Slovakia doesn’t have a sea, it doesn’t have pyramids or even impressive skyscrapers. It does, however, have incredibly beautiful mountains, forests, and grassy lowlands. All it takes is one look at all this natural beauty and you’ll forget all of your troubles.
One ticket to Ružomberok, please
It’s said that people from Bratislava don’t know any other Slovak towns apart from their own. Big mistake! Many of us decided to leave our cars in the garage and organized a train trip that started with the words: “One ticket to Ružomberok, please.” The trip from Bratislava took around three hours but the farther north we traveled, the more beautiful the view became. Beautiful nature was everywhere around us and we couldn’t believe that only a few hours earlier, we were still trapped in the capital city’s concrete jungle. The town of Ružomberok is located in the Žilina Region between three large mountain ranges – Veľká Fatra (Great Fatra), Chočské vrchy (Choč Mountains), and Nízke Tatry (Low Tatras). It has around 27 thousand inhabitants.
National park and a protected area
When you get off the train in Ružomberok, you can choose to go in any direction you wish. You can go to Malinô Brdo, a mountain in Veľká Fatra, and enjoy a great skiing experience. If you decide to visit in the summer, you won’t regret it either. You can enjoy hiking with amazing views of Slovak nature. In 2002, Veľká Fatra became a national park which makes transportation a bit of a problem. The hotels are usually high up in the mountains. If you decide to take your car, you’ll need to visit the town’s police and get a permit to enter the park’s protected area. This permit will cost you 7€. The locals are very friendly and helpful, though, and the receptionist will often take people all the way up to the hotel. Though these restrictions may seem annoying, they’re very important and help the mountains of Veľká Fatra preserve their natural beauty.
Once you’re up in the hotel, even if you find yourself feeling lazy, you’ll still have a good time. The surrounding area is like from another planet. The hotels are built directly in the middle of beautiful and pure nature. Open your window on one side of the hotel to see a large forest. Walk around the other side to see mountains and hills. The area is very calm and quiet. It’s so quiet, in fact, that it may seem strange to people who are used to a busy city life. It’s a good kind of strange, though. Throughout the whole day, we’ve only encountered cyclists and a single car full of tourists.
Cottages and cabins, treasures of Slovakia
We stayed in the Malina Hotel located on the Malinô Brdo mountain. From the hotel, you can go on a nice walk to the village of Vlkolínec. You won’t need a guide and you certainly won’t need to be an experienced hiker. The way back was a little harder, though, going up a rocky hill. About half way to Vlkolínec, you’ll come across the Sidorovo Mini Zoo with turkeys, ducks, piggies, dogs, sheep, and even a peacock. You can enter for free from 9am until 5pm and look at all the cute animals. This is a great place to stop, especially for parents with children who will surely love to pet a fluffy sheep and see typical Slovak animals live a happy and calm life.
Once you reach Vlkolínec, you’ll immediately know you’re there when you see the picturesque cottages, built tightly one next to another. Vlkolínec is part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1993. Did you know that Vlkolínec isn’t just an open-air museum? People live in the village in the historical cottages and while we were admiring the way people used to live in the past, one of the locals was painting his roof just two houses down the road. You can sit here for hours and you won’t need a TV to keep you entertained. It really looks like time has stopped here and so have our troubles.
As children of the city, we were amazed at the beauty of the places we’ve visited. Slovak nature is something truly amazing and it’s hard to describe it with words. If we respect and protect it, we can make sure that future generations who visit these places will be just as amazed as we were.