Monthly Archives: November 2012

Late Season Surprise in Slovak Paradise

As soon as I came across descriptions of hikes that included cliffs, waterfalls, chains and ladders in my Slovak guidebook, I was absolutely positive I need to make a trip to Slovenský Raj National Park (also known as Slovak Paradise). However, when October came and went and I still hadn’t made it to the park, I resigned that the trip would probably need to wait until Spring, as the most interesting trails in Slovakia seem to be closing.

Luckily for me, this weekend fantastic weather combined with fantastic people (one of whom is extremely knowledgeable of both the trails and language) for the most ideal journey to Slovenský Raj I could have hoped for.

My first view of the entire High Tatra Range

Saturday morning, a small group of us from my favorite hostel, The Ginger Monkey, set off past Poprad, to the Small Carpathians. After checking out the charming village of Levoča, which has a very impressive square and church, we entered Slovenský raj. From the parking lot, a yellow trail led us to a dramatic lookout point over a valley we would later hike through. To our left we could see the rolling Small Carpathians and to our right, the stunning High Tatras.

Not too shabby for mid-November

Denis was snapping pictures of us, but he was in a pretty photogenic spot himself.

Unable to contain our excitement at the lookout point

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Slovak Paradise

Slovak Paradise

Some perfect timing for perfect weather made for an amazing visit to Slovensky Raj this weekend. More about hiking through forest, rock, river and darkness soon.

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Homemade Halušky

Homemade Bryndzové Halušky – the best I’ve ever had.

As the weather grows cooler here in Eastern Europe, I expected my cravings for my  favorite comfort food, homemade macaroni and cheese, would be becoming unbearable and impossible to satisfy. But luckily, Slovakia has its own alternative to macaroni and cheese, with which I have a new love affair.

Halušky (ha-loosh-key) is Slovakia’s very own warm, rich, cheesy, carb-loaded dish, and it comes with a more historical, sophisticated sounding name too, if you ask me. It is made from a base of little potato dumplings, most easily compared to gnocchi, covered in creamy bryndza, or soft Slovakian sheep cheese. The dish is then topped with tiny pieces of bacon or smoked pork fat and voila, you have Bryndzové Halušky.

While the dish is available in all typical Slovak restaurants, and always done very well, this past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to observe traditional Saturday halušky preparations in a Slovak home.  Although I’m sure I will have much more difficulty and less astounding results when I try on my own, I will say the entire process appeared more simple than I suspected. This is definitely due to our chef’s practiced hands, but I think the recipe would be manageable for anyone with even minimal experience in the kitchen.

Below is a recipe I found to be closest to what I witnessed in the kitchen last Saturday.

Our host creates the dumplings using a special straining device.

Bryndzové Halušky


2-3 potatoes
1 egg
4-5 tbsp flour
3 tsp salt
3-4 slices of bacon
100 g sheep cheese


– Peel the potatoes and shred them. Add egg, flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Prepare a dough which is not hard in texture. Add flour or water to achieve the right consistency.

– Boil water and add 2 teaspoons of salt.

– Cut the dough into small pieces and throw in boiling water – make sure the water is boiling.

– When the dumplings or halusky are ready they will float at the surface of the boiling water.
Pick up the halusky from the boiling water.

– Cut bacon into small pieces and fry.

– When the bacon is fried, top the dumplings with the fried bacon and cover with sheep cheese.

* Variations – Our host prepared a larger serving, which required more potatoes and then added enough flower to allow the spoon to stand up on its own in the batter.  She also used a special strainer-like device (pictured above) to create the dumplings and added some milk with the cheese.

Needless to say, the resulting meal was filling and phenomenal. And even after eating what will forever be on the Top Ten Most Satisfying Meals of My Life list, there was still a little room for some Babovka (Slovak pound cake).

We still managed to eat a couple of slices of delicious babovka.

Unfortunately, even restaurant halušky will probably never quite measure up to this meal again. Not that that will keep me from ordering it frequently.  But thanks to a generous gift of a halušky dumpling strainer of my very own, this does not have to be my last homemade experience.  Upon my return to the United States, or at least the next place I have a sufficient ktichen, I will be able to practice my own halušky-making skills. It may be a little more difficult than preparing a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, but even more satisfying too.

For more about our gastronomically fantastic weekend – check out Chris’ post Some Slovak Hospitality.

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In the Heart of Slovakia: Bojnice

Spending the last two weeks in Bojnice confirmed what I already suspected – I am falling in love with Slovakia.  The small town beneath Bojnice Castle is bursting with charm and we were overwhelmed with hospitality. Our hosts here made sure to not only make us feel comfortable, but to show us what daily life is truly like for the people of Slovakia. Here we were graciously invited into several homes for great conversation and our first tastes of authentic, homemade Slovakian meals.  I also got the chance to horseback ride for the first time since I was 12, hike through the autumn-colored hills surrounding the town, explore a castle fit for Cinderella, visit one of Slovakia’s four zoos, witness an intense hockey practice, and, most notably, try Zumba for the first – and then the second –  time (which was most necessary to off-set my high intake of Slovakian cuisine). Even after staying a weekend beyond what my teaching duties called for, I was very sad to see Bojnice go, but it will be remembered as the place where I began to understand what it means to live in Slovakia.

Bojnice Castle from the hills above

Fall foliage finally comes to Slovakia

Celebrating the big 23rd birthday with a hike, the best way to celebrate if you ask me.

Generally being in love with life and fall.

My little rambunctious students on our trip to the zoo. They are completely oblivious to how cool it is to have a castle in your town.

They do know how to draw a mean giraffe though. This adorable poster made up for all of their eight-year-old antics.

Paragliding. The new number one item on my Eastern Europe bucket list.

As far as silhouettes go, Bojnice Castle pretty much takes the ideal-castle cake.

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