Charmingly set beneath the monolithic mountains of the High Tatras, Poprad is a town of winter sporting and medieval beauty. I am delighted to be living in a place that is so near to nature and boasts a long and vibrant—if troubled—past.
The city of Poprad sits on a historic intersection of great powers and, like the rest of Slovakia, has served as the rope in Europe’s millennia-long, territorial tug-of-war. Slavic peoples inundated Central and Eastern Europe during the Migration Period (300-700 CE). The earliest records of Poprad’s existence date to the year 1256. Other small villages cropped up in the area shortly before and after this date. These towns included Matejovce, Kvetnica, Spišská Sobota, Veľká, and Stráže. Poprad and these medieval towns first fell under Hungarian rule, where they stayed until the land was captured by Sigismund III’s polish army in 1412. Maria Theresa annexed the land back into the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1772, yet Polish influence had already been ingrained and is still evident the city’s personality.
In 1919 Poprad was integrated into Czechoslovakia after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it briefly fell to the Nazis during WWII, then was taken back on the 28th of January, 1945 by Soviet forces. Afterwards, Poprad fell into the communist block with the rest of Eastern Europe, where it remained until 1989 when the Czechs-Slovaks broke free of the Soviet Union. In 1993, free from overhead authority, the nation split peacefully into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Poprad itself also split around this time. The old nearby towns, which since 1923 had been incorporated into Greater Poprad, became self-governing units and maintain administrative independence to this day.
Despite its tumultuous history, Poprad found much success as a winter sporting resort in the High Tatras. At 2,205 ft (672 m) above sea level, the city experiences all seasons but has a fairly mild climate. However, the surrounding peaks reach towards 9,000 ft (2,700 m), excellent for alpine adventuring. Nearby ski resorts in the Tatra mountains serve countless visitors each year!
The area’s outdoor attractions are not limited to winter sporting. To the south, Slovensky Raj, or Slovak Paradise, boasts 300 km of trails, 350 caves, numerous waterfalls, and the most unsettling, yet exhilarating, assembly of bridges and ladders throughout its trails. The national park contains 200 species of vertebrates, including bears, lynx, wolves, deer, otters, and boars. Other national parks in the area include Tatras National Park, Pieniny National Park, and the National Park of the Lower Tatras.
Poprad is the largest city in the Spiš region, but there are many other sights to see! Castles, churches, medieval cities, and festivals, I will explore everything mentioned here and more throughout my stay!