Ždiar: Skiing in the High Tatras, Slovakia

February 9, 2010

On Sunday, February 7th I took a train from Łódź to Warsaw to spend some time with my grandma, since it was her birthday/nameday (imieniny). On Monday night, fellow Fulbrighter Micajah McGarity dropped a Skype bomb: he, along with Catarina and Tristan were going skiing in Slovakia and wanted me to come along. Caught totally unawares, I didn’t think the whole thing would actually materialize on my end. The main reason: I didn’t have my ski clothes with me– they were back in Łódź!! Well, Micajah quieted my fears, saying I could borrow his ski pants and a jacket. With nothing else standing in my way, my aunt drove me to the train station the next morning.

After almost missing the 9:15am train to Kraków from track 3, because we misread the timetables, thinking the Kraków train leaving from track 4 at 9:06am was the right one, I made the 2.5 hour train ride (getting massively [artisically] inspired along the way) to Kraków and met Micajah at the bus terminal. For the second time that day, I almost missed my ride: this time it was the bus to Zakopane. Granted they run every 20 minutes, it still would have been a nuisance to have to wait. But we made it, and about two hours later, we were in Zakopane– the second time in 3 weeks! I bought some badly needed ski gloves and warm skiing socks, plus provisions for the ride to Slovakia.

Unfortunately, third time’s a charm: we missed the last bus to Łysa Polana, a Polish town on the Slovakian border from where we were supposed to catch another bus to Ždiar (heading in the direction of Poprad). However, we hopped into a taxi and asked the driver to get us to the Slovakian border. A little chocolate got him to drive us across and all the way to Ždiar… he even took off the little taxi sign on his roof, so that we wouldn’t get pulled over. A little shady, but we got there hassle-free and in only about 45 minutes!

Slovenská republika!

We finally made it to Ždiar, Slovakia!!

We walked up to the Ginger Monkey Hostel and checked in;

were greeted by Wally, the owner’s dog;

suited up (I looked ridiculous in Micajah’s borrowed ski clothes);

took the free ski bus over to Strachan; met up with Tristan and Catarina who were already there; rented skis; and skiied!

Strachan is a small slope. The skiing was nice and easy– perfect for the first day. Lovely views of the mountains, too. After getting back, we headed over to Pizza Rustika for dinner. It’s a local favorite and the closest thing to a pub in Ždiar.

After hanging out with some of the people at the hostel later on that night, Day 2– predictably– began quite late. We headed over to Bachledova, another slope, around noon-time and got to skiing, since they close the trails at 4pm!!

The trails at Bachledova were great. The views were incredible, too. However, to be honest, Zakopane has much more in the way of variety of slopes/ski facilities. It might have more people, but it’s worth it. It’s also less expensive… since Slovakia uses the Euro. Ždiar is definitely more hidden in the mountains– sort of a secret getaway if you’re into that. It was completely enjoyable to ski there, though. The free ski buses were great, too.

Anyway, since Bachledova closed at 4pm, we took the ski bus back over to Strachan, and switched in our skis for snowboards, just to try it out for the rest of the day. It was almost everyone’s first time on a snowboard, so it was pretty hilarious.  There aren’t too many pictures from that night… needless to say, we were totally consumed by falling and the pain that came with it.

After a long night’s rest, we got up considerably earlier the next morning and headed over to Strachan to ski/snowboard until it was time to go home. Since I couldn’t feel my butt anymore and my hands/wrists are indispensable in order to make art, I decided to switch to skis. The rest of the bunch kept at it with the snowboards.

Waiting for the ski bus…

Since Strachan is such a small slope, they don’t have chair lifts. There are only pomas, or drag lifts, that pull you up the mountain.

Day 2 began with being overcast, but the sun started coming out while we were skiing/snowboarding!

Really great restaurant right by the slope.

We left Ždiar at around 4pm and got a ride all the way to Kraków from Sean, a guy who worked at the hostel. A good time was had by all.

*By the way, can I just say it is so cool that you can cross over into a foreign country that has a different language and understand pretty much everything they say. And they can understand everything you say. So each one can speak his own language, and know what the other one is saying! Slovakian is also a Slavic language, so there are many similiarities between it and Polish. However, this doesn’t always hold true. When the ski rental/ski bus driver asked me what it is that I do, and I said that I’m an artist (artysta in Polish), he thought I can do flips and play with tigers. Apparently, in Slovakian an artista is a circus performer. weird huh.

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