||[Nov. 13th, 2005|11:17 pm]
Eastern European Travel Stories - A place to share
This reminds me of my trip to Slovensky Raj ... I went two summers ago with two Czech guys. First we hiked through the Nizsky Tatry for a week along the ridge. There were some really dramatic views down windswept chasms. One day was so windy all afternoon that we just hung out in an old skilodge.|
Slovakia is the sort of place where, in the villages, drunkards wander and befriend backpackers, inviting you to their homes to meet the family and keep drinking. Borovice, of course (Juniper Berry spirits .. I think) .. when you try to beg off politely from the red-faced stranger, his mood can quickly turn sour. "You don't like me?! I'm not good enough for you?!" .. such silly games. I also saw workgroups of gypsies harvesting blueberries. The foreman wore a pistol.
Afterwards we spent a few days in the Slovak Paradise. Up a steep trail, the plateau opened onto meadows with wildflowers and copses of birch trees, and pines and firs of course everywhere. We hiked along side a brook with caves along side, chains in the wall to hold onto, tough trekking, but pretty.
Anyway when we came down out of Slovensky Raj there was a gypsy village between forest and meadow. Lean-tos and broken down shacks jumbled together haphazardly. Probably around a thousand inhabitants. We got closer and were spotted, a man picked up an axe and began walking towards us. As we drew nearer to him, my heart was beating faster and I was preparing mentally for some assault. But he silently strode past us, without even a hello, off to chop some wood I suppose. Or was it a test? A bad omen?
As we passed the village, about thirty children came running after us, begging for money, food .. We tried to reason with them, still trudging down the dirt road towards a train station. They were mostly dressed in dirty old clothes, some of the smallest (around 4 or 5) naked from the waist down ... they followed us for what seemed an eternity .. twenty minutes .. imploring with their eyes, palms outstretched .. "Just ten crowns", the boy, around 13, with a fuzzy new moustache, kept asking me .. he wore me down and I made the mistake of reaching in my pocket, believing it would be enough. But he saw the gold of the twenty crown coin in my palm and suddenly ten wasn't good enough .. I think I gave him 30 crowns in the end. Czech crowns in Slovakia ... he was the most persistent and after being admonished by an old grandpa coming the other direction on the road, he finally turned and ran, barefoot, home
We caught a train to Spisska Nad Ves, and then the overnight back to Prague.
(Looking at the map I see I was so close to Spisska Hrad and also Levoca, but I didn't see either