Thu Oct 04, 2001 | day 24
Boy, I wish I had the ability to access the internet while still enjoying the areas I visit. It is getting harder and harder to get myself into a cyber cafe to write to all of you! There is just so much to see and do! But I do enjoy writing to you when I get the chance.
Today I am in Bratislava, Slovakia (formerly Eastern Czechoslovakia). Czech Republic, where I was for the past 3-4 days, was once western Czechoslovakia. Both are beautiful places full of castles, chateaus, and churches - as well as friendly people!
Last night at 11p, after being on seven different trains for 8 hours, I arrived into Bratislava, the capitol of Slovakia. I took out the "travelers 5-Pound Bible," as it is nicknamed, and read about the hostels in the area I could stay at. I picked out one (the closest) and walked about a half-mile east. When I thought I missed the street, I pulled out the Lonely Planet's guide again. I seemed to have missed some fairly important info on my first reading: it was only open til September! In fact, ALL THE HOSTELS in town were only open during the Summer...
I stood there, in a seedy part of town with buildings covered with grafitti, contemplating if it would be safe for me to camp in the small park across the street. The streets were empty and not many cars passed me in the last half-hour. Should I?
From nowhere, I guy passed me on the street. I smiled and greeted him with "Ahoy" as he passed (that's Slavic for "Hi"). To my surprise, he responded "What's up?" Turns out he's Canadian and lives in town!
We both couldn't help but laugh when we thought of the chances of us meeting on a dark city street in the middle of Slovakia - in the middle of the night. His name was Dan and he moved to Bratislava recently to teach English for 6-months. He told me that it wouldn't be a problem at all for me to stay in his apartment with his Michigan roommate, Garrett. Talk about blind luck!
Their apartment is about the size of a small house, with 4 major rooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen rent is about $100 a month each). We talked for 4 hours about nothing in particular while listening to American music and having fun. It's the best sleeping arrangement I have had on my trip.
My worst came just a night before... two countries ago. I was in the small southern Czech Republic town of Ceske Krumlov. I had arrived just after sunset and enjoyed an evening of walking through the quiet labyrinthine streets and lit beautifully by old street lights and a full moon. I had come to this city because I heard that it was a "secret" place that most tourists don't reach. Unfortunately, I learned quickly that backpackers do reach it... and in the hundreds.
The small town with a population of 5,000 has about 10 hostels!
But it was a different story back at the hostel. Tired from a long day, I got into bed at about 9pm. The room I was in had backpacks, shoes, jackets and clothes slung over every bed except mine and yet I was the only one in the room. But as the night turned into early morning, drunk, clumsy and rude travelers would stumble into the room, turn on the light, and make as much noise as they could before passing out on their bed. One guy came in at four in the morning singing some slurred song he must have heard at one of the many bars in town. I decided right then and there in bed that only one night in this city was enough for me.
But I still enjoyed my short stay. There were moments that night that will always be with me: a shooting star over the brilliantly lit castle above the city. The echoes of live Czech band reverberating through the passageways.
And, most of all, I will never forget the time on the short busride up the hill to the train station. Sitting behind me were four Czech kindergarteners who were fascinated by my large bag and my foreign language. The boy of the group tapped me on the shoulder and said "Deutsch?" I replied "Nein, Americaner." The other three young girls giggled as he slowly counted to three in German on his fingers. I smiled and said "Nein. One.. two... three..." He looked at me with a funny look and repeated after me. "One? Two? Tree?" More giggles insued. By the time we reached the train station, he had learned how to count to 8 in English. All four of them said loudly "Bye bye! Bye bye!" as I got off of the bus. I responded "Auf Wiedersehn!" (good-bye in German). The moment gave me a smile for the rest of the day.
It is small moments like this that I love about traveling. It's not the quantity of my stay, it's the quality. Both the bad moments as well as the good moments are still moments I wouldn't trade for anything. I spent no more than an hour in Vienna yesterday - and most of that was on a tram getting from one trainstation to the next - but it was still a worthwhile trip. In my mind, the trip wasn't just a means of transportation to get to the station, it was a 30 cent tour of the Vienna night life. I passed right by some of the older and predominant buildings and monuments of the city.
This evening I should be in Budapest, Hungary and in Ljubljana, Slovenia by the weekend. As I travel farther south, the weather is getting warmer, the girls are wearing less, and the food is getting cheaper. It can't get any better, eh? :-)
Well, I have so much more to share with you about my recent adventures... but it will have to wait until I am home and we can talk in person. I just finished my first 150+ page journal and have started a new book!
My Thoughts Are With All of You,