Nova Bystrica, Slovakia

Beautiful forests and rivers are a feature of northern Slovakia
Beautiful forests and rivers are a feature of northern Slovakia

I came down into the village of Nova Bystrica following a road down from the forest near Breza. It was a most beautiful drive and the sun was blazing so I stopped at that next village which happened to be this one. 

We got out because despite the blazing heat sometimes moving around keeps you cooler than sitting down. 

In the EU funded car park in the centre of town a plaque which was also in English gave a snapshot of the history of the town, which was first mentioned centuries ago. 

Dave maybe would have liked that the first building as you enter the town was a cafe bar 🙂






Nova Bystrica, Slovakia

The view
Just as you enter Nova Bystrica, this must be one of the best views I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Nova Bystrica was a lucky find like Breza. I was simply driving through Slovakia from Poland, heading roughly to Brno to see what it was like.

There was a brand new car park at the edge of the village with spaces for buses so I parked up just to see what was there.

Truth is there’s nothing there really, except the local shop which I took advantage of for some fresh salad, and a beautiful view of mountains and forests. Oh and the river Bystrica flowing through. Pretty much the basic stuff of life. I found out later that there’s also a post office and a department store and a home improvement store, a pizza shop there too. But sometimes less is more…

Across from the car park is what’s listed on the map as a local government office. A couple of times a day what sounded like a radio was playing from the large speakers on top of this office, and a little song was played each time which was very jaunty. The following day I also noticed a large group of youngsters doing some kind of physical exercises on the lawn in front. They were led by a tracksuit wearing ‘coach’ and after about 20 minutes of simple exercises on the lawn, in the 27 degree heat, they all went back inside.

Maybe there’s a school attached?

Anyway, another very peaceful night was had as there was not a sound after about 8pm so after work it was straight to bed and another sound night of sleep. Sometimes when you’re travelling it’s not famous sites that you want, nor culture or meeting odd characters. It’s just a beautiful location with some peace and quiet. Travelling is in my blood and I can’t imagine not doing it but sometimes you just need a physical and mental rest. It’s places like Nova Bystrica that offer that. 

Slovakia is good to me 🙂

Where I stayed: New car park Nová Bystrica, 023 05, Slovakia, 49.343441, 19.018475

Breza, Slovakia

Breza, Slovakia

A roadside shrine in Breza, Slovakia
A roadside shrine in Breza, Slovakia

I’ve left Poland now and moved into Slovakia. After having visited the Czech republic some time ago I was keen to see how Slovakia had managed the split. The first stop across the border was Breza, a tiny village with a post office, a supermarket, a coffee bar and a pub. Oh and a church of course. 62% of Slovakians belong to the Roman Catholic Church. So it’s a common sight to see shrines by the roadsides and beautiful, elaborate churches in tiny villages. 

Spot the hat here…

As you cross the border from Poland you enter the High Tatras mountains. The scenery is stunning no matter where you go and there are forests, lakes and rivers galore. 

I’d only been on a short walk when I spotted this view.

Panorama of the High Tatras mountains in Slovakia
Panorama of the High Tatras mountains in Slovakia

Breza, Slovakia

High Tatras
As you leave Poland and enter Slovakia you’re treated to this view of the High Tatras mountains in the distance.

Breza was a stop I hadn’t intended to make. I was simply tired and spotted a new view so pulled into a layby for a cuppa and to enjoy that view. Of course whenever I stop no matter how long it is since Jack had a walk, he has to get out also and explore the new land. So I took my cup of tea with me and we went for a walk along the river.

We’d only gone about 400 yards when I spotted a building through the trees and that building turned out to be a pub of all things.

So I left my cup by a fence and we set off to investigate and it was actually a nice little town.

Firstly, it’s in the nicest location at the foot of mountains with forest all around and a river flowing past. It’s got a supermarket, a cafe, a pub and a post office. That pretty much sums up most peoples’ main needs?

Well OK given what my van is like, a garage would not have come amiss…

I’d seen a church from the main road so I set off to find it cos it looked nice. However I followed two likely routes both of which led to a very steep and deep gorge separating the village from the hill the church was on.

It seemed if I wanted to get to the church I would probably need to leave the village by road and come back a different way, there simply was no access I could find to get over the gorge. Maybe it’s deliberately inaccessible because they hold satanic rituals there, and once you enter you can never leave again? I decided to leave it and just enjoy the village.

Coffee bar
Mid day the village is deserted. I wondered if this was the hub of the village at night time.

