As my bruises healed, my two week stop-over in Budapest was done. It was time for me to continue my hitchhiking journey. The whole world was available to me and I only had to choose which way to go. New and exciting places lay in every direction. Instead, I chose to go to a place that I had already visited. A small village in Slovakia. It’s where I met my Slovakian friend through couchsurfing, with whom I had only spent one night and decided that it wasn’t enough. He had told us that he would soon be hitching to India and both of us were keen to see him again before heading in opposite directions.
Many people had told me that Berlin was a pretty happening place and not being particularly fond of Germany, I decided to give it another chance. After a few hours of false starts by exiting the city in the wrong direction, we were on the road and a long way short of Slovakia as nightfall approached. Dropped at a ‘motorway’ exit, we entered the Slovakian border on foot and had to walk in the dark for a few hundred metres before finding lights to stand under. The border was fairly abandoned and car after car passed us by without any intention of stopping. I used a text to ask when the last train was from Bratislava to the local town where we could be picked up from. A response arrived and it turned out that we were running desperately short of time and in need of a lift very quickly to even have a chance of making the train. The world was frustrating me.
Then as often is the case, the world pleased me very much. A heavily bearded Hungarian man pulled over. His car was so full of things that I had to sit in the back and my friend in the boot seats (it was an estate). As we drove, we exchanged words in an unknown language and belongings toppled about the car. The man was going to Berlin and I quickly ‘explained’ that I wanted to go to Malacky, not Bratislava. A couple of hours later, we were dropped on the edge of town and I did a little dance to celebrate, only for my shoes to break. Once again, I needed new footwear.
We were picked up shortly afterwards, drank tea as people are wont to do when meeting with others, then slept.
Thinking back to the day when I first received a couch offer from my friend and I nearly didn’t accept it, I am very grateful that I did. We spent the next day climbing up to some ruins at the top of a hill, where we sat eating a picnic and drinking beer with an incredible view across Slovakia and into the neighbouring countries. If my father could have seen me standing (or urinating) off the edges, he would have started convulsing. In the hope that he is looking, here you are Dad.
There is a rumour that Slovakians can drink. It was previously unfounded, but now I have found it to be more than a little bit true. On the way home from our mini-hike and picnic, we stopped at a bar. Due to a lack of coherent Slovakian, we were somewhat unsure of what had been ordered for us. We were greeted with hruska and a beer each. Hruska is a Slovakian pear spirit and tastes surprisingly good. It wasn’t long before we headed to the local local bar which was very very local. Hence I said it twice.
We were greeted by old guys in their work sweats who sat drinking and smoking throughout the evening, wondering what the three strangers were doing in their pub. 80 pence pints and free poured hruska helped us forget about being misfits.
A semi fight broke out. A guy, shouting and making a fuss, leapt to his feet and started slamming things around. Expecting blows to be traded in a position that was obscuring the only exit, we waited patiently until the guy sat back down. Apparently he was talking mostly gibberish, his volatile nature wasn’t unexpected, and he was very drunk. Shortly afterwards, he fell asleep and had to leave. At this time, we could have left. But we didn’t.
The female member of our party was soon being bought shots by the locals who even bought beers for the boys to keep our company. This lasted a short while before I was having to help one of our party members up a ladder and into a tunnel slide. What followed was my first experience of seeing someone completely incapable of standing up. If I had have had my camera, it would already be on youtube.
The obvious thing to do when we got home, was clearly to cook dinner for the parents of our friend. The parents that we had never even met before turning up at their house in the evening, smelling of pear liquor. They didn’t want food, but the same certain member of our party decided that it would be rude not to cook and after nearly losing a fingertip and a small amount of blood, we indeed had a rather delicious dinner.
The following morning, we had a real meeting with the parents in which I hope that a much better impression was made. In search of fresh air, we headed to a second set of ruins and climbed once more. This time we bought more food than before. Quantities of cheese and crackers that were large enough to make us fall into food comas. Just how a picnic should be.
Like in a movie, a swarm of bugs materialised in front of us. As the black cloud reached us, clothes, food, and hair became entangled with the little beasties. We covered the food and ran to another peak on the ruin where we found a grave. It was a nice spot for a picnic. Similarly, it was a nice spot for a sleep after over indulging on Slovak cheese.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about fears. I have never considered myself to have a fear of snakes. However, I prefer to spend a lot of my time walking in bare feet which I think may have had an effect upon my reaction to encountering a snake. In one of the ruins, a great snake , probably 10 metres long and baring it’s fangs, leapt out the bushes at me. Panicked I leapt into the air to avoid it’s deadly bite. Or so it seemed. It may not have been quite 10 metres (maybe closer to 1), and it may have been a non-venemous grass snake, but I was inches away from standing on the thing. The horrible little thing actually slithered out of the rocks and under my falling foot. I leapt like a little girl. Thinking back, I am glad that I didn’t tread on the snake barefooted. Right now, I would probably hope for the same reaction of myself. Shortly afterwards, there was a second snake, but fortunately I wasn’t so near this one. I didn’t even see it and I don’t feel that I lost out.
We managed to return suitably sober and unbitten in the evening to have a meal cooked for us. Slovakian dumplings. Essentially it is a potato like substance, not dissimilar from gnocchi, smothered in a heart attack of Slovak cheese. Ultimately, absolutely delicious. Once again, I ate myself into a coma and was happy to be in a great place with even greater people. In the morning we would decide to go to Vienna and I knew that this would not be the last day I spent with my Slovakian friend. Fortunately for my story, it wasn’t.
I had no plans, no aims, no worries, no bills, no mortgage.. everything I ever wanted. Nothing at all.
I think you are a crazy bugger and one day you’ll overdo it just as you nearly did at Plitvica – but I hope you don’t and that you spend the rest of your life doing silly things and getting away with it until you become an old, old man.
All I can say, as your Dad, is be safe.
With all my love. Dad
I very much hope the same. Always be lucky.