Kriváň is a mountain in the High Tatras, Slovakia, that dominates the upper part of the former Liptov County. Multiple surveys among nature lovers have ranked it as the country's most beautiful peak. Readily accessible along maintained marked trails and with the exceptional vistas afforded from its summit, it is the hikers' favorite mountain in the western part of the High Tatras. Kriváň has also been a major symbol in Slovak ethnic and national activism for the past two centuries. It has been referenced in works of art from 19th-century literature, through paintings, film documentaries, to a Polish rock track. A country-wide vote in 2005 selected it to be one of the images on Slovakia's euro coins.
[Kriváň] is generally said to be the highest of all the Alps in the Carpathian chain; but this opinion is not supposed to be founded upon any measurement.
The relative elevations of the two mountains were determined by the Scottish physician Robert Townson, who ascended both peaks in August 1793 and also made an early recorded comment on Kriváň's aesthetic appeal:
The weather was very fine, and the Krivan, having got in the night a cap of snow, looked sublime. [...] 1888 yards above the village of Vasetz [Važec]; the Krivan is therefore something lower than the Lomnitz Peak [Lomnický štít].
The exact elevation of Kriváň is currently recognized as 2,494.7 m (8,184.7 ft.)
The Scottish doctor Townson who ascended it in 1793 provided some evidence that Kriváň was already a recognized occasional destination for tourists in the second half of the 18th century. His guide from Važec had been to the top several times before and Townson saw him collect small coins from under a summit stone where hikers would leave them for luck. The first recorded ascent of Kriváň was by the Lutheran Pastor Andreas Jonas Czirbes from Spišská Nová Ves on 4 August 1773.
The first celebrity to ascend Kriváň was to be the 30-year-old Habsburg Archduke Joseph in 1806, but the plan was abandoned due to inclement weather although parts of the winding road to the old gold mine high on the slopes had already been improved and a campsite built. The first VIP actually to reach the summit was the 43-year-old King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony in 1840. The plaque placed at the top to commemorate the first monarch who stood there was gradually destroyed by activists in the 1850s-1860s, who would have wished the inscription to include a comment in Slovak and who objected to where the inscription spoke of the Hungarian (ethnic) nation in reference to all the subjects of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Lower nobleman Gašpar Fejérpataky Belopotocký, an influential publisher based at Liptovský Mikuláš merely 20 miles from Kriváň, and his six friends climbed to the top of Kriváň on 24 Sept. 1835, which he described in the literary journal Hronka in 1837. The account may have stimulated its readers who lived farther away to follow their steps.
The ascent that became most memorable in Slovak culture was by Ľudovít Štúr, then a 25-year old teaching assistant of Slovak at the Bratislava Lutheran Lýceum (a preparatory high school and college). In the summer of 1841 he traveled through the Slovak counties with his private Greek student Prince Aristarchos and stopped at Michal Miloslav Hodža's parish at Liptovský Mikuláš, whose younger brother Juraj was Štúr's student at the lýceum. Štúr and a group of locals, Fejérpataky Belopotocký among them, hiked to the top of Kriváň on 16 August, its first recorded ascent that included women.
A similar hike, without Štúr, took place the following year, and then sporadically later. Their organizers called them "national excursions" with increasing frequency. They were constituted as an annual late-August event by the authorities at Poprad in 1955 in order to commemorate the anniversary of the uprising of 1944. The attendance reached 480 people in 1981. They have continued with a broader national designation through the present. The National Ascent of Kriváň (Národný výstup na Kriváň) is an annual two-day event on the third weekend in August organized by the Slovak Tourist Club, Matica slovenská, and the towns of Vysoké Tatry and Liptovský Mikuláš. The number of persons allowed to ascend the summit on each of the event days is limited to 300.
The historical winding road built by miners for horse-drawn ore carts and used by hikers in the past, including the participants of the revered 1841 excursion, is between the green and blue trails and links up with the green trail above the timberline below Priehyba Ridge. The road is not marked, the Tatra National Park management decreed it off limits. It is partly obscured by shrubby mountain pines at higher elevations.
Kriváň has been favored by those appreciative of its aesthetic and historical allure, as well as by those who seek vistas from the top. Polls of nature lovers at large as well as of connoisseurs have consistently rated it as Slovakia's most beautiful mountain. The 360-degree view from the top is among the best in Slovakia with the scenery ranging from the populated valleys of upper Liptov, Spiš, and distant parts of Podhale, to the rugged drops of its north face, and many of the notable peaks of the Tatras including Giewont over Zakopane, Rysy, Lomnický štít, and Gerlach, the highest peak of the Carpathians. The panorama is framed by the Western and Low Tatras, and by mountain ranges beyond them in good visibility.
After lower nobleman Gašpar Fejérpataky Belopotocký (1794-1874) published an account of his 1835 ascent of Kriváň in the literary journal Hronka in 1837, its editor-in-chief Karol Kuzmány (1806-1866) wrote the novella Ladislav (1838), whose title character, taking the long way home from Italy via Germany and the Polish Podhale, hikes to the summit of Kriváň where he and his friends talk about brotherhood among the Slavs, sing ethnically-nationally arousing songs, and imbibe Tokaj wine. Both works may have motivated the hike by Ľudovít Štúr and friends in 1841 that inspired him to write two poems published in 1842. Romantic poets soon became fervent admirers of the eye-catching mountain. Eugen V. Šparnensis (1827-after 1853) called Kriváň a marker of his homeland, the Slovaks were "Kriváň's children" for Janko Kráľ, Samo Chalupka's poem saw the mountain as a symbol of their place among the nations.
The significance the intellectuals began to ascribe to Kriváň and its images they created were gradually adopted by popular culture. An early instance is the poem Oh, Below Kriváň (Hej, pod Kriváňom; originally: Hej, pod Muráňom) by Samuel Tomášik (1813-1887), which came to be seen as an anonymous folk song and is sometimes featured as such on folk albums. Likewise, the Polish poem Kriváň, High Kriváň! (Krywaniu, Krywaniu wysoki!) by Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer was labeled as a folk song and the author of the verses was not credited when its rock version by Skaldowie was released in 1972.
The short film Up the North Face of Kriváň (Severnou stenou na Kriváň; 1947) directed by Karol Skřipský with original music by Šimon Jurovský documented the first winter ascent of the Kriváň North Face, which, unlike the southern slopes of the massif, requires technical climbing. The mountain featured as an attractive backdrop in several films including Native Country (Rodná zem; dir. Josef Mach, 1954). It has appeared in numerous paintings, including by Ján Hála (1946), Miloš Alexander Bazovský (1956), Andrej Doboš (1967), and Ladislav Čemický (1979). The role of Kriváň in popular awareness and high culture was highlighted when a country-wide vote in 2005 selected it to be one of the images on Slovakia's euro coins.