We all woke up early this morning. Today we are traveling from Bratislava to Pribylina in the Tatra mountains. We will take a short break from this blog for some days because the lack of Wi-Fi but we will be back on Sunday when we are in Warszaw.
Wednesday 2 July 2014
”Your task now is to write some kind of diary. In English. Starting today.” That’s the instruction from Anders F., so here it is. Today is 2 July and today started in Zahorska Bystrica on the northern outskirts of Bratislava. From Bratislava to Pribylina, from the Austrian border by the Danube River to the foothills of the Tatra mountains near the border to Poland. A very interesting day.
We aimed for the E75 freeway to the north east and upon hitting the freeway we pressed the play button on the cd player. A freeway in the former Eastern Europe deserves Sofia Rotaru and Ukrainian schlager. After driving the freeway for a while we took the eit to get to Beckov village, or town. A small town with a lovely little attractive square with a restaurant, a small shop and a small obelisk with a cross on top. Just beyond was a church and the high cliff with the imposing ruins of Beckov castle. It occupied the whole cliffe, including a well with its own protective walls.
Then we kept on with the long drive to Pribylina. An excellent freeway to Zilina and then something else, the old narrow, windy highway along river valleys. Towns with their share of rusty factories and cement factories and forests of billboards, at the same time as the valleys closed in and the landscape became more and more spectacular. Onwards to Pribylina, a small village near the mountains. We found neither shop or somewhere to eat, but outside the village there was a sign saying restaurant. A few kilometres on a forest road, a clearing with an inviting log cabin saying it had pension and restaurant. Wonderful. We wondered if this was bear country and expected the bear hunters to wander into the clearing from the surrounding mountains, carrying the catch on their shoulders. We ordered food – and tried both the pasta, duck, venison, tuna, pork and sheep cheese soup. A terrific spot, a terrific meal.
Now we’ve set up camp in Beata’s mother’s house in Pribylina. A few metres down the hill is Palo’s house, which is where Beata grew up and which was built by her grandfather’s father I think. He had been to America, came home with enough money to buy blocks of land and get started here. Palo quickly wondered if we wanted some home brewed beer and when Anders declined, Palo looked so said that it was very obvious that was not the correct answer to the invitation. ”Oh yes, we’d like a beer,” we said. Then the question was if that was beer with a schnapps – presumably it should be that way. Luckily Josef was with us and was quick to say yes, so Anders and I could decline that part of the beer drinking ceremony. A small glass of beer turned out to be a huge one litre jug. The beer room was in a cellar made of concrete blocks. No door, no windows, but the hole called door had been knocked out at a later stage. Anders, being the scholar he is, quickly saw history in the place and that this was the ancient cave where the stone age ancestors had lived happily. For thousands of years they had been sitting in the cave, drinking home brew and eating bread (the flat bread tray with a very long handle was hanging in the ceiling). One day they got bored, knocked out a door in the wall, climbed out in the sunshine and decided this was a good place. They settled Slovakia and Beata’s family started to spread.
Across the back yard was some spruces and beyond that some simple wooden houses and shacks. ”That’s the ghetto,” Beata had explained when we first got there. That’s the part of Pribylina where the Roma people lived. When Beata grew up here they were called gypsies of course and that’s where she had many of her friends too. The cottage where we’ve happily settled in for the night is overlooking mountains and forest and, in the foreground, a part of Europe that is very different from where we are coming from.
The rain has been pouring down. I took a walk up to the little store, open one hour in the evening, to find some bread and biscuits. The boy in front of me in the tiny store, where you did your shopping across the counter, got half a loaf of bread. I got the other, remaining half. Hans