detour to the Slovakian mountains, part 1

Photo by Tanvi Malik

I'm at an incredibly friendly hostel in Bratislava, right in the old town, but I can't be bothered to go socialize or see the city.

I acknowledge how lucky I am, but I'm bored.  I'm tired.  If I see one more building described as neo-classical or neo-gothic or neo-ANYTHING, I'm going to scream.  All I want to do is go see the new Wonder Woman at the cinema in the mall and figure out where to go next.

I'm in Bratislava because it was on my itinerary and because I'm on my way to meet my friend in Budapest.  A week ago I realized I was traveling too quickly, which is why I added 5 days in Munich, but I still have a few days to kill in between.  I could stay in Bratislava for a full week, but there's not much to keep you entertained in that town for more than 2 days.  I have to find somewhere to go.

Photo by Zach Taiji

I sit down on the toilet.  Usually an irrelevant tidbit, but this moment changed the course of my trip.  Right at eye level from sitting on the pooper is a flier for a hostel in northern Slovakia in the High Tatras.  The mountains are what intrigued me, but the 10/10 Hostelworld review and the promise of a dog are what convinced me.

Two days later and I'm on the train to Poprad.

I've stayed in some enjoyable hostels, but this one is definitely the best one I've ever been to.  Right after I get there, I'm invited out to dinner with a few other guests, which I find out later is a regular occurrence.  Restaurants are so cheap in this village you can get a meal for under 10 euros, and even that's on the higher end (I average on 6 euros or less).

This is the first place I've been where the hostel actually has a family-feel.  As someone who hasn't been home since the very beginning of January, it feels so nice to just sit around and have a laugh with friendly people.  This hostel is slightly out of the way (i.e., not on the main Eurotrip path), so it attracts what another guest called "the right kind of people."  No stag parties, no huge groups, long-term travelers (at least longer than a few weeks), and a lot of solo travelers.

Also, the mountains.  I forgot how much I missed them.  I don't live in the mountains in Virginia, I'm right smack dab in the middle of the state, but something about being in the mountains makes me feel more at home than anything else in the world.

I do a 25-kilometer hike on my first full day, by myself for the majority of it.  Hiking is tough for me, especially alone without any distractions, because I internally beat myself up most of the way.  Usually, my head is a pleasant place to be, but for some reason, strenuous physical activity brings out my inner critic more than anything.  What matters is that no matter how much I wanted to give up and turn around, I didn't.  Which is what I like about myself.  Even when I am my own worst enemy, I can't seem to give up.  I'm sure that's a trait that will help me out in life.

Days 2 and 3 were much more chill, only short walks with the dog by the river and over to the Goulash Man.

On Saturday I reluctantly leave the hostel in the 1,300 person village (smaller than my high school) for Budapest.  Now that I've rested for a few days, I feel rejuvenated enough to tackle more central and eastern European cities.


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