18,427 steps, a marmot and a bee sting: Slovakia

Just a few days ago, I had a birthday! Woo-hoo! Not one to typically make a huge deal about trips around the sun, this year wasn’t much different, just was in Prague instead of San Diego like the last couple of years.

So I walked over 18,000 steps that day. Because buying train tickets online in Czech Republic is still not really a thing, I had to go to the station to figure out how to get to Poprad. Despite nothing online indicating this, there was a direct train to Poprad from Prague. Woo-hoo!

Train ride was really nice, trains here are new & nice and they give you free bottles of water. I took a quick awkward nap, then grabbed a coffee and listened to a few hours of Dave Mustaine’s autobiography while I gazed out the window at the impressive scenery.

Enter: Poprad! I had never heard of this city but when I think of Slovakia, I think of mountains, and my friend Richard Patey is currently living there with his wife Jana, and I’ve seen the pictures. In!

Clean, modern, quaint, and cheap, the town was very impressive.

We worked from a nice coffee shop/book store, surprisingly, menus have English descriptions in addition to Slovakian. Most of the young people know at least some English too.

My Airbnb turned out to be 25-30 minute walk from “the city”. Not really part of the plan. I thought $34 was a steal but that was because the ad said “Entire Home”, when in reality…I had housemates. I was never sure how many people were there at a time, but there were at least 2 others, and they always seemed to be in the kitchen when I wanted to be.

And then there was the bathroom.

Showers turned into baths. At least they had a rubber duckie for me! 😉

I gave in and took a bath
I gave in and took a bath

I was happy to get some healthy meals, but let me explain what happened at the grocery store the first day:

One, everything is like half of what is is back home! Even like apples and stuff. Why? No idea.

Anyway, so I go to check out and they have the option of using the self checkout machines.

Since you can select English, I choose one of those.

First, my apples weren’t listed on there. It was taking me a while to figure it out, meanwhile, the line behind me is growing cuz there’s just 2 machines working.

So, then I get to the sausages, and they wouldn’t scan!

There’s like 8 big dudes RIGHT behind me breathing down my back. I called the worker guy over, and he knew NO English, was talking to me in Slovak and I had no clue what was going on.

Then some other guy came over and said in English I just needed to get a different package of kielbasa or whatever. So with this huge crowd watching, I go back and trade it, come back, scan it, and then go to pay.

Not only does my card not work, the machine fucking freezes up! UGH!

So by this time I hear all these people in line talking, obviously irritated. The non-english speaking agent comes over again and after a bit of non-communicating, he fixes it, and I just use cash to pay. THEN…I have to buy a bag (stupid European rules), and I start to put the bag over near my groceries and…SMASH!

I knock over my tomato sauce, it shatters all over the place, the crowd gasps, and quickly shove all my groceries in my bag and just get the F out of there!

Oh yeah, the English speaking employee asked me “How did that happen?” Haha. What a scene! Everyone in that entire place hated my guts.

But I got some healthy food minus the lycopene I missed in the tomato sauce. Woo-hoo!

The highlight had to have been our hike of the High Tatras. It was billed as a 45 minute hike but I think we were on the mountain for at least 3 hours. Of course that included a lovely traditional Slovakian lunch with fruit balls as a dessert (pretty sure they are 100% paleo, haha).

fruitballs

The hike was fantastic. We ran into a marmot along the way!

kev_marmot

And again! (Thanks KevinG for this brilliant photoshop):

tatras_marmot

Really awesome time on the mountain, and exactly what I came to Slovakia for.

kev_richard_jana

After that, they dropped me off in “the city” and I went to the coffee shop for a couple hours, got some more food (this time no incidents), and started my 30-minute walk back. On the way, I got attacked by a bee. Literally attacked!

This bee SLAMS into my left earlobe, and I immediately try to swat it away, but it’s instantly stinging or biting me! I start hitting my ear with my hand and it’s not going away!

Then it flies off and flies RIGHT back to me and is buzzing around my head as I walk! So I start running! With backpack on. Quite a site to see.

The thing still followed me a bit and then finally flew away. Then my earlobe is KILLING me. i thought I was bleeding for sure, but I wasn’t. It’s still swollen today. I’m guessing it was a yellow jacket or other kind of bee? They can sting and stay alive, unlike regular bees.

Pro Tip for traveling:

While most people think the site Rome2Rio.com is the bees knees for finding out how to get from one city to another (and I agree it’s pretty good), it’s flawed. I needed to get from Poprad to Krakow, and Rome2Rio had me taking a 3 hour train to Kocice and then a private bus that was going to take another 4 hours to Krakow, for like $80. But through some research I found a company that had a bus leaving Poprad and going direct to Krakow, 2 hour drive and 25 Euro. Turns out I was the only one in the shuttle. Pretty sweet drive.

Pretty happy to be in Krakow now. Thinking of going to Auschweitz and the Salt Mines.