These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Morské oko: The Eye of the Sea

By James Thomson

    Beautiful Morské oko.
 Beautiful Morské oko.
 Photos by James Thomson

To the north of Zemplínska Šírava are the heavily forested Vihorlat Hills. These are home to bears, wolves and even carnivorous plants. Vihorlat Peak itself is a flat-topped volcano visible from around the region. It is generally believed to be extinct, though recent earthquakes have led some to speculate that it may in fact be just dormant.

The hills include a national park, and at its heart is a small but very picturesque lake named Morské oko - literally, 'Eye of the Sea' - which was formed by an earlier quake. That upheaval blocked the River Okna, resulting in the formation of a deep lake, which goes down as much as 25 metres in places. It is now protected, and fishing and swimming are prohibited, with the result that shoals of large trout are visible at the dam where the water flows out.

There is a path leading around the lake and through the woods which line its shores which takes about an hour to walk. For more determined hikers, trails into the surrounding hills radiate from it: information boards by the lake point mark the routes. For the less committed ambler, there is a café selling ice cream half-way round.

To get to the lake you may need your own transport: at the time of writing there was no bus service beyond Remetské Hámre (where there is a pub-restaurant patronised by hunters). Even if you do drive, it is a twenty-minute walk up a closed road beyond the car park (for which there is a fee).

It might pay to get there soon: after another minor earthquake 25 years ago the level started to drop alarmingly. To save it, the outflow from the lake was regulated and divers sealed the most obvious fissures which had opened up in the lake bed. It seems to have worked, but there's a limit to how far man can compensate for the movements of the earth. The next quake could see the lake drain completely, and a large muddy puddle (even if it is 25 metres down) may not make for such a pleasant walk.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2009, which you can obtain from our online shop.

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