After having dinner at the hotel the class went to an old village from the 16th century. The village were a reconstruction of a typical Slovakian village from the past. We followed a guide who told us about how the people in the past used to live in the area. It was similar to how people lived in the old days. The tour ended with a music show of classical Slovakian folkmusic. A family of 5 played music, sang and danced for us. They then invited us to join in the dancing.
The houses were timbered and most of them were finished with clay and plastered white. Some of the houses were built of such large trees that they only used three trees to build an entire house.
This was an old church from the 16th century. We had the opportunity to play on the old organ which sounded a bit out of tune.
The performers were dressed in traditional clothing and played violin, accordion, a type of bagpipe and other instruments. They danced with axes and sang songs from the region.
We are currently sitting in terminal 4 at Arlanda airport waiting for the flight to Umeå, after a week in Slovakia we will never forget.
Best regards / Erik, Linda, Joel, Tobias, Anton and Linn.
In the afternoon we met two ecologists with a lecture about management of the forest in the Tatra region called Babia Hora. In order to create the best biodiversity their way of managing the forest is to do nothing. They also had ideas about increasing the level five protected areas in the country from todays 0,5% to (at least) 5%.
Conflicts arise from lack of communication between the two ministries managing either the silviculture or the nature reserves. The ecologist desire two levels of management were one level is regular silviculture and the other is leaved completely untouched. Even if a barkbeetle outburst occurs there should not be any sanitation cutting (according to the ecologist). They feel that in these level five areas the nature should manage itself. Here is where the conflicts with regular silvicultural management occur because the bark beetle don´t care about borders. The silvicultural forests will then be infected also by the bark beetle and the forest management primarily work will be affected due to sanitation cutting taking up all the time and money.
After the lecture we went out to see a peat bog. These peat bog areas in the Babia Hora area can be of two types, either with forest growing or without. These two types are important to the area due to a unique species composition.
These ecologists want to increase the amount of protected level five forests because it’s nice. Just nice. And maybe also the opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna in the forests.
This morning we went to visit Mondi, a pulp mill in Ružomberok, Northern Slovakia. Mondi is a South African company and the name of the company comes from a white South African flower. Monti is also represented in Sweden with a pulp mill in Dynäs and Örebro so the company name was familiar to us.
The plant in Ružomberok consist of four paper mills today. Where they produce approximatly 600 000 t/year of paper, mainly office paper of the sizes A3 and A4 with 2 different qualities. The whole production line from pulp wood to packaging is done within the plant. The plant not only deliver paper they also deliver electricy and heat to the nearby community. The heat is produced from burning rest products from the production like bark and chemicals and turbines are placed in the production line to provide electricity.The mill we entered (PM18) was the biggest and most productive mill (370 000 t/year) on the plant. Inside we saw high level of developement and a very modern mill, comparable with the ones we have in Sweden. We saw robots that were similar to the ones in the movie ”Lilla Jönssonligan och Cornflakeskuppen”.
There are 1100 employees on the plant mainly from Slovak but also from Austria for some reason. The employees work in 3 shifts 0-24 all year.
The pulp consists almost fully of short fibres (hard wood) but also little long fibres (soft wood). Some of the soft wood is imported from Scandinavia including Sweden, the total import was around 10 %. The wood used in the plant is PEFC/FSC certified.
The largest clients was Western Europe (with Germany at the top) but also Northern Europe. The products from the plant are beeing sold with different names depending on the client, some of the names where Master, Dolphin, IQ Economy and EM Multifunction Paper.
The future for the plant seemed to be bright. They are planning a future investment in a new mill to produce two layered paper for packaging that will higher the production of paper per year to 1 000 000 t (two years from now). In this new mill it will be possible to mix in recycled paper in the pulp something that they didn’t do at the moment.
We got the impression that it was a very high security level and the people leaving the plant had to open their trunk to pass the exit. The impression was also that it was a very clean plant and a process all in order.
Andreas, Frida, Johan, Malin & Nils
This scenic day was wrapped up with a Falconry show performed by former students from the forestry University in Zvolen.
