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MAMMOTH TOBOGGANS IN TATRALANDIA

Unique entertainment

A wide plain below the picturesque Liptov hills, lots of colourful pipes in the valley and people screaming. A moment of silence, a splash, a deep breath, and the sweet euphoria. I want to keep it up, let’s go again. Where? The toboggans of Tatralandia, which has been world-famous since summer.

It sounds incredible, but the first water park in Central Europe celebrated its fifteen birthday in summer. As in many similar cases, the age is just a number. Childhood times and diseases were replaced by adulthood and experience. The birthday was celebrated with mature novelties, which are, and will likely long be, unique in our country. „For years, we have been trying to please and entertain our visitors, and we are used to being the trendsetters,” said Igor Mráz, director of Tatralandia Water Park and revealed new attractions. “We decided to bring to Liptov something that cannot be found anywhere around. We have two unique toboggans, the only of its kind on the old continent.”

Fun for the whole family

A quick look on the blue “Delfín” and the yellow “4Family” indicates fresh air in northern Slovakia. Modern design, vivid colours, ride comfort and the height of the tower are the best invitation for fans of adrenaline and fun. There is a bonus: a lift for four-seater rafts that do not have to be carried upstairs, just get in them with the help of instructors. “We focused on families who can enjoy a ride together. The rafts are larger, heavier and more comfortable so people do not touch the laminate and their ride is safer. The roundness of the inflatable slider also brings
a lot of fun. As it rotates spontaneously, every ride provides
a unique experience,” says the water park’s boss about another feature. However, they can only be used during the summer months to complement the experience of many other water park’s attractions.

Comfort versus adrenaline

After hearing about this special novelty for the summer season, we had no choice but to give it a go. The view from
the height of a seven-floor block of flats shook our knees a little, but our determination was strong. After weight check, we got into the raft, counted to three and dived downwards. At that moment, I knew how acceleration from zero to 50 km/h in one second feels like. First a steep fall, then climb to the summit and a nice finish in a warm swimming pool. We felt fear, euphoria and adrenaline at the same time and we only managed the unanimous “let’s go again and let’s try the yellow one, too”. We immediately shared our impressions with the boss.

“The more than three-meter diameter of the toboggan makes the ride comfortable and it feels like entering a tunnel by car. You go through sharp turns, you enjoy a lot of light effects, while everything is great and safe. The parameters of blue “Delfín” are unique in Europe and will satisfy all adrenaline junkies. Thanks to the toboggans, Tatralandia ranked among the five best water attractions in the world in 2018,” says Igor Mráz, happy with the unexpected nomination. Of course he is happy, the closest gem like this is located in Dubai.

Against physics

However, their construction was very complicated. For many months, Tatralandia searched for suitable architects and engineers to build this project. “For the first time, thermal water was used for such a structure and we had to deal with it. The water heating technology was the most difficult, not to mention the seasonal weather effects,” says the water park’s director.

The contractor had to adapt the structure to the conditions in Liptov, which was not at all easy. A unique technology will ensure that the laminate from which the toboggans are made will also withstand temperatures below zero. It’s no wonder that the process of construction can also be considered unique in the world. But they still have lots of ideas for the future. “The toboggan tower has room for two new attractions. We want to be the first in the region to operate a toboggan with water flowing uphill. With a little help, we can break basic physical laws, and show people that they can slide upwards,” says Igor Mráz with a smile and adds: “In cooperation with our Gopass loyalty program, we are also working on a novelty for competitive types: they will be able to compete in a parallel race,” he added to our curiosity.

Water racing

There are similar toboggans abroad, but the one in Tatralandia will be different again. There will be no wall between the two racers so they will be able to see and touch each other and adjust the speed of the ride. To make it more attractive, there will be a couple of “bonuses” on the track: a stronger current for the faster rider and a cold shower for the slower one. The information about every ride will be recorded, so the water park’s visitor, like a skier, will get detailed statistics at the end of the day about the ride distance, with whom he/she raced and how well he/she did on the water. This model is typical of various computer games. In Liptov, they want to turn this interactive entertainment into reality, and they seem to be doing it successfully. Sitting at home in front of your PC in a swimsuit is definitely not what you want.

ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED IN V TATRY MAGAZÍN ZIMA 2018/2019.

