Here Comes The Planet 23 – Ždiar

We move on to Slovakia, and the sleepy little town of Ždiar. We go walking over hills and rivers, with the snow-capped mountains a constant and fantastic backdrop. We stay at the cosy Ginger Monkey hostel, and enjoy spending time with everyone there, but especially with the hostel dog Wally! Unfortunately poor Wally gets in to some strife while we are there (be forewarned, there’s a shot of him looking pretty miserable!) but he has since recovered nicely and is already back to his rock-chasing self. 🙂

Also, I wrote the song for this episode over a few hours today. It’s rough and basic, but I kinda dig it! Enough to put it up on Soundcloud, anyway. 😉 If you’d like to listen or even download it, here’s the link:

Comments and feedback appreciated, as always. 😉 Enjoy!

Farewell Zdiar, Hello Bratislava!

The last few days at the Ginger Monkey were pleasant and, thankfully, uneventful.

The front of the Ginger Monkey.

View from the front of the hostel.

Wally (the hostel’s dog) had come home from the vet (he’d been bitten on the face by a venomous snake) and then been let out (unwittingly by one of the Canadian girls who’d been on the walk where he’d been bitten… I mean… god, I’m not surprised they felt massively guilty even though, of course, none of it was intentional) and not come back for over 24 hours. In fact, he didn’t really come back at all. Danka, the manager (and continuing apologies if I’m spelling your name wrong, Danka) went out to find him sitting by the side of the road, probably debating the various merits of avoiding the vet and possibly dying or going to the vet and getting more injections.

Wally, not looking too happy.

In the midst of all this a new employee for the hostel, Mel, arrived. God knows what she thought of it all. The Ginger Monkey has really stood out to me as completely unlike every swish, modern, 100-room, multi-floor hostel we’ve stayed in so far. It feels a lot more like staying in some kind of log cabin share house, where everything is a bit dodgy but the people are really nice. Asa, the other employee (in fact, I’m not sure Asa and Mel get paid, it’s a few hour’s work for board… maybe? Feel free to correct me, Mel) had only been at the hostel for 3 days when we arrived. Danka had been the manager for 3 months. The owners were currently traveling… it was all a bit Fawlty Towers, tbh.

The kitchen. Note the little cuckoo clock under the red fairy lights. It scared the bejesus out of everyone on the hour with it’s loud monkey noises.

Oh, did I mention that there was a church next door that spent 5 minutes, morning and night letting us know when it was six o’clock? Why six I have no idea. Alternate peals at eight or nine would’ve been more civilised but that’s not what churches are about, I suppose.  And don’t get me started on Sundays, when it was every hour, if not half hour. There was also, even more mysteriously, the loudspeakers positioned around the village that blared incomprehensible (ok, probably Slovakian) folk music once a day.

Combine all this with the fact that Luke also saw a snake (the Canadian girls saw two) and … well. It was surreal. Fun, but surreal.

I take back what I said about the last few days being uneventful.

Luke, Wally and Jen (another guest) chilling in the loungeroom.

This morning we waved goodbye to Asa, Mel and Danka – and of course the beleaguered Wally, the other dog (whose name I’m not going to attempt to spell again) and Kevin the cat, and caught the bus into Poprad.

From Poprad we caught a four hour train to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of Bratislava. The general consensus seems to be that it’s dull. Mel said she liked it though, which gave us hope. The train journey was certainly picturesque, with castles popping up every so often and a few swan-strewn lakes and many little villages.

We found our hotel and its surly staff pretty easily and settled into our air conditioned, enormous room with our own bathroom. After a month of hostels and shared-bathroom hotels this is a luxury not to be sniffed at.

Immediate impressions of Bratislava are that it is extremely pretty. In the old part of town anyhow, which reminds me of those really over-the-top casinos where they recreate the canals of Venice but it all looks a bit too clean and nice. Bratislava could easily be transported into a Vegas casino to play the part of ‘ye olde European village’ as it is extremely tidy, newly painted, cobblestoned and full of quaintness, including ever-so-slightly cutesy statues around town – more on those tomorrow.

