Monday, August 27, 2001

As Simon slept outside, I slept in the tent with two Czech girls.

That´s one sentence in the English language I never expected to write. Even less, expect to write and actually be true. It was, most certainly, an unlikely situation to be in, and was the mere consequence of a series of highly unlikely events starting from the night before.

First of all, it´s now Monday and we´re still in Trencin. This may seem like little has changed over the last few days, but I can safely say that we´ve remained in Trencin for good reason, although we do finally depart later today with a couple of Canadians. To the Tatra mountain range (not the Tantra range, Simon). All that remains for today is to pack up and get that half 1 train.

So what changed? How come we didn´t leave on Friday, as planned, on the long bus to Kosice? Well, first of all, we´d decided against Kosice and opted for an unknown town called Branko Bzsyszstsurzc (or something), on a bus that left at 6.45am. So that Thursday night, we went into town, had a colossal meal for 6 pounds each, and headed back to the tent. It was about 9pm, we were ready to go to bed and get an earlY night, and we were spending half an hour chilling outside.

And then a Geordie called Johnny, who happened to own the campsite, walked by and everything changed.

I barely know how to continue the story now, but basically Johnny said hello, realised with huge delight that we were Scottish (the first Scottish visitors to the campsite that year) and took us back to the bar where there were a huge number of drunk Slovakians, a couple of drunk Canadians and one extremely drunk Spaniard. All these people had appeared during our absence when having our meal. And they were very, very drunk indeed.

We got talking, to those who spoke English anyway. Which covers the Canadians, a struggling Spaniard, one drunk and struggling Slovak and a Geordie (if you count their interpretation as being English). After a fair while of just having Simon as being someone to speak fluent English to, it was a big relief to have others. I tried to catch up on the drinking, with 25p beers (or pivos as I´m getting accustomed to thinking of them as), but they were all way ahead. The night ended with us all downtown in Trencin, in apub called Jamesons, with Johnny repeatedlz gesturing over to a table with one huge fat guyand a heap of birds and telling us not to look because they were the local mafia. And to placate the apparent anger he sensed they were feeling, he bought them a bottle of champagne. I think he was a little drunk.

We didn´t bother with our 6.45am bus the next day then.

Yes, the next day we were "on tour". Johnny was absolutely delighted to have a couple of Scots with him, so he insisted on taking us on a tour around the Slovakian countryside around Trencin. He was on holiday (although he owned the campsite, he was a silent partner and his main involvement was in a company called Balkan Recruitment, a name that conjures up images of hitmen in trenchcoats if ever I heard one. I have his card) so was more than happy to. In fact, he absolutely insisted.

We were joined by a couple of Czech girls - Zuzana and Klaudie. This wasn´t to plan, as the Canadians (Corey and Laura) had meant to be with us, but they´d gone shopping so when Johnny arrived weren´t around and so Johnny enlisted - ie forced - two Czech girls who´d been camping near us that night (not the Slovakians girls who tried to unzip our tent I should stress. Oh Lord no, these girls were terrifying.) The Czech girls had packed everything up and were ready to catch a train, but Johnny had spotted them and bought them and us a coffee, before telling them about the day´s tour.

Yup, one thing you should probably know about Johnny - he is entirely and absolutely sex-obsessed. Entirely. Absolutely. Even though he´d seen younger days (in his own words, he was now the football coach as opposed to the football star) he wasn´t deterred and in his own inimitable Geordie-Slovakian way, womanised to his heart´s - and balls´ - content. I tell you actually, hearing fluent Slovakian spoken in a broad Newcastle accent is quite something. I suspect most of his women were simply too startled to resist. And he is a very effervescent and persuasive character. "Character", that´s definitely one word to describe him.

So it happened - Johnny plus the four of us on tour, in his little Skoda with the broken boot. First of all we took a drive to the Slovak-Czech border. Not the main border crossing ones, but a little obscure one up a hill and along little winding roads surrounded by trees. We took photos and straddled the border of two nations. Then it was to the lake. He knew some guy who owned a hotel bya lake, so we went there and were treated to a very fine meal and drinks, while looking over upon a really really beautiful lake. You know you hear all these things about these totally unspolit and untouristy locations - like the film The Beach. Sort of like a myth. Well, this was that place - and indeed much of Slovakia. It really is an astonishingly attractive country. You´re just driving along and there´s green hills and pretty villages and giant castles on giant rocks. And this lake, which had a little island in the middle, with a forested hill at the far side, was amazing. Sure, there were some hotel visitors by the shore, but nothing about the place was touristy. Johnny reckons that in about 10 years the place will be inundated, once the place gets heard of, as it reallz is perfect toursit fodder.

