Today’s spotlight, well, there’s only so much I can tell you in words about this place. Stary Smokevic is a little mountain town in Slovakia, not far from the Polish border in the Tatra mountains. It’s really a beautiful little spot.
I first learnt about it in 2004 when I entered Europe via Bulgaria in my big Dhaka to Dakar trip (which didn’t reach the final destination that year). I was staying at a youth hostel in Sofia and I met a couple who had been there and recommended it for hiking. I loved the name, I’ve got to be honest, that’s what drew me in originally.
So, I read up on it and it sounded nice so I decided to go. It wasn’t until I convinced someone at my hostel in Bratislava that I knew for sure I was going. To reach it involved a train and then a kind of cable car ride all the way to the town.
It’s an idyllic sort of forest setting, with chair lifts abounding and I believe in the winter it is absolutely awesome for those lovers of winter sports. I personally enjoyed it being a little cooler, and I went for a rewarding, if quite challenging hike up and down a peak which was the main purpose of going there.
There are surely countless of these kinds of places throughout Europe, and as part of a summer tour a place like Stary Smokevic can really be a nice relief from the hot weather. But this place is a little less known, and therefore cheaper, yet has a number of nice restaurants and some charming looking places to stay. My friend and I stayed in a sort of hostel style place for less than 10 Euro a night each. Well, the rooms slept two people and there was a common area in this sort of round building. I remember it quite distinctly, they had old big TVs and we watched the Olympics on them, and it really felt like something from a holiday camp in the 1980s!
There are a lot of hikes to do if you go, and often you can an uphill trek by taking a chair lift (or spare your knees on the way day by climbing up!). What can I say? And it’s only a couple of hours by bus to Zakopane in Poland, a similar but bigger town. It’s got a quaint name, it’s great for skiing or hiking, and it doesn’t cost the same as many alpine towns in Europe. What more could you ask for?