Friday, February 13, 2015

Kumoterki - traditional sleigh race

Kumoterki - traditional sleigh race
Kumoterki is the name of the sport discipline popular in Podhale region in Poland. The team (a couple and a horse) tries to get the highest score in a sleigh race. Usually a man is teaming and a woman acts as a ballast ;) But sometimes the roles are switched. The oval-shaped track is approx. 400 meters long and the audience is standing around it. 

Another contest is skiring where skiers teaming horses compete. In the second version called ski-skiring one person is riding a horse and a second one - the skier is only trailed. Everything is very spectacular and exciting. 

The competition is preluded by Parada Gazdowska (can be translated as Farmers Parade). It is also some kinde of contest but a bit more static ;) Farmers dressed in the regional costumes ride in the decorated sleigh pulled by bedecked horses. During the parade they are scored by the jury. The referees mark horses, harnesses, sleigh and the owners. It is a great chance to see the traditional highlanders outfit and hear the regional music.

When and where can we watch the contests?

The competitions are held in Podhale region during the carnival. You can watch them every sunday in a different village: Kościelisko, Poronin, Biały Dunajec, Bukowina Tatrzańska, Ludźmierz and others. The best idea is to ask in the visitors centers in Podhale - they will inform you about the dates of the contests. Some information you can also find on the official website: (only in Polish). 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tatry Ice Master - ice sculpturing championships

Every winter since 2013 a very interesting and spectacular competition takes place in the Tatras - the ice sculpturing championships called the TATRY ICE MASTER. Top artists from several countries of the world come to Slovakia to take part in the contest. During three days they have to complete the tasks - create ice sculptures in 3 different categories:

1. Bears
2. The country I come from
3. Abstract - free choice

That is amazing! You can watch the artist working, using different technics and tools, transforming ice blocks into fantastic shapes

The championship is accompanied by singers performances, daily contests, ice-shops and other amusements.

Everything takes place in the beautiful area of the High Tatras. There are splendid waterfalls 20 minutes walk from Hrebienok.

Directions: Hrebienok, The High Tatras, Slovakia. Take a funicular (or go on foot :) from Stary Smokovec to Hrebienok. On the way back you can enjoy 3 km long sledge track :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Polana Mountains - the geological curio

Did you know that the biggest extinct vulcano is located in Slovakia? For me it was a great surprise, that there is something so unusual and interesting close to my home. Nowadays the name of this vulcano is Polana.

Slopes of the Polana Mountains, Slovakia
The Polana are medium-high mountains with forests, clearings, fields and lovely hamlets. The highest peak is Polana at 1458 m ASL. We named this place Slovak Tuscany ;) You can hike here (lot's of marked trails!), do some cycling trips or simply stay in one place and enjoy tranquility. Maps of the region you can buy in bigger towns or cities like Banska Bystrica.

The Polana Mountains are a geological curiosity. They used to be over 2500 m ASL high stratovulcano which finaly exploded and destroyed thyself. Nowadays we can find there interesting rocks (andesite or tuff - consolidated volcanic ash) and extraordinary rock formations. The mountain range is protected by Polana Protected Landscape Area. 

Waterfall Bystre
At the foothills of the Polana lies a town of Detva known for its folklore. Detva is a manufacturing center of famous Slovak music instrument fujara - shepherd's overtone fipple flute. It has really unique shape. You can see it in Detva museum or during one of the folk festivals which are held here. Some of them are even the international events. 

Detva is also known for its carved and painted wooden crosses which are the decoration of tombstones at local cemetery. They also stand as a roadside chapels. 

Man playing the fujara at folk festival in Detva.
There is (at least!) one more interesting place situated in the vincinity of the Polana. It is the wooden Protestant church from 1726 located in village Hronsek. Its wooden construction with severe interior can hold up 1100 worshippers. The site was enetered onto the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.

I highly recommend this lovely and little known region!

Farm stay, Slovakia, The Polana Mountains

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mountain insurance in Poland and Slovakia

The mountain rescue in Poland and Slovakia is provided by the Mountain Rescue Service organizations:

1. In Poland there are the Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue (Górskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe - GOPR) and the Tatra Mountains Volunteer Search and Rescue (Tatrzańskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe – TOPR).

EMERGENCY NUMBER: +48 601 100 300

2. In Slovakia it is The Mountain Rescue Service (Horská záchranná služba – HZS).



Poland: You don't have to buy any special insurance at the moment.

Slovakia: You are obliged to buy special mountain insurance policy. Otherwise you will have to cover the costs of your rescue while accident.

Where to buy the policy?

1. Alpenverein, Euro26 Sport are honoured.
2. Some commercial insurances offer the insurance. You may buy it in the office, online or via sms.
3. At the branches of the Mountain Rescue Service. The main office is located in the center of Stary Smokovec (opening hours from 7 AM).
4. Some hotels and Tourist Information Centers provide assistance in buying the policy.
5. At the ticket offices for example to the Slovak Paradise. It is not included in the ticket price, you buy it additionally.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Tatra Mountains guide

This time I will write something private. Probably I want to boast a bit ;) So... Finally, after an almost 3-year course, I passed exams and became the Tatra Mountains guide. I am so happy, because now I can use all the hiking experience and geography knowledge I have, to show others the small part of the world which are the Tatras. 
Who is the Tatra Mountains guide? It is a person who loves mountains, has vast experience and knowledge about the region and is entitled to lead private and organised tours. There are several levels of guidance – the first one allowes to lead tours along the marked trails, the others have permission for the climbing routes.

Course. During the course we learned not only the topography of the Tatras, but also about the nature, history and etnography of the region and surrounding area both in Poland and Slovakia. We had lots of lectures, coach trips, hiking tours, climbing and first aid trainings. But it was not enough – the most important thing was our own work.

I am very lucky because my husband is a guide too (the Tatra Mountains guide and UIMLA guide) so we could talk about the mountains for hours ;) He also comes from the highlanders family so I had a chance to learn about the local culture and traditions from the inside.

Peolple. During the course I met wonderful people! We all are in different age, come from different parts of Poland, have different jobs and hobbys. But the thing that links us together is the passion for mountains. I am really greateful for the time we spent together.

Future. Maybe we will go for a trip together? ;)


P.S. Don't hesitate to ask any questions about the Tatra Mountains and surrounding area!