Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
  • video killed the radio star
    • 03/09/2019
  • heading south honest
    • 25/08/2019
Trip distance has got reset somehow.
It was at 2290 or thereabouts I'm fairly sure.

Stopped in a couple of picturesque old towns today, Kezmarok and Levoca, with more UNESCO statuses. I had thought UNESCO status was akin to a second division wonder of the world, but they seem to give them out left right and centre to anything historic, or maybe Slovakia is just particularly well represented, or maybe I have just been ignorant to the extent of the scheme before now. Whatever.

Also took the opportunity to pop into a bike shop and get another kick stand, as the one I bought last week was never really up to the job and is already bending in the same spot. The new one is designed for e-bikes so maybe will cope with the weight better.

Spis has a massive castle on a hill! A particularly large one which you can see from miles away. Seems to be perpetually cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms, the type of thunder which rumbles for so long it sounds like someone pushing a wheelie bin down a cobble street.

I've treated myself to an airbnb after a week of camping, and have got somewhat overexcited at the prospect of a kitchen, and eaten enough for an average family.

Today I am passing what I can only describe as shanty towns of Roma, shacks and rough houses grafted onto the hillside above the road, built out of breezeblocks, corrugated sheet roofs and random bits and bobs, with loads of people sitting around, kids getting very excited at my passing by, some running over for a high five and in one opposite case throwing stones at me.
I feel similarly obvious and vulnerable and intruding as one the trip in Africa as our big yellow lorry rolled through native villages, offering nothing and hurrying on.

The afternoon is more positive, with a peaceful little road along a winding river valley which has been hydro dammed.
Arriving into Kosice, the second city and "eastern capital" of Slovakia is initially an overwhelming number of concrete blocks of flats stacked on the hillside, but the old city centre itself is very pleasant and deserves more time than the scant hours I've given it.
I am feeling ready to move on though and start afresh...
  • A farewell to the mountains
    • 20/08/2019
Spent the last couple of days hiking before I turn south towards the great plains...

First up a gorgeous gorge walk in Slovensky Raj national park, an area of rocky, er, gorges, which have been fitted out with catwalks, chains and ladders to make them navigable by the average hiker, so long as you don't mind being one slip away from falling on to pointy rocks. there is one section where harnesses are mandatory, which I have not done, but the rest of it would still be classed as a health and safety nightmare in the UK. Fortunately it isn't in the UK and is lovely. Would be easier in proper waterproof boots but half the fun is finding stepping stone routes to minimise getting your feet wet.
All the routed link up at the top at an alpine meadow / ruined monastery / usual cafe selling cold beer and ice cream, as well as mountain bike hire stall trying to entice people to lazy to walk back down (no cable cars or funiculars today).

Short (40km) transfer day to the next campsite underneath the high Tatras again. I do stay in "proper" campsites when I'm off doing full day hikes, for better and worse.
In between, the hub city of Poprad is the equivalent of Zakopane on the polish side, with the bonus addition of an art gallery hosting an exhibition of the terracotta army.

For my last mountain hike I'm aiming for the summit of Slavkovsky Spit, 2452m, the highest walkable point from the campsite at 800m.
The route starts off nicely up a valley alongside an energetic mountain torrent, and lots of wild raspberries, but the final 1000m climb to the peak turns out to be a fairly boring trudge. Great visibility and some nice views at the top but its also a dead end, so back down the same way. So a slightly lower, circular route would probably have been more interesting. Never mind! Still better than the peak district!
  • more hills and stuff
    • 18/08/2019
Miles, hills, lots of.
End up camping at about 1000m altitude in what would be a very disappointing ski resort.


Repeat.
There are more Romany heritage people in this part of the world, just observing, and hard not to observe as there are loads at the roadside selling mushrooms from buckets.

Met a super cool Slovak family of 5 on ONE bike!
A self built tandem recumbent with trailer (and electric but I'll let them off given the weight of sleeping children and children's bikes they are dragging around in addition to panniers etc!)

Up a big hill. There are lots of big climbs today. The railway is doing circles to get up the gradient in one place.

Stopped in a village for a yoghurt and water and notice that the shop opposite is doing a roaring trade, so pop my head in to find its selling hot doughy jam filled pastries. Which turn out to be delicious once they have cooled down enough and the local drunk has been dissuaded.

Annnd there's loads of people stopped looking at a field of donkeys. On closer inspection, the main attraction is marmots, which must be the best fed marmots in the world.

One more hill and its into the Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise) national park.
  • What does the fox say?
    • 18/08/2019
At the campsite I met Trev, who since a heart attack a few years ago has adopted a more nomadic and stress free attitude to life, and has covered over 20,000km cycling around Europe in the last couple of years, so has plenty of trail stories to share!
I'm off to a bike shop though to get a new kick stand, since my original has developed a stress fracture and is about to snap off.
The new one works but is a little less substantial so more care needed to balance the load, but it is a critical component to enable photo stops, pee stops, snack stops, and any other stops where there isn't an easily accessible and suitable leaning tree/ bench/wall. Which is often.
Just a few km to another campsite which looks fantastic on the website - swimming pool, sports facilities etc, I'm just worried it'll be packed. Turns out to be practically empty and somewhat dilapidated, like it was built for Soviet era group holidays and has declined since. Still, perfectly fine for my needs except that I've arrived too late for a swim. Anyways

Another short day, although not without a thunderstorm, to arrive at Bojnice with its fairy tale round turreted castle. The old historic town is small in comparison to the adjacent communist new town, an impressive maze of coloured prefab flats. I'm staying in a bargainous airbnb apartment for the night hosted by the lovely Marcela who doesn't speak a word of English but does her best to make me welcome in a mix of broken German and Czech.

And off again, uneventful day of covering distance towards the prosperous old mining town Banska Stiavnica. Looks lovely but I've again arrived a bit late having been distracted by a prominent stations of the cross style chapel thing on a hill nearby, and then dark starts to fall as I'm chatting to three Slovenian lads on a two week bike tour out of Bratislava. They have been through Hungary and didn't give it rave reviews.
So dark is falling as I headed for my "identified camping zone", and it turns out my bike headlight isn't charged up, so just got my headlamp to see where i'm going, which is climbing steeply through a wood which makes if seems even darker.
At the summit I collapse on the nearest flat bit of field to camp. Nice view. Sleep.
Andddd woken up by something pouncing on my tent. Pouncing is the best word i can think of. Immediately start wondering if there are bears around here but it turns out to be a cheeky adolescent fox, who is reluctant to leave and comes back at 3am for another round. Would have been a great wildlife photo op of I wasn't so half asleep and worried about him running off with one of my flip flops or something!


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