Preview from the book
National Parks of Slovakia
Although Slovakia is a small central European country, its territory offers as many or more natural assets than any other. Tall peaks alternate with deep valleys and gorges. Extensive forests in places interrupted by meadows and pastures neighbour with fertile lowlands. Untamed mountain rivers gradually change into calm rivers and diverse plants and animals populate this natural setting. In Slovakia one finds high mountains and lowlands, extinguished volcanoes, canyons, caves, abysses, great rivers and waterfalls, medicinal and poisonous plants, peaceful and predacious animals.
Although humans changed vegetation and deforested the lowlands and basins, large forests still exist in the mountains. Compared to other European countries Slovakia still maintains forested areas, which amount to 36% of its total surface. The forests are one of the great natural assets of Slovakia. Among European countries only Sweden and Austria possess more forests than Slovakia. Continuous broad-leaved, coniferous or mixed forests cover Slovakia. Oak forests grow in the lowlands and low parts of mountains, as they prefer a warmer and drier climate. In some lower locations, above towns and settlements there are protected lime (linden) forests. The lime tree is the symbol of all Slavs for its tenacity and resistance to outer influences. Beech woods, the most frequent type of trees occur in cooler and rainy mountainous areas. This type of forest is also remarkable for the great amount of mushrooms that it produces. Slovaks like to gather mushrooms and use them to prepare tasty meals. Cold, moist, less fertile soil is suitable for spruce trees, which grow in a higher altitude than the beech forests. They are often mixed with pine or fir trees. The fir tree is the tallest tree, and can reach as high as 6o m. At the altitude above 1,500 m is what the experts call the upper timberline because beyond it no trees will grow. Both dwarf pinewoods and alpine meadows replace them.
Many plants and animals are protected. Large territories, among them national parks, protected landscape areas, and nature reserves are legally safeguarded. There are more than 1000 protected territories in Slovakia and their total area is almost 10 thousand square kilometres. They include 9 national parks and 16 protected territories. National Parks (NP) are situated in the Carpathian mountains.
Tatras NP is the oldest Slovak national park. It was designated as such in 1949. It covers the high-mountain area of the Tatras and protects the mountain and highmountain vegetation, such as dwarf-pine woods, pine woods and wonderful and rare flora. As far as rare animals are concerned, the eagle, chamois, marmot and lynx live here.
Pieniny NP is the smallest Slovak national park but all the more beautiful. It is situated on the frontier between Slovakia and Poland. The Dunajec River flows through it and tourists travelling down the river on rafts so that they can admire the beautiful riverbanks.
Nízke Tatry NP is in contrast the largest national park and it spreads through central Slovakia. Its caves and other geographical phenomena are its greatest attraction.
Slovenský raj NP situated in the eastern part of the country was established to protect one of the largest ice caves in the world. It is remarkable for its narrow canyons and deep ravines with waterfalls, traversed by ladders and footbridges.
Malá Fatra NP lies in the westernmost high-mountain range of Slovakia. Its dwarf-pine woods, rare plants, and predators like wolves, lynxes, and bears are indeed remarkable.
Muránska planina NP with wild mountain and karstic landscape, almost intact by humans, is located on the dividing line between central and eastern Slovakia.
The easternmost Slovak NP is Poloniny. It contains original extensive beech and fir-beech forests and the primeval forests of Stužica, Rožok and Havešová, which were put on the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 2007.
In 2002 two other national parks were designated, Slovenský kras NP and Veľká Fatra NP. Slovenský kras NP situated in the south of Slovakia on the frontier of Hungary is the largest karst area in Eúrope. It consists of about 400 caves and abysses. Twelve of them were inducted to the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The second recently designated NP is Veľká Fatra which lies in central Slovakia. It is typical for its wellpreserved continuous forests, long valleys and the largest site of naturally-growing yew trees in Europe.