Why Eastern Slovakia?
Paul and I decided to go away for the May bank holiday and wanted a cheap break with flights from Luton airport. With a love for lakes and mountain locations, but also city breaks we opted for a flight to Kosice – the second largest city in Slovakia. From here it was an easy drive to the Tatras mountains.
We hired a car from Budget through Indigo car hire who help with car hire without a credit card. It meant we could use our debit card instead but had to pay a €800 deposit on arrival for our Skoda! Picked up at Kosice airport it was really simple and we were soon on our way to The Tatras mountains.
It was difficult to pick where to stay as I didn’t really know anything about Eastern Slovakia ahead of this trip so we opted for two different hotels for our two nights in this area but we could easily have stayed in one hotel and travelled to sightseeing spots on the second day.
Grand Hotel Praha was a large hotel with epic views and an amazing outdoor pool to make the most of them – but it was also very busy even though we weren’t there in peak season. We had a really comfortable stay at this hotel.
Parking at this hotel was free, although difficult due to being busy. Lots of people seemed to be heading out hiking, we chose to chill out for the Friday afternoon here and headed to the nearby cable car on Saturday morning.
We drove to Hotel Solisko from Grand Hotel Praha, which took about half an hour as the roads were slow due to a cycling race! Hotel Solisko is located on the egde of Strbske Pleso, next door to Grand Hotel Kempinski which was expensive (and somewhere you could potentially eat if you’re after fine dining). Parking was in the private car park that was also part of Hotel Grand Kempinksi and a bit confusing as there was a barrier stating that there was a €30 a day charge. The hotel however validated the ticket when we left for free parking so I assume its to deter people that are just visiting the lake from parking here.
I had initially picked this hotel due to it’s location to relax near the lake, so I was ecstatic when I started doing some research for the area for gluten free and saw on its restaurant menu that it could cater for celiac disease. Yay! Best news ever!
We booked the Hotel Crystal in Kosice at £50 a night which is about 0.5 miles from the Old Town. The economy room we had was clean and comfy but be careful as I didn’t realise I’d booked a shared bathroom! Not a problem for us on this stay as it’s a shared bathroom between two rooms (quite a strange set up) but no one was staying in the other room next door.
Grand Hotel Praha (Vysoke Tatry)
We ate dinner at the hotel – allergens were marked on the menu and I showed the waiter my translation card as the team spoke very little English. For most of my trip I relied on this technique picking gluten free options, using the card and sometimes google translate on my phone for extra verification.
At this hotel only two options were gluten free, neither things I would normally choose to order so I ended up with the quail and mushroom risotto. I’m not sure I’ll order quail again but the mushroom risotto was delicious. Most people were having the buffet and not ordering a la carte so Paul chose to do this. Our meal for the buffet, one main, a beer, glass of wine and a bottle of water came to €50.
Hotel Solisko (Strbske Pleso)
After checking into the hotel we had lunch at the restaurant where again all allergens were labelled and I showed my translation card and pointed to where it said about catering for celiac. Despite a language barrier, I was able to order a delicious bowl of carbonara for lunch and Paul ordered a more local dish of strapacky (gnocchi with cabbage and fried bacon that looked amazing but sadly not gluten free). It also stated that they could do a gluten free pizza with one hour notice.
We also ate dinner at the hotel rather than driving to a different area, this time with both of us opting for the same dish – chicken stuffed with goats cheese and sundried tomatoes on a sweet potato purée and it was so good! I also ordered some chips but without being able to easily verify they were fried safely I didn’t eat them! Sometimes the language barrier is difficult and I find it hard to eat food I can’t double check is safe, when I’m relying on a translation card I often opt for naturally gluten free food. Sometimes I persevere with google translate but on this occasion I just didn’t eat them!
For dessert I choose a pannacotta which was a huge serving!
The next day we had breakfast that was included. Here I had boiled eggs, gluten free bread that had its own chopping board and knife and some cold meats and cheese.
Even though it was a buffet style, the hot food of scrambled eggs, bacon, and hot dog style sausages were all labelled with allergens and none of them contained gluten. There were the usual gluteney items of bread, cereal and cakes but most other things seemed safe and the labelling was reassuring. You could also order extra things like omelettes for a surcharge.
We had a car picnic once we had left Aquacity, buying picnic supplies from Lidl. I travel with Genius pitta breads as they are flat in the suitcase, don’t crumble, with a long shelf life and can be made into sandwiches or dipped into things like hummus.
After the Lidl trip they were made into sandwiches and eaten alongside some Dinosaur crisps I found!
They did have gluten free bread though if you needed some, oh and a strange tasting marzipan type of bar that I picked up at the till point as it was labelled gluten free!
Located right near our hotel Dobre Bistro is somewhere I found in my research that had gluten free and vegan options.
It is a healthy eating establishment so they did have a disclaimer that not all of their gluten free options may be suitable for those with coeliac so do be careful. We timed it badly as just missed breakfast and we didn’t really feel ready for lunch. I decided to order a leek and potato (and very garlicky!) soup to keep me going and a gluten free and vegan almond hot chocolate.
This was not hot chocolate as you would normally get in the UK and it was warm rather than hot, but a cup of pure chocolate indulgence! It was delicious but so rich I only managed about half of the cup!
