Head to the hills, the Tatras are calling…
When Wenceslas Square and downtown Budapest just have too many people and you enjoy a challenge and are relatively fit, then try heading to the Liptov region in Slovakia and taking a long walk. Hiking into the Lower Tatras is something that has not quite caught on yet with the western hordes, and you’ll certainly avoid the packs of hen and stag party idiots the summer and early fall inevitably bring in. Liptov is full of great hikes, and maps for all of them are available from most hotel or hostel operators.
Don’t expect anyone to speak a lot of English here. It is rare enough in Bratislava, and Liptov is the definition of hinterlands. Sheep outnumber people by a wide margin, and quiet times are the rule, not the exception. Nonetheless, people are friendly and the surroundings are amazing. The Tatras extend into Poland, but the better bits definitely lie in Slovakia. There are three castles within easy range of the trails.
Liptov Castle, Castle Likavka, and the castle ruins in Liptovský Hrádok are all three leftovers from the Gothic era and well worth the extra time to explore. If even castles and ruins sound a bit too human-infested for your needs, then try checking out the Demänovský caves. Experts give them high regard and rank them among the most beautiful (and relatively untouched) in Europe.
Once you feel more social (and possibly exhausted) head to the hot springs in Bešeňová, Lúčky, and Liptovský Mikuláš. The spas at there will help you relax while you take in the relative isolation and quiet of the surrounding mountains. Regardless the season you go, pack some foul weather gear. Weather changes fast, and altitude changes will cause the temperature to vary quite a bit. Regardless, if you are feeling just a bit “over it” with citified offerings, it’s a great recharge.
Photo: Zlatko Capan (cc)