Being followed

Anyway I had a walk around and had stopped to take a photo of the large building that was the coffee cafe and a little girl maybe 8 years old came out of the cafe and walked over and spoke to me.

I have no idea what language she was speaking, Slovak? But I knew from her gaze that she was talking about Jack. I gestured to him so she immediately knelt down and had a little stroke of his head and murmured something to him. Most likely the Slovak equivalent of “Oh you’re a lovely little puppy and I love you.” cos that’s the kind of things kids say to him.

Jack of course licked her mouth and hands cos he knows that that’s where all the nicest tastes are on humans, especially little humans who always taste of sugar and other exciting flavours.

She said something else to me that I could not guess so I had to say I didn’t speak her language. Her face was a picture when I spoke, as clearly she’d not been expecting a foreign voice. She said something else which sounded like “Bloody hell I nearly shit myself when you started speaking that weird language!” and then had another stroke of the dog.

I’m sure she didn’t really say that, but just like anthropomorphising animals, we tend to adultify kids don’t we. (Did I just make a word up!) You tend to imbue kids with attributes they probably don’t have cos they’re too young and yet they often to seem so wise for their years. And sometimes I just talk shit…

After their little pat and lick session was over I wandered on to finish my short tour of the village and she stayed with us the whole way, keeping about 20 feet away but always looking at Jack. I felt like going and buying her a puppy!

Anyway, I spent the night in the layby and it was incredibly peaceful with no passing traffic after about 8pm until the next morning. It was also pitch black so I had a very restful night and woke to bright sunshine, so I went down to the river with my coffee and furry face.

It turns out that there’s loads of trails seem to go off in all directions from the opposite side of the river.  So I hid my cup and off we set for the day. It ended up being a blistering day and of course I had brought no sun block but we had a fabulous walk through fields and woods and over hills and down into the shallow, slow flowing river and had a lovely day despite my sunburn. *sigh*  There’s nothing to do really in Breza bar the cafe and the pub, and of course the countryside to walk around in which suits me and Jack fine, but a day was enough so what a lovely little village but it’s time to move on now. 

Where I stayed: Breza, Námestovo, Žilina, Slovakia, 029 51, N49° 22.884′ E19° 23.341′

Revolut…money revolution?

I applied for a Revolut card when I came out to the continent this time. The Revolut card is a Mastercard and you can use it almost anywhere for purchases and ATM withdrawals and top it up from your bank account via an app on your phone.

Revolut card
Revolut card

I chose it partly for security, as you need a pin to get into the app, and I only top it up £100 at a time so if it was ever stolen and they managed to get the pin I’d not lose much. The bank account linked to it is a second one that I only transfer cash to when I want to top the card up. To ensure it works in unattended places such as night time fuel stations etc it needs €150 on it. In practice it’s most often €112 to €120 the machines take, then when you’ve finished fuelling up and you’ve spent say €40, it refunds the balance.

So if I lost my wallet I would lose nothing as I can use the app to disable the card. If I was robbed and they got the pin, the most they’d get is €150 as that’s the most I’d ever have on the card and the bank account it’s linked to for topping up only has money transferred to it when I am going to top up. It makes me feel very secure doing it this way.

I love the way it works too, you top it up however much you like and if you wish to convert to say…euros, you get the best rate going at that moment in time. I do tend to convert to euros too because you get a great rate anyway but paying by euros means you don’t attract additional charges on transactions.

I found it great for being in Poland because while some places do accept euros, they make up the conversion rate in their head so you can end up losing out, so I used it to pay Zloty. I also used it in Amsterdam to pay for the camp site as it was machine access out of hours.

You can also use the Revolut card in ATM’s for local currency and whichever way you use it you don’t pay any fees as long as you limit to €200 a month. You can pay micro fees such as for a coffee, it’s contactless and you can even pay other people who have a Revolut account using their mobile number! Definitely the card for a modern world.

If you lose it, you simply log into the app and disable the card, sorted. I have a backup phone that I use too if I am somewhere I’m unused to where there’s a lot of crime. I’m going to find out if you can have the app installed on more than one phone. 

I dislike having to carry loads of cash in the van, and I like the security aspect of the Revolut card. it’s definitely my choice for use abroad even if you only ever go to countries with $’s or €’s. 


Krakow, Poland

I had parked in Wieliczka to see the salt mine and a friendly lady in an art gallery told me the train station was not far and it was quick to get into Krakow. It cost me about 400 Zloty in her place for things to take home for a friend so the info wasn’t cheap.

