Off the beaten path
Slovakia was an interesting and fun experience. I quite honestly didn't have this country on my initial "places to visit list" and I can't really say any of Eastern Europe was on my list, but Slovakia changed my mind. And again, I have to thank my friend who planned this trip and showed me some off-of-the beaten-path places. I must give her credit for the castle and cave pictures below. These were two places we had to pay to take pictures. We drove to Slovakia on the third day of our Poland-Slovakia trip. From Zakopane, the trip to Slovakia wasn't that long, maybe a few hours. We turned down one road and a little ways up was a "Slovakia" sign, very underwhelming. Not, "Welcome to Slovakia", but just a blue and white small sign.
When first driving across the border:
Our first stop was Orava Castle which dates back to the thirteenth century, when Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. It was constructed high above the Orava river in the village of Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia. And yes, very high up...it was a hike up to the castle and a hike around the castle. There were so many steps and stairs, and as one who falls both up and down stairs, I was a little nervous, but it all worked out. The castle was quite impressive and had three distinct areas. Unfortunately, the tour was given in Slovakian, so I didn't understand much at all. I think I caught the word "Catholic" once when were were in the dungeon, but I'm not certain. We took quite a few pictures and the views from the top were fantastic.
After the castle, we went to find Wooden Articular Church of Leštiny, Slovakia which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the broader category of Wooden churches of the Slovak Carpathians. The church dates back to the 1600s and is made completely of wood. This church was off the beaten path for sure, I think we drove by it three times and there was definitely no parking. Unfortunately, the church was closed, but we were able to get some pictures from the outside.
Wooden Articular Church of Leštiny:
Following the church, we went on a tour of a cave. We took an hour long tour of the Demänovská Jaskyňa Slobody cave, which sits below the Nízke Tatry Mountains. Unfortunately, this tour was also in Slovakian, but my friend has a lot of knowledge on caves and pointed out some interesting things to me and took some great pictures. The drive to the cave was also pretty interesting.
On the way to the cave, the drive was beautiful:
My overall impression of Slovakia is that it is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe. It is part of the European Union and uses the euro for its currency. I plan on returning at some point, to go to the capital, Bratislava. After the cave, it was back on the road to Zakopane to finish up the Poland-Slovakia trip.
Border sign returning to Poland:
On to the next adventure...