Erik spent his last day today as a sprightly 39-year old. We spent a lovely day hiking in Slovensky Raj park (translates to Slovak Paradise). A wide, often perfectly clear, river is the heart of the park. Our hotel is actually inside the park so we can start on the trails right from our hotel. I am completely in love with the flowers here ... so many and so very tall. It’s a different ecosystem here from where we were just hiking in the High Tatras, but we can see the High Tatra range from here, so they’re very close by.
The first portion of our trail led us to the ruins of a monastery that was built and then destroyed by monks to prevent marauding knights from gaining access/possession of it. (I guess they weren’t very noble knights.) On the gentle slope of the monastery grounds, I fulfilled my self-imposed duty of log-rolling wherever I travel. I am bent on log-rolling all over the planet (if you didn't already know this). In addition to loving the flowers around here, the trees have some extremely trippy roots.
The next leg took us hiking up a stream bed via ladders and chains. The water level was very low, so the prolific waterfalls I had read about were more like trickles. Nonetheless, it was gorgeous and intensely lush, and was a unique experience to hike up ladders in the middle of a steep stream bed.
The last leg took us along the river. Here there is not room to have a trail beside the river, so little steel shelves (Erik likens them to refrigerator racks) are bolted into the sheer rock cliffs to and a chain bolted in above them. So you walk on these narrow metal grate-steps, holding on to a chain against the rock face like a railing, right over the river. I love how non-safety-oriented it is. Some of the little shelves are marvelously loose and wobbly, and the chains some places have come unbolted, and there’s nothing between you and the below. It’s very fun.
We met a nice British couple and convinced them to walk up the stream bed with us (they were a bit leery about it). The man of the British couple had spent a fair amount of time in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s Communist era. He had some interesting things to say about those times. I'm sure I can’t tell it correctly because of course I forget everything 5 seconds after I hear it, but the British guy related a local joke from the communist times ... about a Polish dog and a Slovak dog meeting at the border, each one trying to cross into the other’s country. The Slovak dog asks the Polish one why he wants to come over to miserable Czechoslovakia. The Polish dog replies, I want to buy bones so my family can eat, we’re starving over here and you have plenty. Then he asks the Slovak dog why on earth he wants to cross the border into miserable Poland. The Slovak dog says, I just want to bark!
Well, tomorrow will be Erik’s 40th birthday. Hopefully our plans will come to fruition (nighttime candlelight tour of a castle). After a number of days of hiking, it will be nice to spend some time in a car traversing the country. Looks like a lot of pretty winding road ahead.