While I had planned today to try and rent a bike and cruise around the base of the mountain range here, when I looked out the window this morning I saw that it was pouring rain and all my outdoor activities would have to wait. I had to leave the room I’d been in the last couple of nights because a family was coming in for Easter and they had made a reservation months ago. The hotel owner had found me a room in a cheaper establishment across the street, and while I’ll miss all the swank 70’s furniture, saving money never hurt either. After breakfast I packed up my stuff and headed through the rain a couple of blocks to Hotel MS-70, where they were expecting me and had a room ready. Geez, the Slovak’s are sweet, too bad I can’t carry on a conversation with any of them.
With the rain bumming out my day, I spent the morning and early afternoon in my room writing in my journal, reading and towards 1 o’clock I had a couple of glasses of wine from the bottle had bought the other night. Around two thirty I decided to push through the rain to see if I could find some lunch with a glass of wine and get back to the bar for an afternoon scotch and some internet time. I think it was around this time that with nothing to do all day I decided it was a fine day to tie one on. A couple hours and a couple scotches later I went outside to head back to my room and guess what? The sun finally came out for the late afternoon. I was slightly intoxicated but still managed to take a few pictures. When I got back to my room I took a shower, finished my bottle of wine, and decided that if I was going to spend the whole day overindulging it might as well be with food too. I got dresses and went out for a night on the town, supposing I could find anyone else to party with.
I headed back to Svist, the restaurant that I ate at my frist night, ordered Red Bull and vodka (so I could stay up all night to party) and a pork dish with gravy. When the cute waitress (who spoke no English, I tried) brought out my first drink I immediately ordered another (a 4 milliliter pour! That’s barely more than an ounce!). I had 3 before she brought out my food and finally ordered a double with dinner. I ate and drank and was merry. After my meal I ordered another double and set up my game plan for the night. I had seen a sign that one of the pubs in town was doing a Depeche Mode video marathon, and since I like Depeche Mode, and it would give me something to do If there was no one in the bar I decided to go there. My bill came, I paid for my dinner, 3 Red Bulls, and 7 Vodkas (At 4 milliliters a pour, that’s 28 ml. About 9 ounces not really that much at all…) all for $28 and began my stagger a few blocks to the pub.
On the way there I said hello to everyone I passed until two Hungarians started talking to me in English. Woo-hoo! They were headed the same way as me so when we got to the bar I ordered the first round of beers and began talking to some ladies who spoke broken English (the best type). The Hungarians decided we needed shot after shot of whiskey to go with our beers, so soon I was kind of drunk. The time flew by and before we knew it, it was 1 am and they were closing. I had 3 Red Bulls with dinner and I almost never drink caffeine, so I was quite wired and not ready for bed. We found that there was a disco on the other side of town, so we gathered our group and went out dancing. More drinks flowed. I danced and talked to everyone and soon we were stumbling back to the hotel at 4 am.
At the end of this rainy day I realized that I managed to turn a day that had a rough start into something wonderful. A day of excess.
Hiking the entire surrounding area was the plan for the day. After a huge breakfast made for me by the woman who runs the place I’m staying I headed across town to get a lift on one of the local cable trains to the top of one of the smaller peaks (Hrebienok) in the area. My first hike was only downhill about a mile and a half through some of the windswept area of the Tatra region. It was quite bleak, but it still smelled wonderful. When I got back to Stary Smokovec, I hit the market to get a bottle of water and pack myself a lunch for later today. The next section of my days hiking was 9 kilometers into the next town of Tatraska Lomnica, I saw all kind of cool stuff on the way there, like more trees and a ski jumping practice area, where I ate lunch of some dried apricots, bread, smoked cheese and water.
When I got to Tatraska Lomnica it was still early so I decided to take the cable cars to Lomnicky Stit (2634 meters/8692 feet), the highest peak in the Carpathians mountains, and the highest point in central Europe. It took two separate cable cars to get to the top, while I was sitting in the first one I realized something smelled, I couldn’t figure out what it was (my pants aren’t exactly clean, but I didn’t shit in them), I look down and guess what? Yeap, Robs stuck in a 15 minute cable car ride with crap on his shoe. I was just glad I was alone in there and no one else had to smell me.