The World‑Famous Vlkolínec Celebrates a Quarter of a Century

New UNESCO House in the historical heart of Liptov

A remarkable place with a unique atmosphere. I have always loved Vlkolínec, a little village hidden in the picturesque mountains of Liptov. It reminds us of the past long gone but it is still bustling with life. However, the modern life does not push forward, it stays in the background, humble and respectful of tradition. I couldn’t help my urge to return after some time.

I am walking again between beautiful log houses. The cars are parked in front of the entrance gate and I absorb the atmosphere of strange peace and beauty. However, it’s not the silence of an open‑air museum with lifeless buildings and exhibits. Vlkolínec is unique in that real people live there. Its two dozens of permanent residents are multiplied by cottagers coming over the weekends. And it’s not just elderly people, the first young families have settled here. They live in houses resembling the most beautiful postcards with folklore themes. They are probably used to it, but as a city person who lives in noise and stress, I am fascinated by this beauty.

Déjà vu after 75 years

Again, I’m admiring the narrow centre of the village with a stream flowing in wooden troughs. The small square is dominated by a log belfry from 1770, the oldest preserved monument. It still works although it is now powered by electricity. In addition to familiar sights, I have been drawn by curiosity and expectation of a new house, built on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Vlkolínec’s addition to the list of the world cultural heritage. „So this our new

UNESCO House,“ says my guide, Gabriela Demčáková from the Ružomberok Municipal Office. I almost overlooked it. Not that it was not interesting or nice. It looked as it had always been there. I soon learnt that I was right, but the house had a pause for three quarters of a century. It is
an accurate copy of the log house that had stood here until it was burned down during World War II. It’s not easy to notice at first sight that the log house is new. „That’s exactly what we wanted. The log house was built in harmony with the existing buildings. It was
difficult but it was worth it,“ says Gabriela Demčáková.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail The effort to recreate the original design of the house and to meet preservationist requirements produced a sophisticated result. For example, there are double windows and front doors, of course wooden: the outside wings open outwards and the inside  wings open inwards. It is high‑quality work by master joiners from the region who have a feel for the place and its tradition. The dark roof with wooden shingles contrasts with the white façade. The inside and outside of the log house is painted with lime, which is Vlkolínec’s tradition, and the painting will be repeated every year. When I entered the house, it was clear that the internal layout also reflects the tradition. The porch of the UNESCO House is used as a reception and information desk, the point of first contact with a visitor. On the right, there is a storeroom turned to a memorial room, an exhibition of Slovak cultural heritage protected by UNESCO, both tangible and intangible, such as the sound of fujara (shepherd’s flute). „We will add more exhibits and interactive elements, depending on the interest of the visitors and our capacity. We are very enthusiastic,“ says my guide, answering a question I didn’t ask.

A range of activities

On the left side of the porch, there is a large front living room, which serves multiple purposes. It contains showcases with exhibits, information panels and video projections about the history and traditions of the village, and also a fireplace. In cold winters of Liptov, the fire from wooden logs flickers and heats up the room, creating an authentic atmosphere of this unique place. The front room is also used for presentations and workshops for smaller groups. The porch, storeroom and cellar no longer have earthen floors and visitors now walk
on modern tiles. The cellar is used only for exhibits exposed along the walls on panels and in showcases. If the weather is bad, it is used for craft demonstrations. „One of the first thematic exhibitions will be dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising, which had in impact on Vlkolínec and some people still remember
it,“ says Gabriela Demčáková

Real life

The magic of Vlkolínec lies in that it is alive. The life is real, not pretended. The woman raking hay behind the house is not an actor showing traditional technology to tourists. You may laugh, but this is what some people think. Not everyone reads the leaflet that comes with a ticket. This results in funny situations, which may not be so funny for the locals. That’s why fences were built around the inhabited log houses, although there used to be none in the village. That’s a part of life in a world‑famous village where people inhabit cultural monuments. I hope it will live on and keep its fascinating atmosphere. I will be happy to come back again. I heard that something else will be brought back to life…

ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED IN TATRY MAGAZÍN WINTER 2018/2019.

SKI-PATROL

Little green men or guardian angels?

Groomed pistes, spacious slopes, no waiting in queues and considerate skiers all around. A perfect outdoor experience for every skier. Sometimes, however, a little effort is needed to make the white experience great and safe. The Jasná ski resort got closer to this goal thanks to its Ski Patrol.

