Nature as Therapy: Viewpoint at Žiarce
The next location of our trips is going to be a viewpoint situated at the wooded area of rock massif Žiarec. The place we are talking about is situated in the northern part of Ružomberok District, above the village of Valaská Dubová, which many people associate with the legend about capturing of the most famous Slovak bandit, Juraj Jánošík. The village is known for being the starting point for the ascent to one of the most beautiful viewpoint peaks in Slovakia, peak Great Choč. We have chosen this location because it is not very well-known and because you can bring your children as well, however, it might be a bit too difficult for the older age categories.
So far, our trips have been focused on strengthening our bodies in a physical way, this hike is going to strengthen our spirit as well. A part of our route is a way of the cross, which helps every believer connect to their faith and strengthen it. Although not everyone is a believer, the story of the crucifixion of Christ is not foreign to people of a different faith or of no faith at all, who can just remember this historical event and enjoy a pleasant hike with a view.
To get to the beginning of our route, we will take a suburban bus from Ružomberok. We will get off the bus at bus stop “Valaská Dubová,,OcÚ“. Situated next to the bus stop is the first station of the way of the cross, which can encourage our spirit before starting the trip. Our steps lead us through a small square with a fountain, after the end of which we turn right at the next turn. The road runs uphill behind the barns, past the local school, approaching the woods. At the end of the ascent, the road curves to the left and continues further. After a few dozen metres, we may notice a field road turning right in the direction behind the family houses. There is also a small sheet-metal arrow showing the way, which is located on a concrete post and reads “Krížová cesta“ (the way of the cross). On this trip, just like on the other ones, we can also make use of what the nature has to offer and snack on some sloes for energy, which we can find here in large numbers on the bushes, which have already lost their leaves. The sloes are already a bit shrivelled, but they are still good as a source of vitamins. There are also bushes with hawthorn or rose hips, which we do not collect for tea so close to the village, however, the flesh of hawthorn or rose hips can also serve as a source of some vitamins or minerals for the body. The field road continues to a meadow below the woods, where we come across a small iron post with another sheet-metal arrow navigating us into the woods. It is important that you get off the road exactly as shown by the arrow, and immediately after passing by the first tree in the woods, you need to continue to the right on a path running mildly uphill. After a few dozen metres, the path will lead us to a station located on a tree. Originally, the station was located directly by the trail, but currently it is fixed onto a tree. Opposite the station, there is a small cross with Christ, located on a tree. After a short contemplation and viewing of the station, we continue further on the path, which leads us to the first station of the way of the cross. The station consists of stone panels with a number, a short description of the story and a picture. There are eleven of them by the path in the bottom section of the way of the cross. After the tenth station, the path curves to the left, directly uphill. Next to the steep path, there are ropes attached to the trees, serving as support for children or elderly visitors. After the eleventh station of the way of the cross, you can continue with one of two options. We decided to walk up the path running directly uphill, which is secured with ropes, and for the way back, we will use the less steep path running from this place to the right through the woods. After a few minutes of conquering the steep uphill terrain, there is a path connecting to ours from the right, the one we will use for our descent, as it is less steep. The final section of the ascent will lead us to a meadow, situated at which is the upper section of the way of the cross with the remaining three stations and a large marble cross. On the meadow, you will find benches, which can be used for a little rest after climbing the hill. From the cross on the meadow, you get a lovely view of the village of Valaská Dubová and the hills to the south of the village.
The cross at the top was built here in 2003 as a thank you for the third visit of pope John Paul II in Slovakia. This way of the cross was added after that, using the donations of the believers. On the viewpoint meadow, you need to be careful about the steep ridge, at which there is a risk of a dangerous fall, and you should use the ropes located in the steep sections, on the way up as well as on the way down. Using the rope on the way up is an exciting experience for children, nevertheless, the parents need to supervise the children in order to prevent a dangerous fall. Due to the steep ridge, we also recommend keeping your children by your side at the top meadow. The elderly visitors with reduced mobility might have difficulties with the ascent, therefore we recommend only visiting the bottom section of the way of the cross with the eleven stations.
As we walk down from the peak, our soul is filled with new energy and beautiful views, brought to us by the local nature. As a thank you, we use our way down to pick up and carry away anything that does not belong in nature, to make our trip beneficial not only for us, but also for the nature, as we explore these locations in accordance with the idea #ObjavUdržateľnéSlovensko(DiscoverSustainableSlovakia).
For the way down, we recommend using the already mentioned safer and less steep path. While waiting for the bus that will take us back to Ružomberok, we may use the services of the local refreshment establishments or the restaurant situated in the vicinity of the bus stop. For those of you who feel like your time in nature was not sufficient, you can visit a bench with a swing set which have been recently built at the periphery of the woods above the main road, from where you also get an interesting view of the village.
You may already start looking forward to the place we will explore on our next health-motivated trip.
The text was prepared by Milan Kolčák and Ján Benčík from the Ružomberok Information Centre.
This is the eighth article of the article series with subtitle “Nature as Therapy”.