Mountain passes, blazing with the intense colors of fall, slipt past the car as my host father and I made our way into the wilderness for a Saturday hike. Brilliant reds and golds decorated the trees which carpet the rolling mountains of the Low Tatras (Nízke Tatry). Aside the country road, a herder and his German Shepard watch over their cattle, which graze contentedly in verdant pastures stretching far into the distance. (The man was wearing a windbreaker and jeans, in case you got the wrong image—let’s not over-romanticize.)
Our trail began amid dense pine forests and climbed and climbed to the barren, grass-and-stone peak of Kráľova hoľa. From this vantage, the Tatra Mountains, the villages at their base, and Poprad in the valley below could all easily be seen and captured in a lens. I found a spot away from other hikers for taking photos and eating lunch. Here, the silence was profound. The only noise came from the wind in the grass that scratched at my ear as I lay prone, focused on the the landscape ahead.