They call us ski maniacs. One season is hardly over and my son and I are already planning for the next one. We know winter resorts in Slovakia inside out, so we like to compare them with the foreign ones. Every resort is specific, but we were surprised by strange green men during our recent visit to Jasná. They looked too real to be aliens and their skied pretty well. Perhaps they did come from the sky as they are like guardian angels for others.

Help and educate

They don’t have wings, but reflective green “Ski Patrol” jackets. We first noticed them before getting on a chairlift. The ski patrollers warned unruly youngsters who jostled and jumped the queue that they could seize their ski passes. I started to talk to one of the ski patrollers. “Our task is to inform the visitors of the resort and to ensure their safety on the ski slopes. We are trying to educate them and to improve the quality of skiing in Jasná,” said the chief ski patroller, Andrej Kyška. Wow, we didn’t expect that. We nodded in appreciation and got on the 4-seat chairlift to Luková.

Following the Ski Patrol

This service is not yet obligatory in Slovakia; it is provided on a voluntary basis in Jasná
and Tatranská Lomnica, our largest and best resorts. Educating, providing up-todate information about the resort, supervising and enforcing order is essential but also increasingly demanded service in top resorts around the world. We were curious how it works in real life so we decided to follow the patrollers. We did not wait long for the first action. An older skier fell down and hit her head. “It happened fast: I turned to look at my friend and suddenly I felt a strong hit. If I had not worn a helmet, it could have ended badly,” the active pensioner Maria praised her head protection. That’s why Ski Patrol focuses on people without helmets.

No skiing without a helmet

The Ski Patrol called medics and helped the skier get down to the valley. And we got some extra information. For example, the amendment to the Mountain Service Act has been in force since
November 2015, but only children up to fifteen are required to wear helmets. However, head protection has also helped adults many times: according to statistics, it can prevent up to 80% of head injuries. “In our experience, if skiers used helmets more, there would be less concussions and neck injuries on the slopes”, stresses the chief ski patroller. There are over 1 500 mountain rescue events
during the skiing season in Slovakia every year. “There is more technical snow on the slopes, which is harder and faster than the natural snow. Even a good skier can get injured,” added Zuzana Dobránszka, spokeswoman of Tatry Mountain Resorts, which runs the largest ski resorts in Slovakia. The men in green obviously cannot complain about the lack of work. This is one of the reasons why this work is not for everyone.

On skis, but always in service

The Ski Patrol team is selected by the Infrastructure Manager of Jasná and the chief ski patroller. Stable seasonal employees are usually supplemented by volunteers using a selection procedure. “On business days, there are usually four patrollers on the north side of Chopok and two patrollers on the south side. During the weekends, when the resort gets crowded, their number may double,” said Andrej Kyška. The ski patrollers ski a lot during the winter, but it was clear to us that it was no easy job. They start work at seven in the morning and leave the slopes no earlier than half an hour after they close officially. However, this is the ideal case when the skiers are disciplined, which is an exception, unfortunately. The “ski police” service was introduced in Jasná three years ago and it has improved safety and discipline in the resort significantly.

Prevention first

The best remedy for most problems is prevention. Bright green jackets on white snow keep skiers alert although some problems are repeated on a daily basis, especially alcohol, dangerous skiing or ignoring signs and instructions. “Once I was standing on the top of a closed and clearly marked ski slope and still got hit by a skier,” Andrej Kyška recalls an unpleasant experience. That’s why they focus on directing rather than reprimanding the visitors of the resort. They do not have police powers, but it is often enough to block the ski pass. Skiers who don’t behave should not be on the slopes. They are a danger to themselves but especially to those who still hope that there is a perfect skiing resort in Slovakia. They are a bit closer to this goal in Jasná thanks to Ski Patrol.

These and other interesting topics can be found in the latest issue Tatry Magazínu, ZIMA 2018/2019.

DEMÄNOVSKÁ VALLEY- A fairy tale becomes reality

It is the queen of valleys in the Low Tatras and it has been attracting visitors from all over the world for many decades. Demänovská Valley has much more to offer than its fellow valleys. Its beauty ranges from the top of Chopok to its underground caves, the valley unscathed by windstorms or floods. A skiing paradise in winter and an ideal place for all nature lovers in summer.

