The upside of downtime

I need to do better research. My Bratislava plans were thwarted somewhat by my own stupidity. One of the main reasons for coming here, aside from being in the country of half my ancestry, was to visit some cool castles. I did see one in the old town, but it wasn’t that impressive.

I had two choices just outside of town — Devin and Trencin. As it turned out, the former is closed for winter. The second option was a two hour train ride (plus a 40 minute tram ride) away. Because of the train schedule, the castle schedule, and my own laziness, I would have had around 30 minutes to enjoy it.

So that was out. What to do now? Bratislava’s a great town, gritty and old, with pubs housed right next door to gothic churches, my kind of thing. But I’d done all the wandering around old town that I wanted to do the day before.

What saved the day (somewhat… I was still bummed about the castle thing) is that I met some interesting people. An Aussie, a guy from Hong Kong, and two full-blood Slavs from Canada. Their family came from the western edge of Ukraine, which is actually not far from where my Slovak half is from in eastern Slovakia. So the five of us went out and visited a Nikola Tesla exhibit at the museum, got some traditional food, went to a cafe and, later, a cool, hidden-away bar near the castle.

After a couple of drinks, the Canadians told me about their experiences visiting Ukraine a few weeks back. They talked about a horrific Ukrainian genocide I knew nothing about, where somewhere up to 10 million essentially starved to death when the Soviets forcibly stripped them of their farm equipment. Families started eating babies, and things of this sort. So there’s apparently a resulting identity crisis with Ukrainian Slavs. According to these two, the majority see Russia as a great influence and source of pride, and are ignorant of what was done to them. Others feel that there should be acknowledgment of the incident and reparations made.

Now, as a side note, I should say that this was just conversation, and I’m paraphrasing what I managed to retain. And they were clearly emotional about the whole thing. So this isn’t meant to be any kind of accurate summation of historical events.

The next day, I took a train to Olomouc, Czech Republic, where I am now. But not before I was fined for not having a long enough tram ticket to get there. Fuck, I don’t know how long it takes, give me a break. I’m out $50, but on the plus side, it was kind of cool being flanked by two big Slovaks and led to the bank machine to pay the fine. My own little minor crime in Bratislava. Pretty cool.

Okay, with that I’m done for now. Tomorrow I’m off to Prague. Olomouc is a fantastic town, so I have to get off this laptop and get out while I’ve got some sunshine.

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2 Responses to “The upside of downtime”

  1. How do you meet people? Waiting in a line? Do you sit down next to them at an outdoor cafe? Do they come up to you? Your cast of characters is quite eclectic.

  2. Hostel life.

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