Republika Vychodu (Kosice)
I had read that Republika Vychodu was worth a visit gluten free or not on a blog post about Kosice. It also mentioned gluten free options on trip advisor so we decided to give it a go as not many places were open on the Sunday night.
They had lots of items noted as gluten free as well as the allergen numbering like the other restaurants. I had to rely again on the translation card to try and make sure they understood my need for cross contamination control.
I ordered pierogi as how often do you see them on a menu gluten free? I ordered the cheese filled version but the waiter came and told me they only had the other plum option and would I like those instead. Of course I panicked and said yes, especially as I wanted to try pierogi. However I really should have ordered something else [savoury] as a main and ordered these as a dessert! The pierogi were great but too sweet really for a main course and also put me off ordering a dessert, which could have been pancakes! (I didn’t check the cooking preparation of the pancakes to see if they were coeliac safe as I didn’t order them). Paul ordered a duck salad here and absolutely loved it, declaring it one of the best salads he’d had in his life!
This meal cost us €27 for two mains, two beers, a soft drink and some water.
Found on the schar website Pizza-pizza had gluten free and vegan options that weren’t limited to pizza, but also risotto, pasta and pancakes for dessert. This restaurant however was not located in the Old Town, but in a newer part of town that said it was 1.2km away on googlemaps, but 3.2 km to drive it.
I relied again on the translation card to express that I was coeliac and I also asked if the pizzas were cooked separately to gluten using google translate! The waitress said yes confidently and they had the crossed grain logo all over their delivery cars and menu. I ate here due to all of this, but be careful as I couldn’t verbally establish what cross contamination measures they took due to the language barrier.
They had two sizes of pizza, large and XL. The gluten free pizza came in large and Paul ordered the XL, naturally! However, it was huge – definitely one to share!! (Sorry for the rubbish photos, it was pretty dark in the restaurant and was too hungry to take loads of photos!)
I also ordered gluten free pancakes that were filled with jam and topped with chocolate and worth every cent of the €3.90 that they cost! This whole meal came to €30 for the two pizzas, four soft drinks and the pancakes.
Sightseeing in Eastern Slovakia
The Old Town, Kosice
A beautiful Old Town that was pretty to have a wander around. I’m sure its picturesque in the summer sitting out in one of the cafes. There was a museum too, but it was closed on Mondays!
The Singing Fountain, Kosice
We fully planned on visiting the castle but the weather was so miserable both times we drove past it we didn’t stop! I hope you have better luck and have a chance to explore! Located between Kosice and the Tatras mountains it is the perfect stop off on your drive.
Aqua city, Poprad
From Hotel Solisko we headed to Aquacity in Poprad, a water park using local hot springs so the park is open year around. There was a young kids pool with a small slide, an indoor 50m pool, an outdoor pool that Paul had to himself that was heated to 28-30c, an outdoor thermal relaxing pool at 30-32c and an outdoor thermal seated pool with a jacuzzi area at 34-38C that I didn’t want to get out of! It cost €24 pp but a family ticket didn’t seem that much more than it cost for both of us from the way they worked out the pricing. It would also have been a bit less if we had bought the three hour ticket rather than the day ticket. There was also a surcharge of €12 for the spa area (note – you wear sheets that are provided rather than your swimwear in that area).
Grand Hotel Praha is near to Tatranska Lomnica where the lower station is based for the cable car to Lomnicky Peak. First you take a four man cable car up to the mid station, where you change for a fifteen man car to Skalnate Pleso.
We got off here to walk around the lake and stop for a mulled wine at Dedo Café located here (I had brought the Nakd bar from home).
From this point it was an additional charge to get on another cable car to Lomnicky Peak (the second highest peak of the High Tatras) but we didn’t go this high due to the poor weather.
Travel Tips for Eastern Slovakia
- Take an umbrella if visiting in May, the weather in Kosice was miserable!
- Take warm clothes, even in May there was snow at the top of the cable car and it was cold generally. We were really grateful for a baselayer and pair of gloves.
- Travel is cheap, yay – I have included prices where possible above to give you an idea. The Tatras mountains is a ski location in winter so I would assume it would be good value for money compared to some other European skiing destinations.
- We found the car really useful and parking was free at every hotel we visited. We used about 5/8 tank of petrol and it cost €45 to fill it back up again.
- There is an airport in Poprad so if you want a weekend just in the lakes and mountains this is about 20 minutes away from this area.
- Take towels with you if you want to go to Aquacity!!
- Download google translate if you haven’t already got it, its camera is amazing. Ingredients in supermarkets weren’t written in English on most items so we used the camera on the google translate app to take a picture of the ingredients to translate into English.
- We got charged city tax, I think it was €1.50 a night per person on top of the room charge.
- Water supplied in each hotel was sparkling water so buy some still if you want that instead!
- Be careful of Mondays in Kosice, many things weren’t open.
Despite the cold and rain we had a lovely relaxing weekend at a very reasonable cost, with some unexpected gluten free finds along the way. The menus being labelled with allergens was so helpful, but I then relied on my translation card and google translate to try and get my needs across for cross contamination so I cant 100% guarantee places are totally safe for coeliac as no one could explain to me their cross contamination measures so please be careful and ask all the relevant questions for yourself before deciding to eat anywhere, but none of these places that I chose to eat at made me ill!