Friday, August 31, 2001

Travelling is supposed to broaden the horizons and teach you more about yourself, and others. However, my horizons so far have been broadened only to appreciate the joy of cheap beer and I have learnt nothing about myself beyond the fact that I can go for a whole week without a shower, and still smell beautiful.

However, I have learnt many things about Simon. Things I could never ever have possibly wanted to know.

The worst is Simon's "morning" voice. Oh man. This is the single most revolting thing I have ever heard. When Simon gets up in the morning, for at least the first hour of being awake, he has this drowsy droning sleepy voice he puts on. As if he's not yet fully conscious of what's happening. It's a sickly and infuriating voice that makes me want to slap his face hard and yell "wake the hell up, man". I hope nobody ever has to hear Simon's horrible morning voice.

Everything else pales into insignificance to Simon's morning voice, but his cheesy grin is pretty damn awful too. By the grace of God he hasn't done this too much yet, but sometimes when buying something or doing something that involves basic communication with a local, and a smile, Simon instead replaces the simple smile with a broad and nauseating grin. The grin a politican makes while patting a baby on the head, in front of the mother, while on live TV. It looks ultra fake and insincere, despite the shocking fact that Simon is actually been genuine and sincere.

He sweats too much and looks like a tourist, but to be fair both of these have improved recently. The only big touristy thing now is his sunglasses - colossal and gigantic plastic yellow sunglasses that I now realise make him look like a beetle. No wonder the Eastern Europeans are cautious of us Westerners.

But, he has good points too, don't worry. I'm rather shocked we're getting on still after over two weeks on the road. This is, of course, due to my very easy going nature, and not because Simon is oblivious to my furies and frustrations.

Anyway, yeah. Where am I now? It's been a rather hectic few days actually, and I now find myself in a cheap internet "place" (not a cafe) in Kosice. Before this we were in Spissky Podradhie, before then Kezmarok, before then a campsite outside some small village beneath the Tatra mountan range, and before then Trencin.

Surprisingly, everything has more or less been going to plan. On Monday, we caught the train to Poprad with the Canadians, and from Poprad caught the train to various destinations in the Tatras that don't have the energy to recall the names of. Just your typical unpronouncable and bizarre Slovak place names, with all sorts of little marks above the letters. Come on guys, do you really need these silly little marks above half your damn letters? Keep it simple dudes. And speak English more.

So we camped a couple of nights at "Intercamp" with the Canadians. I think the Canadians have the address of this page so I'd better not say how much I HATED THEM. Uh... no, just joking Canadian dudes. No, the Canadians were cool and provided an interesting diversion to the route we would otherwise have gone. The second night of camping we bought heaps of cheap drink and got very very drunk indeed. So drunk that I woke up inside my tent many hours into the night, convinced it was raining and that I was in some strange and unfamiliar tent. It was quite scary and it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise where I was. Probably Simon's snoring helping to remind me.

Hence the next day - Wednesday - was pretty awful. Because the Canadians had other plans, involving going up great heights into the cold and me and Simon possessing only T-shirts, we had to make a very tearful farewell. And me and Simon, fighting through the hangover, managed to get up at 8am and get a 10am bus to Kezmarok.

Kezmarok first appealed to me a couple of weeks ago, when I read in the book that it had a church made of wood, but no nails, and that in 1918 the town of 20000 declared itself an indepedent state, but very quickly absorbed itself into the newly formed Czechoslovakia. Both these facts sounded fascinating, therefore we were very disappointed to find that not only was the place an absolute ghosttown, but the wooden church was made of STONE on the outside and there was no mention of it being independent anywhere (maybe we should have tried the museum).

But all was not lost. It was a very very pretty little place, with all the buildings painted different colours. Cute almost. Very attractive. It had a big church painted green and red which was smart but best of all, our accommodation costing just 2 pounds each was at the football stadium. At a small flat actually built into the football stadium, with windows overlooking the pitch. Ok, Kezmarok FC aren't world beaters, but having a flat in a stadium overlooking the pitch is cool in my book. We even got to see a couple of games - some under 13s, and some game I think was reserves, that had quite a few people turn up. If we'd hung around till Saturday we could have seen them play Poprad. We didn't though, because there wasn't a huge amount to do, although to be fair I think we turned up on a public holiday and we were both in knackered form from the drunken night before, so we didn't give poor little Kezmarok the best of chances.

The next morning it was off to Spissky Pophradie, a small village of about 2000 with a true mother of a castle on a hill above it - a UNESCO World Heritage site, and deservedly so. The castle was gigantic. In partial ruins, but looking great nonetheless. After a short while trying to find the village's single place of accommodation, we got it (for just 3 pounds each) and to our astonishment this bargain but very pleasant little hotel was literally at the foot of the hill underneath the castle, with our room directly facing it. It was an amazing sight. Seriously, in 10 years time a room at this hotel is going to cost 10 times as much.

Yeah, that's one thing I've noticed. There's obviously far less money in Slovakia than Western countries, but that's because they're only charging 3 quid for prime site hotels. Come on guys, rip us off. Charge us more. You're never going to make money by charging me 3 quid. I'm not exactly complaining mind you.

Yeah, so we looked around the giant castle which I really do recommend seeing, and early today got the bus to Kosice, finally finding cheap accomodation in a halls of residence (I think) which is basically just a big tower block overlooking the whole city. We've got the top floor, so have a rather good view. I haven't seen much of the city yet, but it looks ok.

Oh, the lifts in our tower block are mighty terrifying though. They're these tiny little lifts that don't have slide doors, just actual swing doors. You know, like regular doors. Inner lifts doors, and outer doors on each floor. When we first got the lift up to our top floor, the outer door wouldn't open - we were locked in. Fortunately, the door a floor below did, so we escaped. And Simon very cleverly discovered that if you open the inner lift doors as the lifts is moving up, the lift shudders to an abrupt halt.

Remember that sweepstake Joe Gauci did on my death? Well seriously, go for me dying tomorrow, in a small Kosice tower block lift, and I think you may just win.

Ok, so we're in Kosice and plan to be for a couple of days, then we finally leave Slovakia and venture into Hungary. No details yet, but I'm sure we'll conjure up some magnificent plan that will fall apart at the first hurdle.

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