When I got the midpoint, I was told I had a 45 minute wait until the next cable car goes to the summit, so I just settled in with a beer and took in the view (this is of course after I drug my shoe through the snow to get the shit off of it). This by far has been the most expensive thing I have done so far in Slovakia, 650 skk ($22), but when I got into the second cable car which took us to the top I realized why, The car had no suspension towers just cable going into the clouds for a 1000 meter climb. I was slightly freaky, I just wish my dad was there with me so we could have swung the car while hanging over a 1000 meter drop. At the top the views were impressive, although it was slightly cloudy and cold, I was still stunned by the sheer drops that I was on top of. We (the 7 of us in my group) spent about half an hour on top and then loaded back into the cable cars for our decent.
When I arrived back in Tatraska Lomnica, I went to get on the tram instead of walking the 9 kilometers back. I got back to my room, showered and went out to have a scotch & water, and do my daily blogging at the bar with free WiFi. By now I was felling a little awkward in my stomach, I think it was the bag of dried apricots, and if the scotch hadn’t settled it the last thing I needed was more food. So for dinner I just had a bowl of soup and a glass of tea. Today went pretty much as planned but I am quite sure I will be a little sore in the morning from all the walking.
I was up early enough to catch the early train (9:34am) to Stary Smokovec, The supposed outdoor hot spot of Slovakia. I could have waited until the 10:20am train but since they both arrived about 5 minutes apart and the first one is half the price I packed my bag and made my way to the train station to spend 5 hours riding the rails across Slovakia.
An uneventful train ride later I arrived in what seemed to be an abandoned tourist town, that a tornado had recently hit (all the pine trees were blown over for about 15 kilometers). It was cold, so cold that I had to dig out my big jacket from the bottom of my bag (sure am glad I didn’t ditch it last week when I had a inkling to). I walked the ¼ mile to a pension that my Lonely Planet had suggested, and guess what? In a town full of hotels I’m not the only one with a Lonely Plant guide, they told me that they only had room for one night, but something might change in the next couple of hours. I just wanted a shower and to change the dirty clothes I was wearing for some other dirty clothes, so I took it and hoped they might have space tomorrow. I cleaned up, asked the owner at the front where a good restaurant is (he gave me a map), and took a walk through the little town.
I found a supermarket where I bought a bottle of wine (I can hope, I mean I do have my own room I should be prepared for company), and found a bar with free Wireless Internet. I had a beer and uploaded yesterdays blog. I chatted online with my brother-in-law (Josh), and my friends Ed and Joanna. I was getting a little hungry so I headed to the “Best Restaurant” in town (according to the guy at the front desk). It’s funny because I’m on a budget and I can still have a great meal in the towns best restaurant and only spend $12. For my $12 I had Garlic Cheese Soup, and The Tatra Special (Tatra is this mountain region). The Tatra Special was a plate of 4 types of meat (Sirloin, Chicken breast, Pork Cutlets, and Bratwurst) and fried potatoes. Quite sinful and I feel like I am going to gain all that weight back that I lost a couple of years ago. But it sure tastes good.
I headed back to my room as the sun was going down, when I got to the hotel they told me they had room for all three nights but on the third night I was going to have to change rooms, no problem, I just hope my new room has even better 70’s décor (it came complete with fake orange animal shag rugs). I spent a couple of hours listening to music on my computer, I had a glass of wine (alone, I didn’t see any ladies around) and read Hemingway for a while then called it an early night because I was planning on a bit of hiking tomorrow. Supposedly the town is going to fill up in the next couple of nights for Easter weekend, I sure hope so.
