We caught an overnight train from Krakow changing trains at 2 in the morning in a town in the Czech Republic. We awoke around 5:30am to the views of rolling green hills bathed in fog and villages in the distance. It was a beautiful site to wake to.
Around 6:15am we arrived in the mountain town of Poprad, Slovakia. It was time for a few days away from the big city. Thinking it would be a bit far to walk to our hotel, we looked for a Taxi. The only Taxi’s in Poprad, at least at the station, are 4 seaters and they won’t allow 5 due to the police. The bus station was right there so we tried to figure out what bus to take. First off, the people of Slovakia especially in Poprad were very helpful and kind. One lady showed us what bus to take on the map. Another lady with the help of 2 young boys who could speak a little English helped us find the right bus and what fare it would be and even told us when to get off (they were on the same bus as us). In the end, it was super easy getting to our hotel. In fact, we could have walked. 🙂
After a morning nap and breakfast, we explored the center of Poprad. Not much there, but very nice, quiet, and quaint. A treat for Tai was the tourist train that took us around the center, to the aquapark, up the hill to the old town of Spisska Sobota, and back to the city center. That was pretty fun.
The owners of our hotel recommended a great place for dinner up the hill in Spisska Sobota that had a playground for the kids in the garden out back where we ate. I must say, so far Slovakia has been the most kid friendly place we’ve been!
A quick word about our hotel, Pension Plesnovec. It is so far one of the best places we’ve stayed. A young family owns it including the land across the street where they have a garden (we could pick strawberries every day!) and a playground for the kids. There was even a play room inside the hotel too. The couple spoke great English and were very helpful with suggestions on where to eat, where to go, how to get there, etc.
On our second day, we headed to the mountains for some hiking. The weather was perfect for a day hike, not too hot and a bit overcast. We took a train up to Stary Somokovec, one of the resort towns at the base of the mountain range, then a cable car up to the start of the hiking trails. There are numerous trails that go into the mountains from resort town to resort town with multiple chalet’s to stop for a drink, food, or an overnight. Many people through hike from chalet to chalet going mountain to mountain across the range. The trails all connect, so there are several options for creating your own day hike that loops back to where you started, which is what we did passing by 3 waterfalls along the river and 2 chalets crossing a few bridges here and there. One of the highlights of the hike, other than the waterfalls, was seeing a red fox by one of the chalets, which Tia wrote about in her post here. After a full day of hiking, we took the cable car back down to Stary Smokvec, had dinner, then caught the train back to Poprad and our hotel where the kids played outside and inside for a few hours before bed.
On our third day we took another day trip. This time out to Spisske Podhradie to see the ruined Spis Castle on the hilltop. Our guide book says this is the most photographed site in Slovakia. We could see why. Getting off the bus you see the castle on the hillside at the other end of the town square. What a site! We proceeded to hike the route up to the castle and around the back to the main entrance. We toured the castle with an audio guide (for free!) which made it much more interesting for all of us as each “number marker” was a game for Tai and Tia to locate, and between each we could listen to an old Slovakian folk tale if we wanted. The highlight was climbing the super narrow and steep stone stairs up to the top of the castle tower being rewarded with amazing views of the town and surrounding countryside. Down below was a very cool museum showing objects found during the restoration of the castle as well as rooms redone to look as they perhaps did at the time; small chapel across the hall from the torture chamber (go figure), bedroom, bathing room, weapons room, and kitchen. It was quite well done and informative. After exploring the castle grounds a bit more, we hiked back down to the town and caught a bus back to Poprad ending up at our favorite family friendly restaurant in Spisska Sobota for dinner.
Our final day was mostly waiting to catch the afternoon train to Budapest hanging around the city center having lunch and ice cream. See you in Hungary!