This blog is from rural Slovakia, near its most famous mountain range. This is an actual picture I took, perhaps a kilometer from our accommodation. Pretty, eh?
When we first arrived, I was a bit surprised to realize that we were there at all. It looked as though the train had broken down in the middle of nowhere - there was nothing but meadows and flowers for miles, all the way up to the base of those beautiful blue mountains. A tiny shack next to the tracks declared that this stop was, indeed, Nova Lesna, and a winding path led away over the hill. With a shrug and a sense of adventure, we hoisted our bags and set off. Sure enough, we soon found the tiny hamlet where we were staying.
It's a good thing we didn't come for the town: it had one church, and one grocery store that closed at 6, and that's about all. What did we come for, then? The hiking! As you might expect, the mountains are ringed by little resort type towns with trailheads for trails of all lengths, durations and difficulties. Our first hike was the strolling variety, perhaps three hours all told, through winding valleys, glorious pine forests, and a pristine roaring river, complete with waterfalls.
The next day's hike was the strenuous variety. A tough, six hour climb up rocky slopes, through dense trees and finally out past the treeline, where we met a wild fox. The climb was worth it for the views alone, among the widest I've ever seen (look in my Slovakia picture album for a photo of Rebecca).
Our final day's hike was of the, er... unplanned variety. We were stranded by the electric train - it hits you up for a hefty fine if you don't have a ticket, but the ticket machine was broken and the little booth was closed. So we made our way to the largest town in the area the old fashioned way: we walked. In the next two and a half hours, we crossed a barbed wire fence, a shady guard-dog-infested industrial area in the middle of nowhere, several ditches, an impossibly large field of chest-high yellow flowers, a highway overpass, and 9 kilometers of roadway (we tried to thumb rides, but none of the fancy cars would pick us up). But we succeeded in our quest: a water fountain, an internet cafe and a grocery store.
By the time we left, I was more than ready to get out of there... but I'm really glad we got to do some hiking and see some nature in between all these cities.