A splash of sunny yellow in Tatralandia
We speed down out of the Low Tatras in the early morning heat. It’s already 30 degrees but going downhill gives us a light breeze. We veer off the main road into a beautiful mountain village and stop to play in the river. After reaching 1232 metres the day before, and getting over the Certovita pass, we are enjoying ourselves. All we have to do is get down the hill and start making our way towards the start of the High Tatras. It should be an easy day.
There is no escaping this..
But then the ever observant Cameron spots the posters. Admittedly they are everywhere; in the trees, on billboards, at the side of bus stops. Tatralandia; an uber exciting aqua park with slides, toboggan runs, hot pools and swimming pools. If there’s one thing our kids love it’s a swimming pool. They immediately start reminiscing about aqua parks of the past.
“The one in Lithuania was the best. It had the cheese run.”
“No the one in Switzerland. It had the black hole.”
“I liked Butlins. With the little elephant slide,” says Hannah.
In a matter of minutes we have re-set our direction. We are off to Tatralandia. Well, we figure, it’s only fifteen kilometres out of our way, and the kids deserve a treat.
It’s not as close as we think
The distances on the posters are confusing. As we count off the miles, the distance to Tatralandia keeps changing. It feels like trying to get to Neverland. As we leave the junction we would have taken to get into the High Tatras and set off in the other direction, to my alarm we start to lose height, which I am well aware we’ll have to gain again tomorrow. We push on and on, making quick stops for ice cream and drinks to relieve the heat. When we reach the town of Liptovsky Mikulas, which is supposed to host the park, there are still five kilometres to go. This, I am beginning to think, was a very bad idea.
At the top of a long, sweat inducing cycle path sits the aqua park. It’s a twisting, turning maze of colour, as slides interweave with helter skelters, pools link into more pools, and a giant screen broadcasts the thrills of ‘Jungle safari, Anaconda and Tornado.’ It’s set in a sea of yellow, which we soon realise are thousands of deck chairs; row upon row of identical seats. It seems this is Butlins in yellow coats.
Tatralandia is a splash
We make our way to the accommodation block which boasts it has hundreds of beds, in a whole accommodation village of apartments and bungalows. The receptionist finds us five beds in the click of a mouse. “It’s like Disneyland,” says Cameron, watching the fun on a big screen in reception, not far from cage where a couple of marmosets are scampering around. It is nearly five o’clock and still hot as an oven.
Despite my initial reservations, Tatralandia is a huge hit. The boys go off together for hours, and are still whizzing down the hill in roller coaster rafts as darkness falls. Hannah loves the jungle slide which requires me lugging a double raft up twisting steps. It appears I have no respite from being a donkey. Stuart and I then grab some time to relax in the hot pools and watch the place light up.
A taste of wild west Slovakian style
The midges are out in full swing as we leave a deserted park. “I can hear grasshoppers too,” says Hannah.
“No, that’s the sound of staff snapping shut 1500 yellow sunbeds,” says Stuart, and we all pause to listen to the night music; ‘snap, snap, snap.’ It is interrupted by the sound of gunshots, coming from the Wild West, which is situated just next door. We scan our electronic bracelets into fresh gates and immediately enter a world of saloon bars, Little House on the Prairie churches and Mexican restaurants. It’s all lit up and inviting; even the doors to the town jail are open. But it’s also as deserted as a Wild West town after a gun battle. Not a soul is around. Tired from their swimming and sliding, it seems everyone has gone back to their chalets. We wander the Wild West alone, popping into the rodeo ring where fire-eaters and cowboys sit around waiting to perform the nine o clock show. But there is no action here now. All that we can hear is the ‘snap, snap, snap’ of yellow chairs.
Was it worth the diversion?
In the morning, the deckchairs are all out again in all their glory but it’s the sun that casts a hard yellow glare on the park. As everyone in Tatralandia returns to the park for another day cooling down in the water, our cycle ride back up the hill on a main road is blisteringly hot. We have basically done a fifty kilometre hilly diversion in order to go for a splash. The kids don’t mind the climb as they chatter on about their favourite slide. But Stuart is pensive. “You were right all along. It was a very bad idea.” He says, sweating like a Wild West cowboy.
“Actually, I really enjoyed it in the end,” I say. Despite the miles and the hills, a diversion to Tatralandia was a relaxing, fun and a very yellow break from climbing the Tatra mountains. In fact I’m tempted to do it all again, anything to put off pedalling up the High Tatras that lie ahead.