Falconry origins from Mongolia and was a hunting method, where humans were able to cover great hunting areas by using birds of prey as a tool and companion. Traditionally the owner of a bird of prey was highly regarded in society and this way of hunting was a privilege for just a few. We were told that one of Slovakias biggest castles was once traded for two falcons, which gives an indication of the historical value of falconry in Slovakia. In that time a human life was worth less than the life of a falcon.
Today falconry has spread around the world and it’s practiced in Slovakia as a hunting method and a sport. Historically falconry also existed in Sweden but is now forbidden with few exceptions as it is regarded to be a potential threat to the falcon gene pool. It has also encouraged illegal poaching of eggs. To be allowed to perform falconry in Slovakia, you need a falconry license and a hunting license. Our host could not understand the Swedish point of view regarding ethical and ecological issues. Instead he thought that it was a natural way to hunt with animals as falconry is based on the natural instinct of the birds.
We got to see a Step Eagle, a Saker Falcon, two Ravens, a hawk and finally an Owl who were trained by the students
Before lunch we had the opportunity to see how they historically transported firewood from the hills down to the villages. The waterslide was in its entirety constructed by spruce and fir wood and it was about 2,5 kilometres long and was going from 700 meters down to 523 meter over sea level. We followed the slide upstream for 1 km, witnessing the manual labour needed in order to smoothly transport logs down hill, roughly 80 men. Nowadays it is only used as a tourist attraction and to keep the cultural heritage alive, it is the only transport slide in Europe still in use. Earlier in the morning a forester in another community forest briefly mentioned that there are quite a few predators in Slovakia; wolves, bears, lynx, wildcat etc. Just before we turned around we spotted the remains of a deer taken by a predator, possibly a wolf.
Miniature of the wooden waterslide construction
After a very needed lunch consisting of goulash soup, bread with pork fat and onion, coffee and a blueberry cake we were ready to head out to the forest again, where we met a representative of a community forest just close to Zvolen, He showed us a forest consisting of silver fir and beech among all. There was trees of silver fir that had a stem volume over 20 cubic meters per tree, huge trees! The trees were used as seed sources for the nursery. In order to acquire the seeds, the workers climb the 40m high trees. The nursery produces a few thousand seedlings each year and it supports the nearby area with bare root plants. In this community forest they aim to have a natural regeneration forest. The man that was our guide for the afternoon showed us a beech stand were they had open up the stand for the second time to let a natural regeneration of beech come up. What differs from our way to manage a beech stand is that they cut out the trees with large crown instead of the ones with narrow crowns.
Today we started the morning by visiting Edoard Apfel, who were a forester in the municipal forest of Banská Bystrica. We took a short walk in the forest to a cliff over a valley and there we got to know more about the forest. Among other things, he told us that the city was given the forest by the king in 1245 to supply the mining industry in the city with charcoal. Since then, the forest has changed ownership several times, but in 1994 it was given back to the city. The forest stands on a partly volcanic bedrock, which makes it very productive. At the same time the terrain is very steep, as a matter of fact, the steepest terrain used for forestry in whole Slovakia. Due to the steep terrain, the timber needs to be taken out by cable ways and therefore it is called cable way terrain. Because of the high cutting costs, the reforestation is done by natural regeneration. This is a part of a management philosophy, were you aim to imitate natural processes in the whole rotation period.
Large areas of the forest are unmanaged and has therefore worked as refuges for rare species, such as the Yew tree (Taxus pracata). Even though the tree is poisonous it is very popular among many browsers. This together with the fact that it is dioic (male and female trees) and extremely sparsly distributed makes conservation both necessary and difficult.
There are dense populations of predators in the area such as bear, wolf, eagle, lynx and wildcat. The forester had seen two wolfs the same morning, running across the road and playing around on a field. In contradiction to many swedish colleges did he appreciate the wolf as a helper in managing the forest.
Due to climate change, intense storms has been more common in the whole of Slovakia. The forest had been hit by severe storms in 2004, 2013 and 2014. This have had an impact on the silviculture in this area. For example, the thinnings has changed from removing large trees to removing small trees. Spruce stands are today taken down and regenerated at the age of 50 years instead of 80 years. By the time Edoard had told us all this, we had been standing on the same spot for over two hours and it had started to snow a little bit. Since we had been walking a lot the days before, people were not prepared for standing still for such a long time and we were eager to get back to the bus.
