Saturday, 13 January 2018

Liptovský Mikuláš

Liptovský Mikuláš is a small town in Northern Slovakia, just next to the Chopok mountain. It has something around thirty thousand inhabitants and is a perfect location for a short stroll on a winter night.


The history of Liptovský Mikuláš dates back a thousand years. In the Middle Ages it was granted several privileges, coming into force through parchments and great seals made of red wax.


Have you noticed something special? Yes, the name of the town is different there. In fact, the original name of the town was until 1952 Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš which means "Saint Nicolas of Liptau", where Liptau is the region in which it is located. So where is the Saint Nicolas? In the church of course.


The gothic church of St. Nicolas is one of the landmarks of the town. Inside you will immediately recognise the high arches on the ceiling.


The small organ is decorated with pictures of the twelve apostles.


The gothic altar is covered with gold and includes tall and pale figures. Am I the only one to see here a whole team of Maries?


Outside the church you will notice a monument. It is the monument of Janko Kráľ, a romantic poet, one of the first ones to write in modern Slovak language. He was also a patriotic activist in times where Slovakia did not exist as a country but was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire


Because Liptovský Mikuláš is an important place for the Slovak identity. Just look at this building.


Between 1713 and 1793 it was the capital of the Liptov region and this was the first County House.


But do not think that Liptovský Mikuláš is only living its past. They have public wifi all around the Town Hall.


The Town Hall is located, not surprisingly, on the Market Square.


As you can see, the building is nicely lit up with Christmas lights. So are the streets around it.


The only dark place is directly behind the Town Hall. This is a monument commemorating the soldiers of the Red Army. Soviet heritage is not valued high these days in Eastern Europe.


The snow has invaded the town.


So I propose that we stop here and order a good warm burger.


Saturday, 6 January 2018

Chopok

You all know that I am a huge fan of winter sports. Over the last years, we have been skiing in Poland and Switzerland. Today, I will take you to Low Tatras, a beautiful 80 km wide mountain range in the middle of Slovakia. Lower Tatras are a part of Inner Western Carpathians. I have chosen for you their most popular peak - Chopok. First we need to arrive to Jasná, 943 meters above sea level. Jasná was hosting the Alpine Skiing World Cup in 1979, 1982, 1984 and 2016. So this should be a proper place for skiers at our level.


Look, I am not the first horse here!


Those of you who do not feel yet fully comfortable on steep slopes can stay in this snow kindergarden. There is plenty of fun there.


Those who are masters of black pists will need to take cable car up to the summit.


The cars are nicely decorated so that you can start smiling already on the way.


If you will be happy with a blue or red piste, you can choose one of the chair lifts.


But before we can go up, we need to get into the queue. It goes quite fast and we can sunbath and discuss our day plan.


The cable car goes steep up.


Finally we arrive at the top.


Ladies and gentlemen, plese meet Demián the dragon, the strongest guard of the treasures hidden in the valley of Demänová. He weighs 1.5 tonnes and is 3 metres tall. Two of his heads spit fire and steam, inside the third, there is a copper bell in the throat which brings luck when rung. He came out of his Demänová cave especially todat to meet you.


Chopok is one of the top peaks in Low Tatra, so you can for example look south and see Slovak Ore Mountains.


But when you will look North you will understand why these mountains are calle the Low Tatras. Ladies and gentleman, please wave your hands to the High Tatras, shining bright especially for you.


When the weather goes bad or you just get hungry, there is a nice place here.


How do you prefer to go down? By sledge? Just make sure to pull the break really hard.


Or maybe your prefer a snowmobile?



But I would really recommend you to put you ski on and move gracefully down the slope.


The trails are well prepared by the snow groomers.


But please ski carefully, so that the mountain rescue service does not have to bring you down.


See you again in Jasná, near the Smile point!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Gateway to Space

Over the last six (!) years, I have taken you on many trips, both longer and shorter. But today, I will take you further than ever - we will go to outer space! Or at least we will try to.

Humans were fascinated by space since ever. In 1865, the famous writer Jules Verne, in his novel "From the Earth to the Moon" was assuming man will go to the Moon in a large columbiad, being a special cannon. And looking a bit like that.


In 1926, Robert Goddard made a break through experiment with a liquid propellant rocket.


But it was an American who made the race into space reality - when president J.F. Kennedy announced that US will go to the Moon, a new era started.


The Soviet Union joined the race with the Sputniks.


And then the Vostok program started. The two-stage Vostok rockets were specially designed to carry humans. It was 41 meters high with a maximum diameter of only 10 meters. It weight exceeded 260 tonnes.


The first man flew into space on April 12, 1961. It was Yuri Gagarin. In 1963 the first woman joined the club - it was Valentina Tereshkova.


The Russian cosmonauts were conquering the space in fancy orange space suits called Sokol. These were full pressure spacesuits, with a life support system.


Obviously, America was following the Soviet Union closely. The first American spacecraft designed to carry humans was Mercury. It had no computers so all on-board systems had to be handled by the single astronaut pilot. By the way - the space was so limited that the pilot could not be taller than 1.8 meter (5 feet 11 inches).


The US pilots had their spacesuits meant to protest them during extravehicular activity. The shiny silver outer shell was adding an extra thermal and radiation protection.


Finally, US and USSR realised that cooperation is much more efficient than competition. On that day, the Apollo-Soyuz program started. In 1975 the Apollo capsule was docked to a Soyuz spacecraft.


Three American astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts participated in the mission.


Obviously to conquer outer space it is not enough to have a rocket. Once you land on a planet, you need to move around. A lunar roving vehicle will do the job. But do not get super excited - its maximum speed is 17 km/h.


The story of the human presence in space would not be completed if we would forget about the space station Mir.


Follow me and you will have a unique chance to go inside.


The living space is by nature limited.


The control room looks quite complex.


But what I liked best in Mir was the growth chamber, where real vegetable can be grown.


In 1980s the next innovation was launched - the space shuttles, first reusable spacecraft designed for low Earth orbit.


I hope that you have enjoyed this journey beyond the boundaries of human imagination and planet. All those of you who read till the end will not have the very unique opportunity. Come closer. A bit closer. And now point your finger. You can touch, literally, the Moon.