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Slovakia: Vrátna valley

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Vrátna valley | Slovakia | Europe

[Visited: May 2011]

Driving south from the town of Terchová, the road seemed to lead to a wall of tree-covered rocks. However, the narrow Tiesňavy gorge allows access to Vratná Valley through a spectacular scenery of a brook squeezing itself past rocky cliffs. Engineers have been able to add a road as well; the views were so awesome that I parked my car as soon as I could. Without a map of the area, which I hoped to get higher up in the valley, I just wanted to walk a little higher for a better view. Fortunately, I took water, as I ended up hiking for several hours through the hiking wonderland of Vratná Valley. I started off hiking up a path that was pretty steep in some sections. As I was going through a forest, the views were very limited; it was only when I was already higher up that it was possible to approach one of the rocky cliffs that I had seen from below. Since they stand out in the landscape, the views from those rocks were splendid. Going down was not an option, and I decided, without thinking too much about it, to continue following the trail.

Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): View over Vrátna Valley from a vantage point near Chleb, on the ridge south of the valley

On my way on this trail on the western side of Vratná Valley, I hardly met anyone else, and I was enjoying every step of the hike. Twisting around rock formations, going through pine tree forests, open spaces where the sun was shining on spring flowers, the trail was easy to follow, and always offered something different to see. At times, I would work myself to a rock sticking out of the forest, with sweeping views of the entire Vratná Valley. It was now easy to see that this valley in winter is a ski area: the slopes are clearly cut through the forests. I ended up hiking for several hours, until I hiked down the mountain again, towards the main road leading through the valley. From here, it was just a quite short walk back to the parking lot where I had left my car. The effort of hiking in the mountains had made me hungry, and I treated myself to a nice lunch sitting on a rock in the cold Vrátňanka brook. Life could not be much better than this, or, so it seemed.

Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Pine trees in an open space on a trail in Vrátna Valley

On my way to a second hike, I decided to drive to the very end of the valley and hike up the mountain ridge to the south. Then, it happened very quickly: a squirrel ran from the high grass next to the road, and while I desperately braked and tried to steer away, I heard a nasty noise under the car. Looking into the rearview mirror, my worst suspicions were confirmed, and not knowing what to do, I continued driving, realizing the elated feeling I had just before, was gone. Hiking up the steep trail above Vrátna Valley was a good therapy, and when I walked the trail right on top of the ridge, the views were fantastic. Not only could I see Vrátna Valley below me, the landscape to the north, but I could also see the towns, river, lakes and mountains to the south of the valley. I dreaded the hike down, especially the effect it would have on my knees, and imagined the slopes covered in snow, and the great ski down it could be; in fact, I later saw that this was a black slope. But it was late May, there was no snow, and I had no other option than to hike down. When I reached my car, I found out that, I had forgotten to close the car with my mind on the squirrel; fortunately, all my stuff was still inside. On my way back out of Vrátna Valley, the squirrel had disappeared from the road, but I could clearly see the spot where I had hit him. I assumed a bird had seized the opportunity to take this free lunch. There was still some sadness inside of me when I drove out through the narrow gorge again, but the views of this beautiful valley stayed with me as well, and I knew they would prevail in the end.

Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Green landscapes everywhere around Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Tree-covered hills appear behind rock formations
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Vrátňanka brook surrounded by trees and rock formations near Tiesňavy gorge
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Rocky stretch of a trail in Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Vertical rocks and trees in Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Vertical cliffs are common in Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Rocky cliffs near the entrance of Vrátna Valley at Tiesňavy gorge
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Pine trees are very common in and around Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Entering Vrátna Valley from the west following one of the many trails
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Great views from the panoramic trail over the ridge south of Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Rocky mountain range surrounding Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): The spectacular Tiesňavy gorge seen from inside Vrátna Valley
Picture of Vrátna valley (Slovakia): Vrátna Valley seen from the ridge south of the valley

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