From there, and after a stop for drinks, we went to a ruined castle on a hill. Some story about a 12th Century queen or something killing hundredsof people there. The place was in ruins now, and the climb pretty steep. Because of his old age, Johnny left us younger ones to it, and we trekked up the hill and took a look around the destroyed castle - which was a total deathtrap - and at the wonderful view it gave of the surrounding scenery. You could see Johnnyand his car too, which was a big relief for us. He was being so generous, we were all sure there had to be a catch - either him killing us or deserting us in the middle of nowhere - but fortunately there was none.

From there to a small little spa village not too far from Trencin. In a valley and yet again, incredibly attractive. We had another drink on the balcony of a bar, taking in the pure sunshine that had been present the entire day, and talked about "hand shandies". For those of you who don´t know what a hand shandy is (as of course the Czech girls who although had good English, didn´t have to English to stretch quite that far) I...uh... will leave it to the imagination. Johnny brought the topic up of course.

Then finally, at after 7pm, it wasback to Trencin, where we all got very drunk. Corey and Laura joined us, and we sat outside at a bar called Stepspub, listening to Johnny make lewd comments about almost every girl in sight. Everyone was getting on well, and the Czech girls were finding it endlessly amusing to hear us read Czech out loud. In turn, we tried them out with a few Scottish place name - Achiltiebuie working particularily well. They were really cool girls, and from Prague.

The next part of the night descends into a misty haze, and all I know is that we went to some awful club (where I have this simply terrifying memory of seeing Simon dance. HELP ME) and back to Jamesons, with the mafia. Then back to the tent, where my memory is again clearer.

You see, this was the problem. It was late (between 1 and 3am) and the Czech girls had packed everything away, had nowhere to stay, and had no money for another night at the campsite. So there was no other option - smuggle them in. They had left their rucksacks with us earlier anyway, so we got to our tent where Simon insisted upon promptly falling asleep outside the tent, no sleeping bag or anything, just him (although we must have later got him into a sleeping bag, as he woke up in one). Well hey, this suited me absolutely fine, so the three of us crammed into the two man tent, and into our sleeping bags. Actually, though it is a two man tent, it´s a fairly spacious one, so I´d describe the arrangement as cosy rather than cramped.

Simon was snoring loudly, despite his protestations that he doesn´t snore. I can assure you he was snoring very loudly, much to our amusement. The Czech girls found it hilarious he should be sleeping outside, so he was christened "Bla¾en" (crazy man) and I was christened "Fousach" (man with beard). We must have spent about half an hour in that tent just laughing at Simon snoring and at my dodgy pronouniation of these words.

So then As Simon slept outside, I slept in the tent with two Czech girls. They got up at 6am as they had to leave, so we said our goodbyes as Simon continued to sleep soundly (I have never known anyone to sleep as much and as deeply as Simon) and they departed. We´ve all exchanged addresses etc, so we´ll keep in touch.

Johnny was later very disappointed to learn that there were no "hand shandies" that night.

So Saturday then, was a day of just chilling and feeling a little hungover. And yesterday was spent at the Trencin vs Slovan Bratislava match. Trencin are a small side who just got promoted this year, and Slovan Bratislava are the main men of Slovakia, and Trencin´s rivals. Hence a turnour of 8500 (as opposed to a 2000 average). The Canadians joined us, it being Laura´s first "soccer" match and to our astonishment and delight, Trencin won 2-0 to take them top of the league. The Slovaks are violent as hell by the way - at one point a player shoved a linesman out the way, and was allowed to carry on as normal.

Which brings us to today. And as we´re heading in the same rough direction as the Canadians, we´re all taking the train to Poprad, near the Tetras. That´s the plan, and this time I think we´ll stick to it. I´ve written enough now so am going to stop. But it´s been a quite remarkable few days in the obscure town of Trencin with the Geordie campsite owner, that we only went to on a whim.

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