Over the weekend we stayed at my friend’s Pension (sort of like an inn) in the Tatra Mountains. It’s called, bizarrely, Poľská krčma, which means the Polish Bar. She and her partner have only had it for a few months (since December) and have done quite a bit of reconstruction on it. It’s in an ideal location, with the main road running between the two major ski resorts of Tatranska Lomnica and Stary Smokovec just outside, and a mountain right behind it (you can see the view from the toilet window in the photo).
Upstairs, they offer a few simple rooms at very affordable prices compared to the mega hotels, and the bar is open and light and friendly. Food-wise, they offer the basics such as a bowl of goulash or my friend’s specialty, zapekanka (a sliced baguette grilled with mushrooms and cheese). Alcohol-wise they stock, I think, the complete range of the local specialty Tatra Tea (a very strong herbal alcohol similar to Jagermeister) in various OBVs, along with Zlaty Bazant beer and international drinks.
I wish them both the best of luck and hope anyone reading my blog, when visiting the Tatra Mountains, will pop in for a visit. My friend is also the godmother to my younger boy so just tell her Edward sent you…
When I’m at the village house I go to the forest at least twice per day, usually morning to retrieve the trap camera and just before dusk to set it. When I’ve got chance I also like spending the day time wandering about in the woods looking for edible fungi.
This weekend we took the kids in to collect some nice leaves for an art exhibition I’ve got coming up. Whilst there my son found just over half a particularly large lynx skull – sadly not including the teeth. That’s now sitting in a bucket of water and bleach in my garage.
The colours of the forest at this time of year just cannot be explained in words. It’s utterly mesmerizing.
The other night while out looking for suitable places to set my trailcam, I discovered this beautiful stretch of river out in the bush. The next day we decided to go on a picnic there and my brother and his girlfriend joined us. It amazes me that even within a short distance from my house I can still find new places I haven’t seen yet. We had a small fire on the bank and cooked bacon on sticks, and both the kids and dog had the chance to swim a bit – a welcome respite from the 30 degree centigrade plus heat.
It was a bit of a gypsy holiday but it goes to show that you don’t need to spend lots of money, nor have lots of equipment, to have a fun day out. Judging by the tracks lining the river bank, I wouldn’t like to be there at night though….
I bought this OpenAir Vestmarka tent in Jysk as a storage/baggage tent just to keep food and rucksacks etc in when we go camping. It was cheap at 15 Euros and has a rating of 450mm waterproofing.
When I got back to the house I put it up just to see what it was like. It was a scorching hot day and I thought the kids could play in it and maybe I’d sleep out in it that night. It only has 4 tent pegs which was worrying and there is no way of fully sealing the front flap, only the mosquito net, meaning it is useless for storing bags as anyone can see inside it.
Within an hour a huge storm appeared – we often get these in the Carpathians. Hurricane winds and lashing rain, lightning and thunder. As usual, the storm passed within another hour or so and I went out to check the tent. The inside was like a swimming pool but at least it hadn’t blown away. Utterly useless. The waterproof rating is a joke.
As a play tent it’s fine but I can understand why it was only 15 Euros. It definitely won’t be coming on any expeditions with me.
On Sunday, my son Brano and my brother and his girlfriend travelled to the High Tatra Mountains to go on a hike. The weather was insanely hot – about 36 degrees Celsius, and the track was basically loose rocks all the way. Extremely hard going. It was a long day with lots of driving but was well worth it. The area is beautiful – the Tatra Mountains are the highest point of the entire Carpathian range and the geography is Alpine.
Despite bringing lots of fluids we sweated profusely. Luckily, a lot of the hike was through dense forest which shaded us a bit. The steep trail follows a fast white water creek. We encountered some brown bear scat on the track at one point, which really reminded us where we were and what might be lurking behind the trees…
We rounded the adventure off with a meal at Humno Restaurant in Tatranska Lomnica. It’s an expensive place but pretty cool – they’ve got a huge snow cat sticking out of one wall and a Cadillac Espanade hanging upside down from the ceiling. The waitresses are pretty and speak English and the atmosphere is very friendly.
It was good to spend some quality time with my son.
While there is a taste of Spring in the air, and the snow melt run-off from the hills is creating new land-borne streams (especially, unfortunately, at the back of my garage), there is still a lot of snow about and last week saw night time temperature below minus 10.
I really dislike the period between the end of Winter and full blown Spring. Everything is dead and manky and mud covers all. Winter’s gone on long enough this year and I really want warmer days and greenery. My Jack Russell, on the other hand, loves the snow.
Last night there was quite a heavy snowfall so this morning we decided to go for a walk up into the forest outside the village, along the logging trail. it was seriously hard going as it was a constant climb and the snow adds a completely different dimension to walking.
There were many animal tracks along the way and no human had been for a few days. Of particular interest was the tracks of a mother and cub wolf which went on for miles. We saw a few roe deer, they stumbled out of the woods onto the track, barked in panic and then ran off before i could get the camera ready.
Absolutely stunning scenery – perfect for a winter camp.
Continuing the theme of old school kit, I purchased a Swiss Army backpack for approximately 15 GBP. This rucksack was issued but came in excellent condition. I’m unsure of its date of issue but presume it was 60s or 70s. It’s made of rubberized canvas with leather straps, it’s waterproof and very heavy. If you’re looking for an old school hardwearing rucksack then this is it.
Due to its weight, I’d suggest that it only be used for short hikes or by people who are used to carrying heavy things. For those who have only ever used the modern nylon rucksacks, it will come as a shock. For my purposes, it’s perfect as I only need to walk for half an hour and I’m in the middle of the bush, plus we often get rain storms and the forest floor is damp so it makes sense to have a waterproof bag.
I modified the backpack by adding 4 old Polish army leather buckle straps so that I can attach an axe or bedroll, and I also added a Swiss Army gas mask bag, which is also made of rubberized canvas. This can be seen in the photo on the front flap, attached by 4 small carrabiners. This location is where the bread bag should be but I didn’t like it so replaced it with the gas mask bag.
I love this backpack. There are many modern copies, especially from Scandinavian manufacturers, or Duluth or Frost River, but the original has lasted the test of time and, with a bit of care, could last for decades to come.