Monthly Archives: April 2011

trip home

It’s funny that I had to leave Slovakia in order to fly home, but I did.

The cheapest, most convenient way for me to get back was to leave Slovakia and fly out of Vienna and, as far as journeys go, all went smoothly, but of course there are observations to be made…

I got up far too early and was ready, quite literally with my bags packed, hair done, and breakfast eaten by 9 am. Some of you may wonder if this is indeed Grace writing this, but Slovakia has not allowed me such a thing as a lie-in since arriving and it’s now something my body doesn’t seem to be able to do.

I left the house with my (heavy) suitcase and headed to the bus stop. When it arrived, I watched the people get on and as I struggled onto the bus, the doors starting to close, no one blinked an eye. Thanks.

On my way to the bus station, I was controlled* twice (once on each bus). This never happens to me, and what are the chances that it happens the day I am carrying my weight in winter clothing with my wallet and bus pass safely tucked away in the bottom of my bag.

Bratislava bus station. Main entry point for all international buses into Slovakia. Observations: No cash point: No stalls or shops take cards. Toilets are on the second floor: No lift. Escalators out of order.

Food: Two stalls offering different versions of the same thing: Slovak sandwiches. Coffee bar on second floor, not possible. Seedy bar on ground floor with workers already on the beer. I opt for a ham and cheese baguette. The two words I can understand from the list. I hand over €1.50 and watch as the unfriendly lady makes me sandwich. It goes like this: toasted white baguette, large dollop of mayo, 3 slices of processed ham, 2 slices of processed cheese, 3 slices of thickly cut tomato (we all know I don’t want that)2 slices of cucumber (proportions?!) and all topped off with…. Sliced cabbage! Slovakia! In actual fact it was rather tasty, did the job and only pissed me off a little bit when I realised the mayo was on my scarf, my top and the sleeve of coat…

Bus ride to Vienna, fairly hassle free, except for the fact I had no idea we had arrived at the airport. Even the couple next to me looked quizzically about for a clue as to where we were. When the bus driver started unloading our bags we all got the point.

Vienna airport is a bit odd. I don’t find it very logical and it’s an important transit airport as far as I know. You don’t go through security until you are at the gate, which struck me as a bit odd, and the scales as check-in were broken, which annoyed me immensely thinking about what else could have come home with me.

Then I have to mention something about our train service in Blightly. First of all the most helpful person in Gatwick was an Italian man working for British Rail, who helped me find the cheapest easiest way to get home. I again struggled with a suitcase that no one helped me with, but what struck me as most odd was the fact that I had to wait 50 minutes for a connecting train home! Slovakia may be backward in some of its logic, but my, every connection I have made as been smooth, convenient and on time!

Final observation: Had awesome trip home for a very special occasion which fully refreshed me for the last leg of my Slovak adventure.

Over and out!

*This means that a man usually in a tracksuit and a shaven head, someone you wouldn’t want to argue with, gets on the bus and checks everyone’s ticket. It can be quite a hefty fine if you don’t have or don’t stamp your ticket.

trencin trippin

Saturday 9th April

Temperature: 10 C

Weather : bit on the chilly side

I felt a trip out of Bratislava was needed before my homeward holiday, so with the help of my trusted Lonely Planet, I chose a town with a castle about 90 mins East of Bratislava: Trencin (pronounced Trencheen)

The weather was chillier than I’d hoped and the town wasn’t as vibrant as it was described, but the castle as always was impressive and a good day out of the capital was achieved.

The problem, or perhaps the fun, of trains in this part of the world is that you have to share your train compartment with 5 other passengers, who unless you have travelled with a group of friends, are likely to be strangers. Myself and my two companions were accompanied by 2 old men who I affectionately named Granddad 1 and Granddad 2 and a woman with earrings that were small scissors ( loved these!) and a can of beer ( loved this too!)

In Espein I would never have got on a train for a day out, the beach being my number one destino, without a beer to while away the journey. It seems it’s the done thing here too. As the train sloped out of the station Granddad 1 ( Gd1) opened his bag and produced 2 cans of beer whilst Granddad 2 ( Gd2) brought out 2 plastic shot glasses and a bottle of something potent.

