Very strange things happened to me in Slovakia. Only an hour after I had arrived in Bratislava central station, I walked past the city center’s famous clock tower and right between 3 people having a conversation in Icelandic. I was so dumbfounded I didn’t even say anything, since I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to make them feel like they had lost their privacy of speaking a language no one around them should have understood. I just stopped, turned to them and stared, but they didn’t know me and I certainly don’t look Icelandic so they didn’t speak to me either. After I finished wandering through the city I stopped in a park to snooze and tan in the sun, and when I woke up, I realized I was in the backyard of the Presidential Palace. That night I tried to book my first and only night in a hostel on this trip, but I got picked up by a couchsurf host at a couchsurfing meeting where glasses of wine cost €0.90. That meant I could now buy 10 glasses of wine for the €9 hostel bed I didn´t have to pay for.
The highlight of my trip was watching the Slovakian Philharmonic play Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto and Mozart’s Requiem in the national theater, where the symphony hall sparkled in white, gold and crystals. Then I heard about the Opera and Ballet hall in the new national theater building, where they were showing a ballet rendition of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was just as wierd as it sounds – ballerinas preforming in strange costumes without spoken word – but the story was still somehow told as I remember it.
I took a day trip with another backpacker to Častá, a nearby town famous for its red stone castle. We took a local bus to the town, and then had to walk 2 km up hill to reach the castle gates. The entire first km of road was lined with speakers, dating from the propagandous communist era, and nowadays its used as a sort of public radio. Scratchy Slovakian folk songs played in the streets, loud enough for any house dweller to hear, and me and my friend considered sharing a dance but carried on instead. When we reached the castle, we realized it also doubled as an eagle training center, and casually ran into two different men at different times strolling the castle grounds with eagles on their arms.
Bratislava was another charming little town, with a lot of old churches and a castle fort. The city castle wasn’t that impressive, since it was only rebuilt in 1958 and recently renovated, but who goes to Europe to see a new castle? Every europtripper know that only old, crumbling ones are interesting, so Devín castle satisfied much better. On my last morning, I headed for the bus station, where both buses to Budapest were full. The next way out was a train in 4 hours, so in the meanwhile I wandered up to the Slavín monument, a memorial for the thousands of Soviet soldiers who died in WWII trying to protect Bratislava. It was a sad, sombering place, with an incredible view over the town from where I waved it goodbye.
I sat on a wooden bench, waiting for the first delayed train I’ve had on this trip. I shifted slightly to the right and implanted 4 huge slivers through my pants and into my ass cheek. I waited another 10 minutes sitting on this uncomfortable situation before dislodging them in the privacy of the train toilet, but please empathize for moment how difficult it is to remove slivers from your own rear end. The first thing I did after leaving Slovakia was watch a film about Iceland. My next couchsurf host in Budapest had made a video about his 2 week trip there, and watching it made me more home sick than I could have imagined. I had a hard time remembering where I came from, where I was or where I was going, but Iceland is definitely on the horizon and that’s exciting.