At Saturday we visited a virgin forest, but to our surprise it was not allowed to enter the untouched, non-harvested, virgin forest. We were hiking in the buffer zone along the border because the virgin forest has protection level 5, which means that it is totally protected and no human are allowed to enter the area. The buffer zone has a lower grade of protection which means that some forest operations are allowed. The buffer zone mostly consist of Picea Abies, and the forest manager sad that it was around 800m3/ha(!). The forest manager said that he would cry, if they had to manage the forest like we do in Sweden, with large clear-cuts areas. They only did some selection-felling and all the regeneration consist only of natural regeneration.
Moments from saturdays excursion are summarized in a movie:
Moments from saturday
/ Sofia, Edward, Marcus, Olof, Martin, Ellinor (grp 7)
When we got to the hotel in Zvolen and everyone had checked in we decided to evaluate the city of Zvolen. The square is the longest in Slovakia and featured an abundance of shops, restaurants and bars.
For most of us the night ended at a techno club called Ministry of fun were we danced until closing time at 4am, the club lived up to everyones expectation of how a techno club in Slovakia should be.
The third day in Slovakia started with a bustrip to the town Cierny Balog where we visited a forestry museum and an old timber railway. We were welcomed with a traditional snaps and a piece of bread with a spread of lard and onions. Most of us preferred the snaps over the lard sandwich.
Thereafter we got to travel with an old train on an old railway that originally were used for transporting wood throughout the district. Since the road network got established and transportation by trucks became more economical the railway has been used for tourism.
The spruce forest around the forest museum were pretty impressive, this forest were around 80 years old and had a mean height of 33 meters.
The open air museum Vydrovo – Skanzen was an outdoor museum with trails in the forest where we got to see everything from huts made for storing seedlings in the forest to forestry machines used in forestry until modern times.
A small hut that were filled with snow to create a cold storage for seedlings before planting.
The manager of the museum followed us on the trail and told us about the different exhibits.
A skidder, a machine used til this day in Slovakian forestry for transporting timber in the hilly terrains.
A log-slide used to send timber from steep mountains down to roads below for further transport.
Old timber-train used for transporting wood throughout the valley.
// Erik, Joel, Linda, Linn, Tobias, Anton, André, Nils and Daniel.
After the sawmill we visited a place that was located in a zone 2 area on the border between the low Tatras and the high Tatras. Road E50 makes up the boarder and next to the road we watched planting of spruce and larch seedlings. Here in Slovakia they only plant conifers next to big roads in order to reduce leaves on the road. The workers that planted the seedlings were hired students from the forest program.
Next to the place of the plantation there was a river running from the high Tatras. The river is home to the rainbow trout, which is a native species of Slovakia. It is forbidden to put in any other species in the river, but there are some problems with illegal realise of non-native fishes.
After looking at the plantation we went to the community forest, which is a 1200-hectare area collectively owed by 1700 people. They don´t own a specific part of the land instead the division is based on shares. We found it quite interesting that shares of Slovakian forests are still under redistribution to its rightful owners after having belonged to the state for several years. This has lead to a situation where parts of the community forest now belong to deceased people who cannot “contribute” to the forest management. When timber is harvested in the community forest, any profit is divided between owners. Owner’s who are not taking active part in the management, receive lower net revenue because of a fine.
When the decision has been made to harvest a stand, it is done in steps and initially a 30 x 100 m stripe is cut out. The size of the “clear-cut” is limited to 0.3 hectares by Slovakian law. From a Swedish point of view this is unconventional and maybe ineffective? Considering the low cost of machinery transportation this may however be viable. Within a year from the first harvest another 30 m is thinned in order for natural generation to reforest the area. The thinning is done with an intensity of about 50 % of the standing volume. If this natural regeneration is successful, the forest manager can decide that a cable method is used to protect seedlings. Timber is then skidded to the road side stock pile where buyers can collect it.
/Pia, Moa, Anders, Oskar, Jonatan & Karl