Slovakia Road Trip

Alright, well this weekend was by far the most relaxing weekend I’ve had this year. I can’t state that enough. But you’ll see why.

So I accomplished a lot of “to-dos” for my year – camp out in a wood cabin, visit Slovakia (as part of my “as many countries as possible” goal), do a road trip, visit the mountains… all of it in one trip.

I went with a fairly new group – Max, who I’d traveled with last semester, Maya and Andrés, who I went to Berlin with, and Abby, Megan, and Trudi.

I actually booked this trip the day before it happened, and it was SUPER last minute, but it ended up being a ton of fun.

We left the center early on Friday morning (7 am) to get to the airport to rent a car – Andrés is the only one in our group that can legally drive in Europe, since he has an IDP. We rented a big van (lovingly named “Mucko” because of a misunderstanding of “Bucko”), then hit the road for a 7 hour road trip, which we broke up into two parts, one going to Bratislava, where we hung out for a few hours, and then the second half to the mountains of Slovakia, where we camped out in a wood cabin for the weekend.

But first, the road trip itself.

I hadn’t been on a road trip since basically driving from Portland to Sacramento/vice versa, and it was a TON of fun. It definitely makes me want to do more when I get back to the US. It was filled with jokes, music, laughter, and just love for the people around us. From jamming to the weirdest combination of music (who would have guessed that the Beatles would be played next to Rammstein, next to Fleetwood Mac, next to Tupac or Biggie), to Andrés getting SO excited when “Baby Driver” came on, to Max feeding Andrés while he drove, to getting lost in rural Slovakia (which was an experience all of its own), it was just SO much fun.

Megan braiding Max’s hair
Max feeding Andrés a Snicker
GRIECHISCHER WEINNNNNNNNN

After driving for a few hours, we finally reached Bratislava. It was a really interesting city – it definitely had an eastern feel to it, which was pretty cool. We got fairly lost in the city, and ended up driving on a streetcar road (which we were not supposed to drive on, judging by the people laughing) – whoops – but ended up making it to the Bratislava Castle safe and sound. We adventured around the castle a little bit, but to be honest, it was fairly bland. The view of Bratislava was pretty cool though:

We ended up going to a cat café, which was pretty funny because there were a lot of typos on their English “information section,” with things such as “sizzling cats” (as we can only assume they meant “busy”).

Thanks to Maya for the picture!
Here’s Andrés reading part of the information section the day after

After that, we headed to downtown/old town Bratislava. It was pretty cool – it reminded me a lot of Prague in the architecture and the vibe, but way less touristy. I really, really enjoyed it – it felt like a calmer, more mellow Prague.

We got food at some little street corner, where the guy spoke German and Slovak, and he kept asking the blonde people in our group if they were German. It was pretty funny, but we ended up leaving fairly soon to get back on the road.

The trip from Bratislava to our Airbnb was pretty funny. We ended up getting lost because our directions directed us into a really rural area of Slovakia, but it was cool “getting off the path” and seeing a little bit of what everyday life in eastern Europe is like – it definitely FELT eastern. It was a little dilapidated, run-down, and just very quiet. It was pretty interesting, because we don’t get to see much of the “rural” life since generally we take trains everywhere and they don’t stop in small towns – but with a road trip, we were able to stop wherever we wanted or go wherever as well. We ended up blasting Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac as the sun set, and there was a lot of singing our hearts out and dancing around in the van.

Abby and Megan jamming out

When we finally made it to our destination, it was pretty dark out, and it was SUPER snowy. We were supposed to meet at a hotel parking lot in the middle of nowhere, then we would hike the half-mile up to our cabin, which was in the middle of the woods. We met our guide, who spoke no English, German, Spanish, or French (we tried EVERYTHING that we knew), but we ended up making it up the hill alright.

We settled into our Airbnb, which was a quaint little place, and warmed up by the fire – unfortunately, I didn’t have any gloves, and it was well below freezing (6 degrees Fahrenheit that night) so I couldn’t feel my hands, aside from immense pain, but after awhile in front of the fire, they felt a little better. We all relaxed, set down some ground rules for fire and safety and stuff, and made dinner.

So something to know – there was no plumbing, no drinkable running water, no heated water (it was ICE COLD) (I brought a liter and a half and we were supplied with a jug), and the stoves didn’t bring the water to a rolling boil, but it was alright. Still a lot of fun. But that meant using the bathroom outside, no showering (unless you wanted to get hypothermia), and a lot of time spent in front of the fire, either to try to boil water or to warm up.

Anyways, we made dinner – Megan made this vegan lasagna thing – it had olives, onions, corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. and it was really good! We also had some snacks that we had brought with us for the road trip – spoiler alert, they didn’t last us very long. Dinner was a lot of fun – quality “family” time spent with good people and lots of laughter and love. The dynamic of the group definitely felt like a family – as we said, Max and Andrés were like the dads, Megan and I were the grandparents, and there were some sibling-like rivalries/friendships in the group. It was a really fun dynamic, and it was just so enjoyable.

After dinner, we hung out some more by the fire. It was a really good time, and Max read The Witcher aloud to everyone, and everyone basically fell asleep.

Max reading. Thanks to Maya for this picture lol

In the morning, the rest of the group, minus Megan and I, went out at 6:30 to go skiing – it was a 30-minute drive from the hotel, where our car was parked, to the ski resort. I ended up being awoken by the homeowner/our Slovakian guide opening the door at some point in the morning to make sure the house hadn’t burned down overnight, but I tried to explain in hand gestures that it was alright that he came in – he kept apologizing for waking me up.