Tonight we’ve eaten an extremely tasty dinner at a gourmet establishment for the astonishing price of 20 euros (that included drinks) and estimated that something similar in Melbourne could be bought for perhaps three times the price. Already the prospect of paying Australian prices for things is boggling our minds. We bought enough groceries in Zdiar to last 6 meals with accompanying drinks for 5 euros. Ludicrous! Although we did hear today that the minimum wage is 3 euros an hour in Slovakia. Kind of puts things into perspective.

More photos, and hopefully something interesting to write about tomorrow, we’ve really no idea what to do here so we may take up Mel’s suggestion of the free walking tour. Night all!

Unexpected Events.

Luke and I went out for a walk this morning and tried to find the ‘river trail’. How hard could it be? It follows a river! We walked to the other end of town, which is uphill all the way, and crossed the road to the ski fields. We found the end of the forest walk, which we’d tried to do yesterday but failed, but no sign of the river trail.

We struck off across the muddy, grass slopes in what we hoped was the right direction, but I didn’t last long. Water seeped into my shoes and I decided to turn back. Luke keep going but didn’t find the trail and turned back later on.

I really think we’re here too early in the year. The higher mountain trails only open for walking around the first of July and right now every path is full of running water or boggy with mud. Disappointing, but there’s not much we can do about it. Danka, the manager, suggested bike riding to another town and then catching the bus back. But having seen the tiny, packed buses I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea of hoping that there’ll be room for two bikes.

Anyhow, the day’s excitement really started when I got back to the hostel to find everyone in a flap. The two Canadian girls had taken Wally for a walk and he’d been bitten by a snake. He’d come most of the way back with them but then disappeared when they got close to the hostel. The girls and Danka went out looking for him and there was no sign for ages. We looked up the snakes (they’d seen two) online and thought that it was probably a European viper, which is venomous but not usually deadly.

Danka eventually found Wally and brought him back. Half his face was swollen and he was shaking dreadfully. We all patted him while we waited for the taxi and now they’re heading to the nearest big town and hopefully something can be done for Wally. If his facebook page is any indicator, he’s a very popular dog who’d be very sadly missed.

Fingers crossed!

Budapest to Slovakia

This morning we found our taxi driver asleep in his car outside our hotel, which was kind of funny. What wasn’t funny was being taken the long way to the station  – about 3 times as far as we’d walked the previous day to buy our tickets. Le sigh.

Early morning light at Keleti station.

Still, we found our train and, after being asked to move seats, realised that there was an allocation system that we weren’t part of so we found some unoccupied seats and got comfortable. Hungarian trains are pretty nice and the toilet was decent too. Unlike toilets on Vietnamese trains, which are full of water. Full on a train. Don’t get me started.

Anyhoo. The hostel website was full of confidently brief directions on how to get there via public transport so we didn’t do all the research we should’ve. Note to selves and other travelers: if you’re taking trains in non-English speaking countries don’t just work out where you’re getting on and off, look at the last stop on your line because that’s what the signs will say. No problem with our first train as it stopped at Kosice on the border. Unfortunately our next stop, Poprad, wasn’t the final stop on that line so in the 15 minutes we had to make the connection there was a bit of stressful hurrying about trying to work out which train we wanted. Not ideal when you’re carrying all your worldly possessions on your back.

We found the right train, though, and then got off at Poprad. About 20 minutes before Poprad the view goes from flat fields to OMG! MOUNTAINS! Big, jagged, snow covered mountains. Since this is something I can’t ever recall seeing in such magnitude and at such close proximity previously I was very impressed.

With luck and our last few euros we hopped on the bus to Zdiar and made it to our hostel, the Ginger Monkey. This place was recommended by our friend Ben, who was here a while back. Probably not at the same time of year though – it’s just us and one other guy here at the moment, with a girl arriving tomorrow. I don’t mind a bit of quiet though and it’s a stunning place to have a break.

With no restaurants open during weekdays in the off season, we walked down to the local mini mart with the hostel’s dog, Wally, and bought ingredients for tuna pasta. This will be the second from-scratch meal I’ll have made in two months.

After bringing our food back we took both dogs for a wander, hoping to find the river walk. Miraculously, in a village with two streets, we managed not to find it and lost both dogs along the way. No doubt they’re off greeting all the other dogs we passed – there’s more dogs here than people if our walk was anything to go by.

I’m saving the mountain photos for tomorrow. Tonight will be maybe a movie and then definitely and early night. Hopefully there’ll be blue skies for a nice long walk tomorrow.