Kriváň, which reaches 2495 metres, has also been a major symbol in Slovak ethnic and national activism. A country-wide vote in 2005 selected it to be one of the images on Slovakia's euro coins.
It's said that every Slovak has to climb Krivan at least once in his lifetime. Well, we're not Slovaks but this mountain has always been on our "to-hike" list. And we did it!
We stayed at Omega Club in Gerlachov. The accomodation was good value for money. Rooms were clean and quite spacious, each available with bathroom. Kitchen was well equipped. It was quiet and comfortable hotel.
Gerlachov's great starting point for mountain hiking as it's located in Poprad District at the foot of High Tatras. As the name of the village suggests, it lies very close to Gerlachovský štít - the highest peak in the High Tatras (2654 metres) to which you can get only with guide as there's no official trail. But this time it was Kriváň we wanted to get to.
We got up very early at Friday morning. It was still dark by then - we started our day at 3.30 AM to avoid heat and other hikers. Krivan's a very popular tourist destination and, in addition, it was 15 August - Assumption of Mary which is a bank holiday in many European countries.
Red trail which leads from Strbske Pleso is the most popular path used to get to Krivan. We, however, decided to "attack" the mount from the west, going along green trail which starts at Tri studničky (Three Springs) on 1140 metres, near the main road no 537. We chose that one because there's definitely much less people than on Strbske Pleso route.
The views were fantastic - the sun was slowly rising over the morning fog which was forming a white dense carpet as we were climbing up.
The atmospheric conditions were so specific at that time that one of our friends saw a phenomenon called The Brocken Spectre. It's actually your own shadow, cast on mists below you, when you are mountain climbing. The shadow may appear enormous and has a ring around it.
Some people belive that when you see the Spectre of the Brocken you will die soon. Our friend is, of course, still alive and enjoys life to the fullest
While climbing up, we saw a group of chamois and a very fat marmot. Mountain animals are 10 times better to admire than those in the zoos.
We passed by a place called Grúnik - a memorial which witnessed some bitter fighting between the partisants and the Nazi troops at the end of the Second World War. There's a reconstructed bunker but, unfortunately, we didn't see it.
In general, it was very long but enjoyable hike, the air was cool and humid. Only when we got closer to the peak it was getting hot and we could see in the distance groups of people approaching the mountain.
At the final phase of our walk the trail got very rocky.
We were climbing rather slowly as the ascent was quite demanding - I'd definitely not recommend it for inexperienced hikers.
On the summit there was, fortunately, only a few people and we could enjoy breathtaking view of High Tatras in peace. We had a quick snack and decided to climb down as the sun already started burning our skin.
On our way back we met many people and were really happy that we managed to wake up so early and had a chance to contemplate the magic of Tatra mountains in peace.
However, after about an hour or two, our happines got replaced with tiredness and pain. My knees and feet were hurting a lot and all I was thinking of was getting back to car. I must admit that it was demanding hike, no nice and easy few-hour-long walk in low mountains.
Next day, we wanted to go for shorter walk as our knees were still aching after long climbing down from Krivan. We decided to visit symbolic cemetery in Popradske pleso (Poprad Pond) located on 1525 metres.
This symbolic cemetery was built as a memorial dedicated to people who worked and tragically died in High Tatras.
We set off from Strbske Pleso. This name's used both for the large glacial mountain lake and very popular tourist resort. We were walking along blue trail. The walk wasn't very demanding - the village Strbske Pleso lies on 1315 metres so we only had to do about 200 metres of height difference.
On the last day of our trip we decided to go to Gino Paradise - thermal park in Bešeňová. It was fun - there are many water slides, indoor and outdoor pools with hot mineral water, jacuzzis, restaurants, etc. The most interesting area's adrenaline zone - there's climbing wall from which you can jump into pool with high waves
And you, have you ever climbed any 'national' mountain?