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Ever since I read Harry Potter, I’ve always wanted to ride the Hogwarts Express. Zooming through the English countryside, daydreaming about dragons, spells, and Quidditch, I can’t think of any other way I’d rather spend my time. But since I can’t do that, I did the next best thing–ride the Tatras Electric Railway (or TER, as the cool kids like to call it) through the Tatra mountains.
If you’ve read my Zakopane, Poland post, you know that the Tatra mountains is the hidden gem that shocked me into thinking I was in the Canadian Rockies. And since we were so enamoured with this magical wonderland, we decided to see what it was like from the other side of the mountain range. And the best part? We didn’t even have to go through immigration. Because Poland and Slovakia are right next to each other, separated by a mountain range, and both in the EU, we simply got on a bus in Zakopane, Poland and ended up there in just one hour.
Poprad, being a small industrial town a short 40-min train ride from the Tetra mountains, wasn’t that pretty to look at, but what it lacked in charm, it made up for in spades in value.
For only $45USD/night, the Airbnb we stayed in had a private bath, kitchen, AND its own PRIVATE Jacuzzi and Sauna room!
At first, the listing indicated this amenity was included in our fee, but when we got there we were told we’d need to pay 12 Euros/ hour to rent it out. All I needed to do is call Airbnb, and they immediately fixed the problem by paying the 60 Euros for the 5 days we were staying there because the owner made a mistake by listing it as an included amenity.
God, I love Airbnb. They’ve already saved our butts a number of times, like the washer scenario in Germany, or paying to find us a new place when our Amsterdam host cancelled 1 week before our arrival. If you’ve never used Airbnb before and want to give it a try, use this link to get $40USD off for your first stay.
After a hour-long soak in the hot tub and sauna, we decided to go check out the Tatra mountains.
Good thing the Airbnb was close enough for us to walk to the train station by foot.
We had to wait 30 mins for the train but just waiting at the train station was a visual feast for the eyes:
The only other time we’d seen scenery this breath-taking through a window was the train from Lucerne to Engleberg in Switzerland.
With near floor to ceiling glass windows and lots of space to stretch out, I didn’t want to get off the train— the train ride was almost better than the hiking itself!
I’m not big on hiking but after our 2-hour hike through the forest, and walking around the lake I wanted to hike this mountain, all day everyday.
Especially since we were able to re-energize ourselves with scrumptious Langos (fried pastry with cheese and sourcream, sort of like a cross between pizza and Beavertails) and GoFris (waffles with whipped cream).
And just like Poland, Slovakia and crazy cheap food prices that constantly made me do a double-take:
We also had a great time rowing a canoe across a lake—or rather I had a great time berating Wanderer while he rowed us across the lake. What? I was tired and sleepy from eating all those Langos. Plus, how was I supposed to drink my Vienna coffee if I didn’t have my hands free?
Anyway, after a nice canoe trip around the lake, we hiked down back to the train, only to get caught in a downpour in the middle of the forest. Within seconds, the dirt path in front of us turned into a brown river, and I stood on a rock, trying to decide whether to keep going, and head back up the mountain.
Luckily, the rain didn’t last long and we were able to get down safely. If you hike the Tatra mountains, make sure you bring a big umbrella and extra shoes to change into when you get down. I didn’t, so I had to let them get soaked and then use a blow dryer on them afterwards.
Despite the rain, we had a wonderful time hiking the mountains, and one thing we did notice about the Slovakian side of the Tatra mountains versus the Polish side is that the Polish side has a prettier alpine village, but is way more touristy. That being said, I would still pick the Polish side.
We tried to go to AquaCity in Poprad, thinking it would be just like Aquapark in Zakopane. Turns out we were completely wrong.
Not only was AquaCity twice as expensive, it was a total zoo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many packed people (kids and adults) into one waterpark before in my life. It was so loud in there I lost my voice yelling just so Wanderer could hear me. If you want to go somewhere to relax, AquaCity is definitely NOT it.
Good thing we had a free private jaccuzzi back at the AirBnb, which we took full advantage of.
So if you’re curious about Slovakia, do go hiking in the Tatra mountains. Just don’t expect AquaCity to help you relax afterwards.
Here’s how much we spent in Poprad, Slovakia:
|Cost in USD/couple
|Cost in CAD/couple
|We loved the Airbnb we stayed in. Close to the train station, walkable to downtown, plus it has it's own private Jacuzzi and Sauna. Score!
|$26 CAD/day ($14/day for eating out, $12/day for groceries)
|Just like Poland, food was ridiculously cheap in Slovakia. Because everything is in Euros instead of Zlotys, there's a slight mark-up, but generally we were able to eat out quite cheaply and get dirt cheap groceries as well.
|Since we were able to get around Poprad by food, the only transportation costs were buses to get there from Poland ($8 each) and the breathtaking train ride into the mountains ($5.80 each, round trip)
|There were lots of free stuff to do in Poprad–concerts, hiking, so the only money we spent on entertainment was $22 (or 15 Euros) to rent a canoe for an 45 mins .
|Slightly more expensive than Zakopane, Poland but the Airbnb was WAY better. I would say I prefer the alpine lake and the food more in Zakopane, but the accommodations in Poprad. Also because Poprad wasn't a touristy town, it was a lot more quiet–unless you go to AquaCity, at which point, you will need a vacation from your vacation, so don't do it.
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