Tuesday, March 2, 2010

High on a Mountian Top 9/17- 9/24

Our tickets home were purchased while I was in Warsaw, Poland. On October 16th we would fly from Rome, Italy to New York City. It was September 17th so I had one month left on the trip. I arrived in Warsaw after an uncomfortable overnight bus all the way from Estonia.
I was alone for the first time on the trip. I walked in the wrong direction for a while when I left the bus stop. The first hostel I got to was full and at the second I was yelled at by some jerk with a sleeve of tattoos. Finally I went to Nathan's Villa where the receptionist was so nice to me. The day got better as I discovered the city. I stopped in a used clothing store for the first time on the trip, things like this make independent travel necessary. It was an end of summer sunny day. I went to the former Jewish Ghetto which is now the largest Jewish Cemetery.

headstones and trees
shadow in cemetery
It was another beautiful cemetery day. I wish I had had all day to walk around there.
I got on the train to Krakow on the 18th. I was getting closer to the High Tatras, something I had been looking forward to the entire trip. There was a picture of some people on the High Tatras in the fall in my Eastern Europe Lonely Planet. This photograph made it a must go to destination for me.
I stayed at the Nathan's Villa in Krakow which was basically the biggest party in the city. Days in Krakow were spent in an amazing cafe with vintage furniture and photographs. I could not have dreamed-up a more interesting coffee shop.
tea and cake
beautiful coffee shop
full of amazing antiques

Ever since Anne Frank had stolen my heart back in Mongolia the only must-do I had in Krakow was to visit Auschwitz. As expected, it was horribly depressing. Luckily, I meet an older couple who befriended me. The man had a walker and they told me all about their many travels. They were in Poland because they had just always wanted to come there. There son had gone to CMU and they were familiar with the JET program.
these elderly people told me I reminded them of their daughter in law
man on the right was my buddy
When we were about to leave the woman told me I reminded her of her daughter-in-law who, she told me, was a redheaded Quaker.
I was planning to go to the town of Zakopane, at the base of the High Tatras, on the morning of the 22nd. On the afternoon of the 21st I decided I was done with Krakow and in the spirit of independent travel I picked up my bags and got on a bus. When I got off the bus I was so happy to be in the mountains. I hiked the following day for about eight hours and meet various people along the trail. One Polish woman asked who I was hiking with and when I said I was alone she looked me up and down and said, "brave girl."
high on a mountain top
taking a rest
The hostel I was staying in was closing for the season the following day. I was told about the hostel, Ginger Monkey not too far away in the small town of Zdiar in Slovakia. I took the bus there and it was, by far, the most fantastic hostel I have ever been to. There is not much to do in the town of Zdiar other than hike. Getting to the hostel involves two buses and walking across the Poland/ Slovakia border. Everyone that was staying there were genuinely cool and interesting travelers.
butterfly on laundry
The second day I was there I decided to hike through the mountain pass. As I was beginning my hike I ran into a French girl, Nadine who I persuaded to hike with me. Luckily she agreed. I had no idea how empty and difficult the trail would be. The hike resembled other mind trips. We began talking non-stop and giggling a lot.
face wipe

The closer we got to the top the more beautiful everything was. We made the occasional comment about how amazing this mountain pass was. It was foggy so we could not see the view that I am sure was spectacular. As we were walking through the fog we came upon a mountain goat. He was huge and so close to us. All three of us stood there and looked at each other.
Nadine and flowers

Nadine then vocalized all the feelings I have about traveling. She said, "I wish everyone I know could be here with me and see what I am seeing." We both agreed that moments like this always have some sort of guilt involved. But then again, "if everyone I knew where here, this would not nearly be as special."
The giggles had stopped long ago and the high we had from climbing down from the top was beginning to wear off. We walked through forest, getting totally lost in our own thoughts. Just as it started to get dark we got off the mountain and managed to get a ride back to the hostel. That evening everyone drank and I met three people from Asheville, North Carolina. This was one of the most exciting things that happened to me the entire time I was traveling.
of liquor
Nadine, my hiking friend
After a twenty year old Australian boy failed in his determined effort to sleep with me I went to bed, setting an alarm for just three hours later when I would have to wake up to get my bus to get to Prague.
I woke about twenty minutes after my alarm. I put on my backpack, and ran to the bus stop in the early morning dark. I had missed the bus and there was no way I was going to call my host family and tell them I would be late. I was still a little drunk, I was in Slovakia, it was dark, hitchhiking was my only option. But I got to my train and was finally on my way to see Jitka and Kristyna.

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