Published: January 21st 2011December 26th 2010
So after Christmas Eve in Bratislava, it was Christmas Day transversing Slovakia with an Italian in a train, while it was snowing. An interesting way to spend Christmas, but suprisingly not so bad either. We made the most of it and treated oursevles to some very good Slovak beer, while watching the snowfall over half of Slovakia, which in December at least, consists of different shades of white.
7 hours or so later I found myself and my rumbling stomach at my last stop over, so I headed off to find a restauraunt. It appeared that everything was going to be shut on Christmas Day as well and I was about to give up as time was of the essence, when two young ladies walked up behind me at the traffic lights I was waiting at.
So I said, hey do you know where a restauraunt is and they said hey yes we do, why dont u come with us because we are going to one now. Then we got talking and they asked me what kind of food do you like and I said well I would quite like to try something Slovakian and then they took me
to a very nice Slovakian restauraunt. So nice infact, that I completely lost track of the time and then when I finally did check it, I had about 5 minutes to get to my bus that was a 15 minute walk away.
So I packed my things like a madman and apolgised that I had to leave abruptly, to which the response I got was no worries, we will pay for your dinner 'Merry Xmas'. So I said thank you so much, my name is Leon Dolphin, add me on facebook, I will come and see you in Prague and take you out for dinner to repay the favour. Otherwise have a nice life.
Then I ran like I hadn't run since running away from the crazy knife waving kebab shop man in Hamburg and managed to arrive at the bus station as the bus driver was pulling out of the 'bus park'. Which was very good, because as it turned out I arrived at the hostel just in time to scoff down the remains of a huge Christmas feast they had prepared for guests. Then the Christmas festivities began and the night ended with everyone having had
a few too many, I think it would be fair to say.
So that was my Christmas Day and I must say for a Christmas Day that had nothing planned and no one to spend it with, it turned out remarkably well.
The next day was the first Boxing Day I have spent snowboarding and was another good day, except for the fact that half of the runs were made for skiiers and therefore I had to stay on my heel edge pretty much 90 percent of the time. So by the time I had figured out that I could go down the otherside of the mountain which was much better, my achilles tendon was about to snap and I was cramping up. So much for the thirties being the new twenties.
So after a day on the snow, I ate a big pizza, probably the biggest pizza I have eaten in my life, winning the competition that is a tradition at the hostel I was staying at and then I went to bed. I must be getting old because I really am over hostels. I won't write what happened in the hostel during this night, because
I'm sure pretty much no one really wants to know, but suffice to say, that I got no sleep and I checked out first thing in the morning to make my way to Budapest.
I had planned to go for a walk through the mountains, but no sleep kinda hampered my motivation and a day spent in a train catching up on sleep, was a good option. Again it turned out to be anything but boring. I had bought a ticket off a fellow kiwi at the hostel who had planned to go back to Budapest, but due to Slovakias charms was no longer in need of it. So for a whole 10 Euro I managed to travel the what should have been 11 hour trek to Budapest.
For the first four hours of the trek, I got talking to a medical student. She studies at a German immersion school in Slovakia and spoke better German than I do having never been to Germany. That was motivating, but it was cool to see that German can be useful outside of Germany and I had probably the best conversation I had had in German for a few months over
the four hours. She was such a nice person, so I thought I would ask her about one of the more interesting things I had noticed in Slovakia - the Gypsies.
I don't think I have seen a more segregated group of people from mainstream society on all of my travels. I dated a Slovakian girl in Berlin and had a massive fight with her when she told me her views on Gypsies. I had never heard such blatant, hateful and disgusting racism in my life. Unfortunately her viewpoint seems to be the norm. Her viewpoint was that they are an absolute waste of space, that they all should be split up and put into normal Slovak families to become civilized and good citizens, or killed, or sent somewhere else. People are angry that the government gives them money and are full of stories to tell you about the criminal and animallike behaviour of the gypsies.
Ok so on the 4 hour trek I was with the Slovakian girl, there were some gypsies in the cabin next door. They were loud, obnoxious, drunk and acting like they were a law unto themselves and in an animallike manner. I
thought seeing the girl I had been talking to was so nice, liberal and caring - for example, she wanted to open her own doctors' practice to help the poor of Slovakia, maybe she would have a different viewpoint. Well she didn't, so I bit my tongue as the conversation had been to good to ruin with my opinion.
That being, that maybe, just maybe the reason that the gypsies act like animals and are a law unto themselves is due to the way that they are treated by society at large and that it is a vicious circle. For example, with the attitudes that exist, I don't think that it is very easy or for that matter possible, for gypsies to get jobs, or integrate into wider society, or infact become 'good citizens'. Anyway what do I know, all I know is that I haven't seen a more segregated or openly discriminated group of people in my life.
So to get to Budapest, I had printed off an itineray at the hostel and followed it religiously. The train conductors hadn't had a problem with this until I was half way there, at which point one of them
pointed out I was on the wrong train and that I should have taken the direct train from a city I was in 5 hours ago. Well if only one of the four previous train conductors, or the lady at the counter at the start of the journey who I asked which train to take had realised the same thing. It would have been good, as what I had done was take the clumsiest, slowest route imaginable, as dutifuly recommended by the train company's website.
To make matters worse, on another stopover with a rumbling stomach, I tried to fit a restauraunt meal in and in doing so I managed to miss the train that was to take me to Budapest. Lesson learnt = don't believe waitors when they tell u that they can have ur food ready in 20m and that the trainstation is only a 5 minute walk away. When I missed my train, I managed to miss it just as it was pulling out of the trainstation and on expressing my delight, I met another interesting character.
This girl was an army sniper, but in the Charlies Angels kinda way. I think if you were
to put a photo of her and a list of occupations under the photo, the very last one you would choose, should it even be on the list, would be sniper from the army. In any case she definitely didn't look like the two British army personnel I had spent the previous two days sinking beers with. The funny thing was they had a pink combi-van. The world is going mental.
2 hours later I was sure to be on the train to Budapest and after an exhausting day, I was very happy to have arrived.
There are more photos below