SLOVAK PARADISE

 Wooden ladders over a frozen river at the Slovak Paradise National Park.

 

I think we were the only people in the park, that day. Winter was still wrapped around every surface, the layers of snow packed down by trampling feet, but far underneath a steady dripping sound indicated the coming of spring...

As we ascended on wooden ladders and stairs the dripping became a slow trickle, then a rushing of moving waters, heard from beneath every waterfall...

At a certain point, after a particularly difficult climb up a waterfall and over an icy lip, through an opening in the stone, above a 200 foot drop, we realised there was no turning back... We were lost in a land of impossible beauty.


A WINTER WONDERLAND

...where magic and science are one and the same...

 

Sticks lined all along the edges of the rock walls, bare boned ribs of some wooden creature, neatly arranged by unseen hands...
- (pushed there by the flow of the river.)
 
Leaves and other treasures encased in glass, like curiosities of autumn...
- (revealed by the melting of the ice, they lay in small puddles.)
 
Glass waterfalls, that spill from nowhere, down into the icy river...
- (water frozen in middair, emerging from a small crevasse in the rock.)
 
Patterns on logs: symbols and characters, the hyroglyphics of an ancient society, etched into the top layers of rotting wood...
- (the work of small insects, that eat away at the tree under bark, aiding in its eventual decomposition.)
 
Up, up, up, we went
Walking on hard water, and soft, crumbling wood.
Then up the ladders, chilled fingers on cold steel, holding on so tightly,
My breath in my throat as I look down past my feet...
 
Up to discover:

The Most Fascinating Wonder of All...
We came across a cave, out of which spilled a waterfall. Looking in, I spied something glinting at the back of the cave: what looked like worms of ice, reaching up from below... They reminded me of childhood stories, an image came to mind from the Moomintroll Books, of rows and rows of 'Hattifatteners,' small ghost-like, wiggling white worms. I half expect these ice creatures to move.
- (formed as a rare, natural phenomenon, these kind of ice spikes, or stalagmites, are still being studied. Their formation requires a perfect combination of many variables: water quality, surface temperatures, timing and the expansion of water through small frozen pockets to create the spike.)

 

 A steep drop - looking down a metal ladder at the icy valley below, hiking in Slovak Paradise Park in winter.
 Small sticks stuck in the sides of the rock river bed - all lined up. Weird natural phenomenon.
 A small orange leaf from Autumn, now frozen into the ice of the river.
 A sprig of pine needles, frozen in the layers of the river.
 Ollie hiking on the wooden ladders of Slovak Paradise National Park in winter.
 A frozen waterfall - one that once rushed over grassy cliffs.
 Metal ladders to hike over the frozen waterfalls in Slovak Paradise Park, in winter.
 The river still runs underneath the ice layer - with small icicles edging the rill.
 Frozen water draped over a tree trunk, wedged into the sides of a narrow canyon.
 Wood that was carved by boring insects - an old tree trunk with natural pictographs.
 A small pictograph made by insects on a dead tree trunk.
 Wooden ladders lead through narrow canyons, cut by a frozen river.
 Real life Hattifatteners from the Moomintroll world - Ice formations grow in a small cave like worms.
 A frozen waterfall spills out of a small cave in the mountainside, Slovakia.
 Small stalagmite like ice formations in a natural cave, Slovak Paradise Park.
 A frozen waterfall in the Slovak Paradise Park.
 A mushroom grows on a tree - decorated with red and orange rings.
 Wooden ladders to hike over frozen rivers, Slovakian National Park.