Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Slovakia

After all the traveling I've done over the past few years I am happy to announce that Slovakia is my 50th country. There still are, however, 140 something left to go so stop asking when we're going to be finished. We won't get to them all on this one but I still want to knock off a lot more before I take any extended break from travel and come home. It's been amazing, all that I've been able to do on this and previous trips and while I know I've already been to more places than most of you will ever get to in your lives, everyday I feel more and more that I have seen just the tiniest fraction of what is really out there in the world. I swear the most interesting places and peoples are the ones you didn't know even existed until you see them. Originally Slovakia was supposed to be a quick run of little interest to us that we had to cross to get to somewhere more exciting. We opted to skip the capital as right now the mood of the group favours the smaller, quieter towns. The weather the last few weeks has been sketchy and unpredictable so we are also skipping the outdoorsy long hiking thing that we see crowds and crowds of locals doing. There are so many campers, bikers and rollerbladers running around trying to get their summer fix before it ends soon. We haven't done much here but we've been doing it slower... Trencin was to be 2 days (actually 4) and Levoca 2 days (now on our 4th) before moving on. But I like them. These 2 towns were chosen as they are not on the heaviest tourist route and have the 3rd and 1st largest castles in the country respectively. They are mostly intact ruins now, with most of everything still standing but the living quarters mostly gone except for rebuilt sections converted into museum displays. There are guided tours but getting one in English is a bit of a problem as it really feels like we are the only English speaking tourists out here (almost but not quite true). Most tourists are domestic or from the immediately neighbouring countries. It does make for some interesting conversations though. When trying to check in in Trencin the conversation with the reception lady started with Slovak greetings, a failed attempt at English, then her talking to me in German (I really know nothing and can't even count to 10 in German) and me replying in Russian or hand-waving. I think I even threw a few words of Spanish in there to really mix it up. Who says you need the local language? The wierdest thing is their insistence and continual usage of German when it is obvious it is not working on us. Russian is closer to the local language (both are Slavic in origin) and they must know and understand it but they won't use it directly. I guess it's all that Soviet trauma because german seems to be the linking language between the eastern countries these days. But then they do get mostly german tourists now too. Anyway, the weather got better, it's relaxing out here and accommodation is comparatively quite cheap so we slowed things down, started reading, wandering aimlessly and playing cards again. Speaking of cards, we've been playing the continuous rummy lately and are now using 6 decks and are up to 45 cards each! Now that is serious hand cramp! traveling through the country (by train of course) is great, I love the scenery. It's beautiful. Little towns separated by fields and rolling hills but with a little more of an edge to it all. It's a little bit hillier and less densely populated, with a few more baby forests. If central Poland's countryside is elevator music then this is moving toward soft rock..... Sometimes I imagine it almost as how Mongolia would look if people lived there. We passed by the Tatras mountains and I wanted to laugh. The "mountain range" fit nicely into one camera frame and looked like it composed of 10 mountains in a little clump. We've come a long way from Nepal...... Now that we are in the east of the country we are also seeing a lot of Roma (gypsies). Everyone hears about them but if you just capital hop out here you wouldn't really even see more than 1 or 2. They are immediately obvious as pretty much the only dark-skinned minority group here. They are distantly related to Indians (and have that look) as they apparently migrated out of the subcontinent a long time ago. There are still similarities in the languages though. They were also slaughtered by the Nazis and to this day continue to suffer the brunt of racial abuse in the region. There are tons out here and it's easy to see that they definitely have a lower standard of living as their clothes, general appearance and behaviour suggest poverty. A lot of them look like Indian beggars actually but they aren't openly begging, to us anyway. We talked to a Japanese girl at our place and she said she was getting a lot of begging harassment, but then maybe the Roma are afraid of Slovaks and think we're local. I don't know. It's interesting though so I'll keep my eyes open as we pass through the area.
We were supposed to leave for Hungary today but were feeling lazy so we'll head out tomorrow instead.
Ammon
PS. Shean, how could you even think of suggesting I shave my head? It's falling out fast enough as it is. No need to help it along. The ribs are getting better. I could probably do a pushup or handstand again now without too much pain. The jaw was never an issue. Thanks for the concern and keeping up with the blog. Love your comments.

2 Comments:

At 8:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If everyone writes like you Ammon I can never finish reading all the posts that you guys made in the past months!!!

My little Savannah I will buy you tight jeans and send that with whoever going to meet you next.. just to make sure you know how much you need to eat everyday!

I still love this site as much as I was AND even more...

I don't know how to write/communicate in English anymore... I am so not comfortable to see so many white people around and has to speak in full sentence again ..

You know who am I don't you?
Miss you all tons! XOXOXO

 
At 8:59 PM , Blogger huggybigbear said...

Hey Ammon,
I could of sworn I remembered you complaining that the hard pillows were giving you jaw problems again, and that you didn't want to have to get braces aagain.... must be breathing too much gas these days. Kep writing the long ones Ammon, they help us chickens dream while here in the egg factory.

Hey Maggie,
I keep reading the letter, but haven't thought of a decent reply. Will write when I get home from Ireland.

Savanah, tight jeans? Not sure who it is but, woof.

Breanna, how do you put up with it all?

Love as Always, and Big Bear Hugs
Shean

 

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