Slovakia shares the Tatra Mountains with Poland at its northern borders. Dunajec River, a tributary of Vistula River, cuts through the mountain range. Creates a canyon and a natural border between the two countries. The landscape in these mountains is similar to that of Alps. The ranges are divided into high and low Tatra Mountains, with Low Tatra placed to the south of the High Tatras.
Pieniny National Park
Pieniny National Park is located on the banks of picturesque Dunajec River. Here you can go boating on wooden rafts that can accommodate as many as 30+ people in one raft. There are modern rafts also available if you want. Boatmen are dressed in the traditional Goral costume with royal blue jackets and Goral hats. They would tell you interesting and hilarious stories as they row the boat for about 9 KMs for you. And would keep you entertained all the while. As the river twists and turns, they throw questions at you about which peaks are in which country – one side being Polish and other being Slovakian. They tell you folk tales associated with peaks like the 7 peaks on one side as seven monks. And one peak on another side as a Nun and a story about how they all got frozen into these peaks.
Stories keep coming as you find yourself in the midst of total greenery and mildly flowing river. At certain points, all you can see is the green color of mountains as it reflects in the water. Punctuated only by the blue or grey sky if you look upwards. Young boys on shores click the souvenir pictures for you. There are natural signs on the rocks and guides carve out witty anecdotes from them that I am sure are fictional.
Carved Wood Artifacts
At the end of the ride, you can take a ride in the horse carriage to reach the restaurant’s area where traditional Slovak food and drinks are served. The wood carvings all around this area tell you two things. That wood is found in abundance here and second, the local folk artists use it to express their creativity. If you are lucky, you can get to hear the local musicians playing their music for you. If you sing a song, even in your own language they even reproduce the music for you, quite close enough if not accurate.
Our guide told us that just a few days before the Tsunami that hit the Asian coastlines in Dec 2004, there was a hurricane that hit the Tatra Mountains. And it lost its green cover of dense green trees. Yes, the mountains do look bald. It would take at least 50-100 years for the trees to regenerate themselves. Hence the current generations may never see them as green as they were before 2004. Though strangely pink colored wildflowers have come up to cover the mountains making them look like pink Mountains. I did not get the time to explore the flora and fauna of these Tatra Mountains. But I did manage to get a glimpse of its omnipresent pink flower.
You can see ski pads and steam baths here and there in the mountains that show some sign of activity. Otherwise, the ride through the mountains is pretty much lonely and serene. You can sit back and admire the scenery that changing by the minute.
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