The skiiers – credit to Max. From L to R: Max, Maya, Abby, Andrés, and Trudi

Anyways, once he left, Megan and I had a pretty relaxing day in the cabin. Mostly just reading, writing, listening to music, re-kindling the fire, and talking. It was SO peaceful – literally the only thing you could hear was the occasional falling of snow or birds chirping. I went out occasionally to take pictures, and I ended up spotting a couple of deer! Unfortunately, they moved pretty much as soon as I saw them, so I didn’t have time to take a picture.

Anyways, the day was really relaxing. It was so peaceful and quiet, and I read a lot (Romania After Ceaușescu: The Politics of Intolerance by Thomas Gerard Gallagher) and journaled a lot as well – all while listening to some nice calm music. It was a much-needed break from the busyness of school and big cities. And it was so nice to be able to read and write on my free time, without it feeling like a chore!

Also, I found a line in the book that I really thought was interesting, especially considering the political climate in the US. Sounds nerdy. Oh well, I’m a poli sci major, I have some justification for it.

“After all, national programmes are among the easiest to understand, and it has not proven hard to construct populist manifestoes that offer answers by the application of appropriate national solutions while identifying a range of national enemies responsible for current misfortunes. In its most extreme manifestations, nationalism promotes racial hatred or prejudice; it propagates racial superiority or exclusiveness and it encourages discrimination, an official and/or societal, against ethnic minorities and all those who cannot be easily assimilated” (Gallager, 4).

Anyways, back to the point. It was really relaxing and calm and productive, without “productiveness” feeling like something I had to achieve. It was a day of productive relaxation, if that makes any sense. Just serene, blissful, and cozy, but also productive.

At sunset, I went out again, but it was pretty foggy (as seen in the last pictures in the photoset above), so I ended up going back inside to snuggle up again. Megan and I made coffee and ramen for the returning skiiers – they texted us that they were heading back and they were going to be cold, and requested that we make them food and coffee, so we did. Which is how we got the “grandparents” nicknames – from being bundled up in a log cabin in the middle of the woods and making coffee and food for the ones who went out. I think it makes sense. Unfortunately, Maya pulled a muscle, so the hike up was a little tough, but she made it safe and sound!

Once they got back, they brought some frozen pizza, which we heated up and ate ravenously – we were all hungry (Megan and I had just been snacking on the food that we brought), and we hung out and listened to music and talked some more. Yet another wholesome night with the “family.”

Andrés “spearfishing” for pickles

We hung out around the fire while Max and Andrés trekked back down to the hotel to go into the sauna (which ended up being a little weird from what I heard) – basically a repurposed Soviet bathhouse or something like that, where it wasn’t much of a sauna as it was a swimming pool, with old Slovakians doing laps of swimming. After they returned, we went back to the fire and talked some more, then headed to bed, because we were waking up early in the morning because the skiiers wanted to get some more runs in before we had to leave.

In the morning, I woke up with the skiiers to get some pictures of the sunrise, which was phenomenally gorgeous. Having no sound but the crunching of snow and birds chirping while waking up to this sight was something I won’t forget anytime soon.

The homeowner came back in the morning, this time bringing an English speaker, so we communicated checkout times and whatnot (decided on 11:30 ish), then I headed back to bed for a little while. Megan, Maya, and I stayed in the cabin for the morning, and once checkout came, we hiked down to the hotel.

The last look at the cabin, courtesy of Megan!
Maya and me heading out, thanks to Megan for the picture!
The trek back to the hotel, thanks to Maya!

We hung out there for a little while and warmed up, until the rest of the group came and picked us up in the car. We caught up with the rest of the group – unfortunately, Trudi lost her phone somewhere while skiing (the story ends up well! I’ll explain in the next paragraph). It was mostly a straight drive back to Salzburg, with a few little rest stops along the way, but it was full of games, laughter, music (or complaining about music) and fun.

Andrés jamming to “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin

So now to Trudi’s phone. It’s her birthday on Tuesday (tomorrow, at the time of writing this), so everyone was fairly devastated that she lost her phone, especially because the ski slopes that they went on were almost entirely wooded.

HOWEVER!

Someone, a Slovakian lady, found her phone and called Abby early in the morning. She didn’t speak much English, and Trudi (or anyone for that matter) doesn’t speak any Slovakian, but she took the phone and tried for 10 minutes to explain that we live in Austria, where we live, where she can mail it to, who to contact, etc. And hopefully, or at least from what I can tell, it worked out! She said she would mail the phone, so hopefully Trudi will be getting it in the next week or so.

We ended up getting back to Salzburg safe and sound, then hung out and watched a movie until we all went to sleep. It was a fantastic weekend with even more fantastic people.

So what’s in store for the future? Well, we’re planning on going to Prague next weekend, then I’m trying to figure out something to do for the weekends in between Prague and spring tour to Italy and Greece. I’m thinking Slovenia, but I’m not sure. I guess we’ll see.

The song is “There’s a Reason” by A.A Bondy!

Well that’s all for now.

Mit Liebe aus den Slowakei (?)/S láskou zo Slovenska/With love from Slovakia,

Cal

PHRASES:

Slovak: Pozor = Warning!

German: Gemütlichkeit = A state of bliss, serenity, coziness, comfort, all of the above? Not really a well-translatable word. It’s sort of one of those words which only has meaning in German.

SONG:

“Birds of a Feather, We Rock Together” by Vulfpeck. Really funky and smooth. Dad, if you’ve read this far, I think you’d enjoy it.

No photo dump for this one, because I’ve also included pretty much all of the photos that I took and liked!

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