In 50 issues of hidden europe, we have consistently celebrated the art of Slow Travel, ever aware that those who take time to explore small communities reap greater rewards than those who dash from one big sight to the next. Join us as we explore a valley in Slovakia. Just east of the Tatra Mountains the Poprad Valley drops gently down through the hills towards the Polish border.
Cycling down the valley from Poprad, we have an inevitable sense of regret at leaving behind the fine landscapes of the Tatra Mountains. But each of the small communities along the Poprad Valley has sufficient of interest to warrant a stop. There is Kežmarok, all neat and tidy in a Teutonic sort of way, with its Renaissance castle and fine merchants’ houses. Just 20 minutes by bike down from Kežmarok is the hamlet of Strážky where the turreted white manor house has a superb display of paintings by the Impressionist artist László Mednyánszky (1852–1919). The artist lived for many years in Strážky and a good number of his most celebrated paintings were inspired by the landscapes of the Poprad Valley.
Peddling further downstream we come to the little town of Podolínec, strung out along the left bank of the river, which features in the short stories of Hungarian writer Gyula Krúdy (1878–1933). The Podolínec depicted by Krúdy is a richly multi-ethnic community, with Hungarians, Germans and Slovaks. It is a place where, in Krúdy’s words, “the women ripened and then grew old, the men coughed, cursed and then lay down in their coffins.” Krúdy quickly moved on, taking with him memories and images from the Poprad Valley which influenced his writing. And we move on too, struck by the quiet charm of a small Slovakian town where few travellers bother to stop.