However I found the station easily and it was only a few euros into Krakow on a train that ran regularly. Happily I could not get lost either as Wieliczka is the last stop on that line. I decided to go in the next day but would leave Jack in the van if it wasn’t too hot. 

And indeed it was only about 15 minutes into Krakow, and it’s a very pleasant and modern station with lots of terminals that were very fast and easy to use so I grabbed my return ticket while there. 

Painted wall
It doesn’t seem to matter where you go in the world there is always graffiti. Krakow

Sadly the first thing I saw when I left the station proper was the graffiti. Europe seems plagued by it, I’ve even seen commercial vans covered in it and I know it costs councils millions a year to deal with. Such gross vandalism ought to attract heftier penalties I think, but the likes of Banksy doesn’t help. 

I remember the streets of Rome being like this, and Paris, and Prague. Many of them are political comments but many are simply tags, the name these vandals put to the stylised nickname they use. 

It’s one of my pet hates because it can so alter the look and feel of an environment and why should we all suffer because of a few selfish vandals?



The old town

Browsing in the market
The Cloth hall has dozens of small stalls inside and is a major draw for tourists.

Anyway, putting that aside the walk into the old town was short and pleasant. The streets are wide and clean, the crossings plentiful and well responded to, and a lovely young lady stopped me for a chat on my way asking if I was a tourist. I was on my belly taking a photo of a tram and felt slightly foolish! Her English was great and we chatted for 5 minutes and then she went her way. I thought what a pleasant place this is but I also checked that my wallet was still there…

The old town is beautiful. No doubt about it. Clean, free from clutter and mostly free from traffic. Beautifully clean carriages pulled by lovely well kept horses, and lots of colour around in street cafes, performers and tourists.

The main Cloth market is amazing and even though I’m not really a shopper, I had to have a wander through it. There’s dozens of little stalls inside all selling trinkets and scarves and all sorts of touristy type things. 

Some had quite expensive jewellery and some had the normal tacky stuff you see everywhere but they were all doing great business. It was nice to walk through just to feel part of the hustle and bustle of it all. 


Tourist trap

There were lots of horse drawn carriages and they were far from simple traps, they were very elaborate and attractive carriages that could easily grace a wedding. I found out that there is no set price, you haggled with each driver but none of them gave you a commentary on your 35 minute tour. I suspect they need to add that as part of the tour!

St Mary’s is a beautiful sight and has the mouth boggling name of Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven. Apparently most people call it St Mary’s church. 

Wawel Royal Castle

It’s a 10 minute walk out of town to get to the castle, but very well worth it. The walk up was fairly steep as the sun had come out and it was swelteringly hot. The views were great from the castle walls though and the place itself is quite impressive. 

Vistula river from Wawel hill
The Vistula river goes through the heart of Krakow and is a large draw for people wanting to escape the heat of the day.

Apparently it now houses one of the largest collections of Flemish tapestries in it’s museum. Right. 

From the walls I could see a lovely grassed promenade along the banks of the Vistula river below me so to escape the heat a little and to rest my hot feet I walked back down there and sat on the grass with an ice cream. 

I must point out that the amarena cherry ice cream easily matched the quality of the ones in Linz and even Venice! Not too bad a price at €1.50 as well, nice to see they’re not ripping anyone off. 

After my ice cream I decided to go back through town and head back to the van. I have air conditioning so I knew Jack would be fine. However I know that people get on their high horse and act emotionally if they see an animal in a vehicle on a hot day. I remember visiting a friend and the friends neighbour threatened to smash a window to get my dog out!

Everyone wants a drama, led by emotion, and to feel a ‘hero’ so they have a story to tell their friends. So despite he’s the most loved and well cared for dog I went back for him and took him over the park. 

On a last note, there’s a large piece of grassed waste ground near the rail station so when I got back and got Jack we were playing on this land when a young man came over and told me I should have a ‘line’ on the dog because it’s not safe. I don’t know what it is about me and Jack but I looked pointedly at the other dogs running around with their owners off-leash, and looked back at him and he said he was scared of dogs and walked off!

Bizarre. I really am a fool magnet lol

Where I stayed: Wieliczka, 32-020, Poland, 49.986890, 20.051598

Anyway, fantastic day in Krakow it’s a beautiful city and 2 days would have done it more justice. Here’s a few photos to whet your appetite.