to the mountain lake, and on to the stars: following the trail of the matchbox label

4131de081e28345f4edd5be48e1c9fe7OK. There’s this matchbox label.  It’s well designed, and there’s kind of an interesting font, and there’s something oddly mysterious about it.  It seems to celebrate an altitude–there’s something important somewhere that is 1761 meters above sea level. (That’s 1.094 miles, so it’s a mile high sort of place.)

This mystery might have remained just that in the days before the internet. It’s interesting enough, but not worth a trip to the public library and an afternoon spent plowing through all the multilingual dictionaries trying to even identify  the language. (My first guess would be Czech.) But in this new world, you just have to ask.

It’s not Czech, it’s Slovak. Skalneté Pleso is a place, a resort in the Tatra mountains in what is now Slovakia; the name translates as “rocky mountain-lake” or Rocky Tarn in English.  Its most notable feature is a gondola lift dating back to the early 1950’s and ending in this handsome structure at 1761m above sea level.


To the left of the image is Skalnaté Pleso’s other claim to fame, the Skalnaté Pleso Observatory, home of the Skalnaté Pleso Atlas of the Heavens, a star atlas still widely used by amateur astronomers.

“Encián” is the Slovak word for gentian, any of a group of small blue and purple flowers that grow in the mountains in Europe.


There are a number of businesses in Skalnaté Pleso by that name, any of which could have provided matches with this label, including a hotel, a bed and breakfast, and the Galerie Encián, located in the now restored historic building at the top of the lift.

Around the world with matchbox labels by way of the internet …

When visiting Skalnaté Pleso, why not stay at the Penzión Encián? Good for groups, cozy, casual, kid friendly, serves beer, serves wine.

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