Everyone thinking about a holiday in Liptov naturally includes its pride – Demänovská Valley. Entering the valley seems like entering a fairy-tale world. Tall trees on both sides of the road hide secrets that both young and adult people want to discover.

Story of a Wild River

The artery of the valley is Demänovka, a normal stream at first sight, but only for those who do not look at it closely. Visitors can take an educational path called the Water Story, with access near the campsite or near Demänovská Ice Cave. The four-kilometre fairy-tale path is suitable for families with children who can enjoy a playground between caves. „There are several educational boards along the path so tourists can learn about the river and local fauna and flora.

There are benches to rest and a couple of interesting spots to take pictures,” summarised Katarína Šarafínová, PR Manager of OOCR Region Liptov. There is so much natural beauty that people do not know whether to look down at their feet or at the scenery. It is worthwhile to slow  down and enjoy rather than hurry. Bridges  and crossings with beautiful views and interesting stories are also a place to stop and enjoy. The Water Story opened last year, but the mayor of Demänovská Dolina, Ľubomíra Klepáčová, says that the attractions are abundant. “Visitors can see fern, moss, magnificent rock cliffs and the Demänovka river,” she points at the calm river. “It is very peaceful in some places, but do not get caught. It flows very rapidly in other places and it is pretty wild,” warns the mayor. Learning about various hidden gems of the valley is also very entertaining.

Both shores of Demänovka have been decorated with stone towers by land-art fans. Those more skilful can contribute and not only admire nature, but also make it more beautiful.

 

Land of the Dragon

Besides natural wonders, there are many legends about the river. No wonder that people from Demänovská Valley have long believed that caves were inhabited by dragons who drank this water. That is another activity for children who can help the patron of the valley, Demián the Dragon, find lost eggs. They look like big rocks so the poor dragon still has not found them.

More traces of the mythical dragon and its offspring emerge just a little higher in Jasná. Meanwhile, eggs turned into little dragons, which entertain and educate in the Dragon Park. They were inspired by one of Liptov’s legends that a dragon had lived in Demänovská Cave of Freedom, which is now an attraction for tourists from all over the world. “Demián guards the entire valley so do not be afraid, on the contrary,” says Sylvia Artzová, Marketing Director of TMR for Slovakia. “We have created a fun game in the Low Tatras.

We wanted to draw children from TVs and PCs to the nature, where they can have fun with their parents. On both sides of Chopok, there are information boards with mysteries to solve and secrets to reveal with Demián the Dragon,” she explains the game. However, it is not a park as such, but an open space that provides many opportunities for having fun in the nature without fences and limitations. Small and big explorers are not rewarded just by moments spent in the beautiful mountains, but also by a ride with modern cableways and a photo with a huge three-headed iron beast. The popular Demián guards the whole valley from the terrace of the Rotunda restaurant, 2004 meters above sea level. No worries, it does not take princesses or little children to its den. On the contrary, the dragon makes sure that every visitor to the Low Tatras returns home safely.

Fun at the Lake

If you did not have enough water, games and exercise, you should definitely see Vrbické pleso. Although dragons did not drink from or
hide in the lake, it is a tourist attraction for the whole family. The largest natural lake in the Low Tatras has glacial origin, and it has been a national natural monument for more than four decades. Its shores can now be reached by a barrier-free bridge that leads to the Mikulášská
chata chalet.

Well, children will probably not be impressed by this information, but more and more of them come to the lake every year. The main reason is a unique playground made of acacia wood in the shape of a bird with many climbing frames of various difficulties. Natural materials and safety features make it unique in Liptov, and it fits in the environment. However, there is much more to admire at this moraine lake. While children play, adults can enjoy themselves too. “The area near the lake is ideal for short walks and observation of rich forest fauna and flora.

The dense vegetation becomes special at the end of summer, when blueberries and cranberries appear on dark-green bushes,“ says director of OOCR Region Liptov, Darina Bartková. Wandering the woods and enjoying this popular fruit is special indeed. Demänovská Valley obviously offers delicacies of all kinds, not just pleasure for the tongue. People who want to spend their day in the mountains can easily choose from the valley’s offer, and still find unknown places during the next visit. Isn’t it beautiful?

The article was published in the summer edition of the Tatra magazine HERE

Other interesting articles can be found in the summer edition of Tatry magazine HERE

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