So all I really want today is to see the castle, wander the old town and eat another great Slovak meal. I grabbed my camera and a couple of lenses and headed out the door not even bothering to look out the window. I make it about 10 steps out the front door and turn around. It’s freaking cold and wet outside! I have been spoiled with beautiful weather the last couple of days. I go back to my room and change into my dirty Dickies, and put on my sweater, hoping the combination will be enough to keep me warm on the cold Slovakian April day. It wasn’t, but I was half way to the Castle by the time the driving rain started coming down and I’d be damned if I was going back. After a few wrong turns I made it up the hill to the castle which supposedly had a museum inside. Soaking wet I paid for my ticket (1/2 price for students of course, that card has already paid its way in my pocket.) wondering what I’d get to see in here.
I went up the 3 flights of stairs and wandered though room after room of Slovakian furniture and silverware. Boring (no offense to you silverware connoisseurs out there). Then I stumbled into what I found the most interesting, two rooms full of the history of Slovakian war and its weaponry. Mostly weaponry. It turns out for about 300 years, from the 16th Century to the 19th, Slovakia was a battle ground for the Turks, Hungarians and Europeans. This cause Slovakia to be on the forefront of war technology for that entire time period, it was not uncommon for everyone to walk around armed because they never knew when another battle would break out (there you go dad, I threw some history in). I can see why everyone here seems so peaceful now, hundreds of years of war drains it from a culture and only leaves room for Sunday afternoon walks and handholding, although I don’t claim to be an expert so don’t quote me.
I headed back to the hostel through what seemed to be sleet and went to my room dripping wet to do a little writing and shower (just to let everyone know, in hostels I prefer to shower in the afternoons for two reasons; 1: the usually have just been cleaned, 2: If I am leaving the hostel I won’t have to pack my towel wet in my bag) before my Slovakian meal that I am planning to eat later this afternoon.
I had a great lunch of more dark beer, mutton goulash and pork shnitzil, it was great. Since the weather was still crap, and I was too stuffed to do anything else I walked the ½ hour back to the movie theatre and saw Inside Man. After the walk, and the beer in the theatre (which I bought there for $1.25!), I was feeling great. When I went outside the wind had died down and the walk back was so nice that I even stopped to take a few pictures. I stopped by The Slang Bar, where on of the guys in my room said he may be, but no luck so I just headed back. When I got to my room I found 8 Mexicans, who have been studying in Germany, having a little party, complete with absinthe. I had a few drinks, but unfortunately not green fairies, just a bad taste left in my throat. We had to wrap the little gathering up around midnight when one of the hostel staff came up and told us we were being to load. I just went off to bed, I think some of them headed out for a huge night on the town.
6am: I wake up to the church bells and have to piss.
6:05am: I get up walk out the door to my room to the bathroom in the hall wearing only my boxers and the door to my room locks behind me. Damn.
6:06am: I pee
6:07am: I gently knock on the door trying not to wake everyone in the room.
6:15am: No one has heard me so my knocks get slightly more insistent. More church bells.
6:24am: I huddle in the corner near the door just hoping someone else has to piss soon.
6:27am: I am freezing and spend another few minutes knocking loudly. Still no one hears.
6:33am: Huddled in the corner once more.
6:37am: I think I hear someone inside moving around so I stand back up and a knock again.
6:39am: Still no one
6:41am: I pee again (nothing better to do)
6:45am: God damn bells won’t stop ringing telling me how much sleep I’m missing. I knock again.
6:52am: Some guy finally comes out to pee. He asks me “Were you locked out?” I nod, and he asks “Why didn’t you knock?” (I only responded with a sigh)
6:54am: Back in my bed where all the sheets have gone cold.
7:00am: More damn bells just as I start to fall back asleep.
7:02am: Finally fall back asleep.
I started my day today around 9 am after a rough twelve hours of sleep (sarcasm), but I felt refreshed and knew I should keep up with the relaxing vibe for a day or two more to get myself back in shape mentally. I took my computer downstairs and spent an hour in the common room writing up the last couple of days of blogs, then decided to head to a little café that I noticed had free WiFi and breakfast. I had Ham and Eggs and Tea, and an hour of free internet all for about $3.25. I was off to a good start for the day.