They chatted, drank and paid us little attention until I pulled out my knitting (another thing I tend to do on trains here and there). They did a bit of a double take as I knitted away quite happily and appeared to be discussing this rare sight quite openly, to which I just smiled politely. Disaster struck as my cheap wool got tangled up and confused, which caught the Granddads’ attention. “Schiezer!” said Gd2. I agreed. As we began the task of unravelling it the Gds attempted conversation with me in German ( naturally, happens all the time.) My lack of response caused Gd2 to pour me a glass of the unknown substance and true to form I accepted, somewhat touched, somewhat embarrassed and with a “Naz dravie!” (cheers!) downed it. Fire descended down my throat and into my stomach as they both chuckled. “Good?” Asked Gd1 grinning, “ Ano, Velmi Dobre, Dakujem!” ( Yes, very good, thanks!) which of course bowled them over, but not enough to offer me another drink, thank god.

The rest of the journey was fuzzy and warm, arriving in Trencin high-spirited. The town itself is quaint, but of course closed. I find that on Saturdays in this country everything closes at 12.00 and can’t understand why they aren’t cashing in on tourism and staying open a bit longer. Finding a place to have lunch was a challenge in this “fun-loving university town” as everyone seemed to have gone home. But we sat on an empty terrace, with a Japanese family enjoying lunch next to us, admiring the castle that sits on a craggy rock towering over the town.

As we made our way up to the steep winding path to the castle, picking our way around broken wine and vodka bottles, I felt a sadness that comes over me when I realise repeatedly just how beautiful this country should be if only its residents respected it a little more.

A bit of castle bumf: Trencin was the northern-most camp in Eastern Europe as its castle guarded the south western gateway to Slovakia, where the Vah river valley begins to narrow between the White Carpathian mountains and the Starzov hills. It has beautiful views of the river plain, which I hope my photos illustrate, from the top of Mathias tower. You have to pay to take photos inside most castle in Slovakia, which I didn’t opt to do, as we only had time for the mini tour ( of course it closed early on Saturday!). Most of the castle was destroyed by a fire in 1790, but the original structure dates back from the 15th Century. I really would need to spend a lot more time in Slovakia to really enjoy all the castles and world heritage sights it has to offer. It’s a country with such a rich history of kings, queens, emperors, battles and revolutions, that they could really boost tourism if they advertised themselves a little better.

A stroll around the town after our castle trip didn’t offer much to do, although after much hunting Icecream was found and one of the things I LOVE about this time of year is that it’s 50 cents a scoop!

A happy day out!

in bloom

Last time I suggested that spring had sprung it proved me wrong by snowing the next day! I think now, however, I can safely say that the winter has finally given up and rolled away to taunt a different continent leaving spring to bloom into action. And Bloom it has! The temperature is comfortably sitting above 10 degrees and on a yesterday rose to a sweltering 28. Everything has burst into colour literally overnight and the now the bare trees are draped in blossom or promising to be soon, daffodils are happily decorating residential areas and offices and what

were previously bare patches of land are now vivid greens decorated with dandelions, daisies and buttercups. I hadn’t realised how much I had missed this season until I experienced a long winter and the slow transition from monochrome to colour. In Barcelona, some of you will know that spring doesn’t really happen, summer just appears overnight and like a slap round the face you wake up sweating one day.

The air seems to be fresh here though and everyone seems to have put away their fur coats in favour of painfully short skirts, hot pants and very bright colours. I am really enjoying the smell of blossom on my way to class, the open windows and the bright spring flowers sitting on my students’ desks.

What I would love right now is a moment to sit down and catch up on my now not so regular blog! I would love to chance to write about a month old trip to red rock castle, mum and dad’s visit to Bratislava, a day trip to Vienna, a weekend in Budapest, some funny anecdotes from my kindergarten class and yet more observations I make on a daily basis about how Slovakia is Slovakia and entertains me so. Alas, my timetable, limited internet access and desperate need for a holiday are preventing me from such writing, but I endeavour to do some back-dated blogging soon!

Ciao for now!