’s hard to form lasting connections with honeymooning couples or weekending families without being intrusive. That’s O.K. though. Surrounded by natural majesty, I finally understood that the “solo” part of “solo travel” can actually be the most rewarding.

Source link Travel

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