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July 2020 with Lena
In a country of mountains the High Tatras stand out. Beneath them stands the little town of Poprad with a train running almost the length of this tiny range servicing the resorts, ski hills and tourist towns that take advantage of this sublime area. It is truly a hikers dream. It is in Poprad we based ourselves for almost a week in order to day hike the countless trails. These peaks are so steep it is impossible to do a through hike unlike the Low Tatras across the valley. Dotting across both ranges are cabins or Chatas as they are known in Slovak. In a regular year they book out far in advance but being a relatively tourist free year we managed to get reservations for a night at Chata pre Zelenom plese, which is situated on a beautiful lake surrounded by peaks.
The little tourist train took us to the resort of Tatranská Lomnica where a modern gondola takes you far up the mountain. From there an old Soviet style gondola takes visitors to a 2500 meter peak, which is 1.5 kilometres elevation above the town. We however opted to walk a more direct route to our little cabin on the lake. Mountain weather as always is unpredictable and poor Lena overheated from the sun stopped at a river to cool down. Her clothing now wet with river water, she was much happier until the heavens opened up dumping freezing cold rain down on us. It must have been chaos for the scores of tourists up the mountain doing a chain section on the route we would use to exit tomorrow. The mountain cracks the chains follow turned into a river while hikers slowed to a crawl many of whom were laden with small children, dogs and even baby carrying backpacks. We heard the route turned into a traffic jam where people didn’t move for periods of up to 25 minutes on the now slippery rocks. The Tatras are very popular. A few years back lightening struck a mountain peak killing four and injuring a 100. That is how insanely popular this place is. At times boarding the little tourist train can feel like India with the Slovaks pushing and shoving to get on and off the train simultaneously. Presumably an international tourist destination during regular years this year was comparatively tourist free.
We reached the chata as the sun shone through the clouds having pushed most of the day hikers for home. We ordered lunch from the kitchen at the same place we checked in, the staff mostly consisting of teenagers safely behind a plexiglass barrier. This is the sort of place you should not be if a certain virus from China is ravaging the globe.
The room instructions were simple. Go up two set of stairs and find a bed under the roof. So I went upstairs to find very crowded little rooms with bunk beds that were all full. I went down again to the rather cute and cozy dining hall with the roaring fire and asked again. The lineup to order food was now daunting but I persisted and managed to ask again. Same instructions with a promise they would show me later. I tried again and managed to find a tiny little door under the roof and took a look inside. It looked like something out of Harry Potter with its tiny little door and staircase location. Inside were a group playing cards. They suggested I try upstairs. I looked confused so a woman came up and pointed to a shelf system which formed giant stairs on one side leading up to a trap door and eighteen mattresses in a long room. The mattresses were nine to a side with a 20 cm wide “aisle” to walk between them. I couldn’t even stand up in this A frame style room with a tiny little open window at the far end. Mostly empty I decided that by the windows would be the place to be.
Dinner at a chata is a simple but filling affair. First up was a giant bowl of lentil soup followed by an even bigger plate of goulash. Tasty and filling neither of us managed to finish our dessert especially with the large mugs of included beer and other beverages. At €68 for two including accommodation and full board these huts are a decent price. This is especially since everything is hauled up a very long rough road by truck.
After a hot shower we went to sleep early and I slept deep until I was woken up by a snorer who had chosen the window bed across from us. He snored loudly only stopping briefly to let out equally loud farts. The room was thankfully mostly empty which made heading to the washroom at midnight fairly easy. The snoring farting man was gone by the time we woke for the 6:30 breakfast buffet.
We got an early start to avoid the day hikers coming down the chains. The trail climbed punishingly higher and higher to cross a shoulder of a peak. From there it contoured with a slight down over to the ski resort. As we reached the resort the crowds of day hikers began. We only caught glimpses of peaks as we hiked between layers of clouds. We hiked down the ski runs as we did not want to pay the download fee which amounted to a little less than two nights accommodation at our pension at the bottom of the mountain. Besides the gondola was packed so tight it looked like humans in a glass sardine can.
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