23 June 2018

Poľana – mať stará ohromných stínov

Poľana is an inactive stratovolcano in Slovakia not discovered by tourists. I’ve never been there, so I’ve decided to do a multi-day hike there with Ivan and Roman.


We got off the bus in Strelníky right at sunset. With our headlamps on, we hiked the steep slope to the shelter Partizán nad Mincou.

Hiking towards the shelter

The shelter was empty, so we had a very luxurious stay. At 4AM, we were woken up by a dormouse climbing the walls above us. We managed to scare it off and went back to sleep.


In the beginning of our hike we had good views of the surrounding areas. Then we entered the forest and didn’t have views, but the forest was beautiful on its own.

Poľana forest

We ate lunch at the top of Strunga, with excellent views of the whole caldera. When Ivan read Andrej Sládkovič’s poem Detvan, I had goosebumps.

Poľana caldera seen from Strunga

The title of this post is the second line of the poem: Poľana – old mother of great shadows. Once the goosebumps went away, we all concluded that the poem is basically about sex, just like 90% of literature.

In the late afternoon we finally met the first hikers around the highest peak of the mountain range – Poľana at 1458 m. We slept at útuľňa Javorinka, a recently renovated shelter with awesome views.

Útuľňa Javorinka



I woke everyone up at 4:30 AM to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy. However, the Sun rose at the 55-degree bearing over Kráľova hoľa 55 kilometers away. That was an impressive coincidence.

Sunrise over Kráľová hoľa
We went to bed again for 2 more hours and then descended to Hriňová.

Old shepherd's shelter

Small farms of Hriňová, Slovak Tuscany

We ran out of water and tried to get it from the 3 different water sources, but we either couldn’t find them or they were dry. Luckily, we were saved by the helpful people in Zánemecká. From here on, we continued on the bus or train.

The end

After this trip, I only had one question in my head: Why haven't I been to Poľana sooner? It’s not too busy, has a lot of well-preserved nature and awesome tourist shelters.

Small selection of my photos is on Flickr and a bigger album on Google Photos.

05 February 2018

Book Review: The Old Man, the Sea and the PhD by Martin Lukačišin

The best thing about The Old Man, the Sea and the PhD is that it’s very short. I read it while travelling to the airport and waiting at the security check. It reads very well and it’s packed with ideas. Each idea is presented using a parable which makes them very easy to remember.

The last chapter likens the life of a PhD student to Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, which is where the name of the book comes from. I found this analogy the best and most memorable.

During my time in academia, I wanted to write similar thoughts in a blog post (or two) but I always deleted what I wrote, since I didn’t believe that academia could be fixed and thus my drafts were pure rants. The author is slightly more optimistic and tries to provide solutions, though he still admits that the book is very negative about academia.

I think academia will never get fixed, since it’s stuck in a bad equilibrium, just like schools, medicine, politics or airport security checks. We think academia is about science, schools are about education, medicine is about health, politics about improving lives of ordinary people and airport checks are about security. However, all of them are primarily about something else and the stated purpose is at best a secondary side-effect.

The real issue with academia—in my opinion—is that it’s primary about academics gaining prestige and status among other academics. Science ends up being a secondary side-effect of this process. The author hints at it in the very last paragraph of the book but unfortunately doesn’t expand on the idea. For this reason, I recommend complementing The Old Man, the Sea and the PhD with Elephant in The Brain by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson. You’ll have a better understanding why the life of a PhD student is as miserable as Martin Lukačišin describes it.

Note: this review has also been published on Amazon.

07 January 2018

Loptoši™ 2017: Slovakia off the beaten path

The theme of Loptoši™ 2017 was discovering Slovakia off the beaten path, with a focus on the east and mid-south.

The trip started with a streak of bad luck. A few hours before the trip we’ve discovered that our car rental has been canceled. And half of our crew (Palo and Roman) suffered from stomach flu in the first days of the trip.

In the end it was a great trip, full of interesting places and experiences. Instead of covering it chronologically, let me describe the 3 most memorable places.

Stužica, primeval forest

Stužica is a primeval forest that hasn’t been touched for 100 years by humans. I’ve been to forests that looked like they have been vacuumed, but I prefer messy unmanaged forest with trees left to decompose. We’ve experienced Stužica during wet and foggy weather, which created just the right atmosphere. Stužica thus became the top experience of the trip for me.

Trees left to decompose

Hiking in the fog

Železník, former mining town

Železník lies deep in the forest high up on a mountain. The mountain used to be one of the largest sources of iron in the area. It was a prosperous lively small village/town, but now there’s very few people left. If you speak Slovak, you can watch a documentary about Železník.

When we arrived there, the Sun was about to set and Ivan was reading out loud an article about Železník from Čierne Diery. His captivating voice, the abandoned structures around us and the great view gave me goose bumps.

Old phone booth and post office

Sunset seen from Železník

Inside blast furnace near Železník

Čierny Váh, the biggest battery in the country

The Čierny Váh pumped-storage plant is a few tonnes of concrete in nature. A top of a hill has been replaced by a water reservoir.

View from the air. Photo by Achernar.sk.

People say that nature should be preserved, but this structure has enormous benefits. During the night, it takes the overflow electric power from power plants that are slow to turn off, like nuclear power plants, and uses it to pump water 400 meters higher. During the day, the water flows back down, generating energy. It’s basically a giant battery and the most powerful power plant in the country.

We could have preserved this particular piece of nature and instead built a plant that’s easier to turn off and start, like a coal plant, but the environmental consequences would have been much higher. Čierny Váh is still the least environmentally harmful solution.


A selection of my photos is on Flickr and an album merged from multiple people is on Google Photos.