I opened Google Maps on my telephone within the basement-level hostel in Zakopane and found an issue. The one manner out of this quaint Polish resort city by rail was again the way in which I’d come. The one viable manner out, in direction of Slovakia, meant traversing the mountains by small personal bus; I’d have to interrupt with my two-month dedication to trains for the quick journey.
The bus took me over the spectacular Excessive Tatras and delivered me at a tiny nondescript station in a city referred to as Poprad. Because it turned out, it was a small value to pay. And the right introduction into per week of touring Slovakia by rail.
Arriving in Poprad
Poprad station was throughly underwhelming. I’d chosen town for its low cost hostel, proximity to the mountains, and the each day trains that might join me with Slovakia’s small villages and bigger cities. I stepped off the bus and realised I had little concept the place my lodging was, and no strategy to discover out with out wifi.
It was shortly earlier than 6pm on a Friday. It appeared as if a lot of the dusty bus station had closed up store for the weekend. I seemed round for somebody to ask, however the handful of passengers who had alighted with me had filtered off into the late afternoon daylight.
I muttered one thing about my dislike for buses and pulled out my telephone. Any sort of wifi appeared unlikely in a station as abandoned and distant as this, however I had few different choices. I wanted to siphon simply sufficient web from someplace to no less than give me instructions to my pre-booked lodging for the night time.
Miraculously a single bar appeared on my telephone. After which one other. And earlier than I knew it, I had Google’s strolling instructions to a tiny restaurant the place I’d discover the important thing to my humble lodging in Poprad.
Bunking with Wolves and Brick Layers
The lady within the neighborhood restaurant couldn’t converse English. However she knew I used to be there for the room upstairs, and so she handed me the important thing and pointed me to the door across the nook. I trudged up the creaking picket stairs, following the sound of a hissing pan and the odor of frying meat.
Upstairs a crew of Romanian brick layers was cooking up a feast after a day of laborious labour close by. They seemed up as I arrived, after which continued their dialog.
I walked in direction of a room within the nook of the communal home and pushed open the skinny picket door. Inside I met a longhaired bearded German man referred to as Wolf. He was hunched over a big map on the ground of the room.
‘No English,’ he stated, holding out a hand in greeting.
He motioned in direction of a mattress on the ground within the nook and shrugged. A skinny see-through curtain hung over the big window which was barely ajar. The nice and cozy summer time outdoors, and Wolf’s weathered mountain climbing boots by his mattress, necessitated it being open, regardless of the loud visitors and early karaoke social gathering going down throughout the street.
Strolling to Thailand
By way of a mix of on-line translation apps and damaged English, Wolf knowledgeable me that he was strolling to Thailand as a protest to his ex-girlfriend’s imprisonment. ‘However tomorrow,’ he stated. ‘We go for a hike. Slovak Paradise. You coming?’
We rose early the following morning. The night time had been a stressed one with all-night drag racing on the road outdoors and the continuation of the karaoke social gathering till the early hours. Although on a relaxation day of his higher mission, Wolf was decided to hike. A go to to a spot referred to as Slovak Paradise was laborious for me to withstand. We threw a number of provides in our backpacks and walked within the dawn to the practice station.
We hopped aboard a rusted regional practice, and rode it till a small city that bordered on the reserve. And for the remainder of the day we trudged by means of huge pine plantations and pure forests, up steep muddy hills, by means of daisy fields, and down not possible embankments. Finally, we admitted we have been misplaced.
From one hilltop we seen a small restaurant at a lake beneath. We pulled in drained, sweaty, and with no concept of the place we have been. We mulled over the choices with a number of chilly beers, together with strolling the 25 kilometers again to our start line. Fortuitously, we agreed to beat a retreat to a close-by bus cease.
Touring Spiš Citadel
One other morning in Poprad a French visitor, Sarah, advised me she was visiting a preferred fort within the space. It appeared like a great different to a different misguided stroll within the woods with Wolf. Once more, a small regional practice, mixed with a brief bus journey, bought us to the foot of this unimaginable attraction.
Deserted in 1760, Spiš Citadel is now a preferred vacationer attraction in Slovakia. The ruins kind one of many largest fort websites in central Europe. The historical past, views, and understated great thing about the countryside saved us strolling the partitions and exploring close by villages for all the day till ultimately we boarded a practice again to our base in Poprad.
Leaving for Bratislava
Finally the late night time drag races and mattress on the ground bought the higher of me. My two companions have been shifting off too. Wolf caught a journey with the bricklayers to proceed his stroll to Thailand, and Sarah headed north to Poland for the previous couple of days of her journey.
I boarded an early morning practice for the Slovakian capital. The trains in these components have a particular sort of allure and the surroundings outdoors was phenomenal. Inexperienced fields, blue skies and cotton wool white clouds heralded my arrival to Bratislava. After three days exploring the capital’s stunning structure, quirky sights, attention-grabbing historical past and absorbing the idyllic location on the well-known Danube river, my time in Slovakia was up. However with its simple rail routes and countless pure magnificence, I used to be in little doubt that it could quickly characteristic in a future Eurail journey.