With so much more to explore and only a few days left, it was hard to commit to plans due to the constant dramatic changes in weather. This is life which, by the force of nature, is influenced by the mountains.
We were chased by hail storms, lightning was striking, blue skies were replaced with climactic clouds in seconds. I found this very liberating and squeaked with excitement at potential incoming storms. Yet the Slovakians showed a different and wiser concern, contrary to my innocence. The storms here are very intense. Although sometimes brief, they can cause serious damage and take one's life.
So ... we decided to take a moderate hike, the following day, and crossed the border to Poland.
I found an immediate affection with Poland. The sun was shining and the market town, across the bridge, was vibrant. Cheese and sausages were abundantly on display, with crafts and flowers. The sound of 'tuning-in' guitars wafted on the breeze ... the local rock festival was about to begin...
The Dunajec River runs through The Pieniny region, separating Poland and Slovakia.
We decided upon lunch and made our way to the local restaurant ordering our food before the hike. I had briefly skimmed my eyes around to check out what people were munching on, (as I was unable to read Polish), and so, decided to opt for the same.... fish and chips.
Fish & Chips
My eyes feasted on the plate before me. I grinned. I was happy. This was real ... good and honest.
It felt like home.
Stray cat and kitten
Simply living ...
The milk & cheese barn
After the delights of lunching, we surged, energetically towards the mountain range. Up the hill, following the well-trodden and muddy path. We then came across the local Cheese farmer. He greeted us warmly with hands as large as exfoliating spades and a reassuring grip of affability.
He was about six feet - seven inches in height, with a well-weathered brow. I think a few teeth remained in his head..... nevertheless, his disposition was grounding and heartfelt.
Maria translated as we asked about his living alone, so close to the mountain, out in this semi-wilderness. He appeared grateful and had a faithful and tenacious aura which was captivating. I wanted to sip coffee with him, yet, he was a retiring and shy-natured character who had the aspects of preferring the 'solo' coffee pot ... bubbling on that single stove. We did not wish to intrude.
Then, I heard the distand ringing of bells coming in off the breeze and across the hilly meadows ... Arr... the quaint sound of cowbells. I had never felt so earthed. The farmer smiled. But of course, I could not resist asking one more final and important question.
"Forgive me for asking, but have you ever seen a lynx?"
" I have seen wolves mainly, five or six have sniffed around a few times, but never had any conflict. They just showed a curiousity . Are .. Yes, the lynx. Only once. One night I heard some sounds on my porch and inquisitively peered through the gaps .... A lynx as large as life. He did not stay for long, and like the wolves, moved on and up in to the forest and mountains."
I stretched a smile, again. "Wow, it is my dream to see one in the wild ..."
"They are very secretive cats. I wish you luck". The gentle giant replied.
So, to that end, we said our farewells and continued walking.
Cowbells in the Meadow
We explored a little further before deciding to return back to Slovakia ...
The muddy path ...
Hotel in the hills
Well... I call it the red-spotted moth ...
Possibly. To be continued ...
Words and Photographs by Helen Ratcliff.