I had a few of goals for the day; do my laundry, take a walk, go to the movies, and take some cool nighttime pictures of the Bratislava Castle. I started with a walk to see if I could find movie theatres and times. I walked probably 5 miles, found a couple of theatres with movies tonight, and I was getting a little worn out so I headed back to the hostel to try to get my laundry done. This hostel has free laundry, but you have to go to the store and buy your own detergent, the girl at the front desk told me that the machine was free (they only have one that takes 2 hours) so I ran across the street and bought a box of Tide but unfortunately the machine was full already so I had a two hour wait until I could use it. I went to my room and took a shower and ran down the street to have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. I headed back to see if I could wash my clothes yet and guess what? Yeap, someone took cuts! Well I gave up this goal for the time being and just washed a few things in the sink and hung them out to dry. I am ok with my sink-washed clothes for a few days.
It was only four in the afternoon but I decided to head to the big mall where the theatre was to see if I could find a new book to read because I finally finished Huck Finn. The selection of English books wasn’t great but I found a book of Hemingway’s short stories, which I took to the park outside and read while drinking a canned coffee drink and enjoying the great weather.
At after an hour of reading I headed into the trendy café inside the movie theatre and bought a ticket to Firewall with Harrison Ford (I saved a $1 because of my student card) which started in about 20 minutes.
After the movie I headed back across the Dunabe (the river) and spent ½ an hour getting my shots of the castle at night. Quite proud of myself for accomplishing 3 out of 4 of my goals for the day, I headed back to the hostel to check my email and the stocks I recently purchased (I’ve made like $400 on Google and Fedex in the last 10 days). I headed off to bed hoping to make it up the hill to check out the castle tomorrow.
(Oh and by the way, sorry I let everyone down and didn’t drink today.)
I woke up a little hung over from another rough night in Budapest, it was around 7:30am and even though I had only slept a few hours I wanted to get a train north as soon as possible. I gathered my stuff, returned my keys, paid my bill and headed off to the train station. After a few subway stops I arrived at the train station and realized that it was the wrong station. I checked a map and found that there were 3 train stations in Budapest and I was standing at the one that sent trains south, the one I want was on the other side of town two metro lines away. Bummer.
I finally arrived at the right train station around 9:45am and found the ticket counter and bought my ticket for a train that was leaving in one hour. I wondered around the train station spending the last of my Hungarian money on a couple of sandwiches for the train and a bottle of water.
The train ride was uneventful, I just slept and listened to my Ipod. When I got into Bratislava it was a beautiful day so I decided to walk the 2 kilometers to a hostel, instead of taking yet more public transportation. A few wrong turns later I got to the hostel, who told me they wouldn’t know if they’d have room until six pm, I asked if I could leave my big bag and headed out for three hours of wondering before I could find out if I had a place to sleep.
Bratislava is more my type of city. It has around a ½ million people, its clean, everyone seems to be a lot more relaxed and beers in a bar only cost $0.75. It was Sunday afternoon (I only know this because yesterday on the phone mom told me it was Saturday, which I didn’t realize) and all the Slovakians were out for an afternoon stroll and it made the city seem to have a real quiet peace to it. I just enjoyed my walk and around 5:30pm I headed back in the direction of the hostel to see if I had a bed for the night.
All full, I had nowhere to sleep. They did give me directions to another hostel about a kilometer away, so I decided to navigate for myself and two Canadian girls who also found out that they had nowhere to sleep. We talked about our trips and tried not to trip over all the construction here in Bratislava, until we finally arrived at the Patio Hostel, who had plenty of room and is actually closer to the city center. Score.
I was exhausted from the late night last night, the travel today, and the afternoon walking around in the sun, so I decided a shower was in order followed quickly by dinner and an early night in bed. For dinner I had a mutton goulash, tomato salad, and a chicken breast covered in potatoes, mushrooms and a cream sauce. It was tasty. I strait lined it back to the hostel and was in bed by 9:30. It was an early night, but I am feeling a little restored about my trip. I had spent to many days in a row in big cities (Istanbul and Budapest).