Elite 8 plus Kate

Trip Start Mar 17, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
The Ginger Monkey Hostel

Flag of Slovakia  , Presov,
Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm standing on the deck of a two-storey house, drinking a beer and looking out to the sun setting on a huge mountain range. I am surrounded by british people, one of whom is playing a guitar. But his guitar playing is drowned out by a group of young children singing, dancing, playing guitar and clapping out the front of a church. Suddenly, two more british people women return from a run and the tranquillity is shattered when we learn that one of them had to stop to take a shit in the woods. 'Where am I?’ I ask myself. Zdiar.

Travelling from Zakopane in Poland to Zdiar in Slovakia was too easy. A mini-bus ride to the border and then a short walk across the river that separates the two countries. Unfortunately it took us a little while to find the border as we were walking around asking people which way to Slovakia, when they actually call it Slovensko. Zdiar is a small town (population 1300) in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, close to the Slovak-Poland border. There isn’t much in the town apart from a few small restaurants and the Ginger Monkey Hostel.

We booked two nights at the Ginger Monkey and within 15minutes had asked to extend it to five nights (which eventually became six). We had a heap of discussions with other guests about what makes a good hostel… good. Some places you go to you don’t feel comfortable and you find you are constantly watching your belongings but as soon as we arrived at the Ginger Monkey we felt like we were home. The staff are all very helpful, fun and friendly and there are a bevy or activities to enjoy whilst in Zdiar. We went on two big hikes, rafted down a river and rode bikes back up it, went to Aqua City in nearby Poprad, played hide and seek, entered the XXL Pizza challenge, signed up to play paintball (which was rained out), signed up to play poker (which was drunk out), spent days and nights watching dvds, drank around the campfire, relaxed in the hammock, took Wally (the dog) for heaps of walks and sung along to a local guy playing the accordian in the pub.

After settling in we were relaxing on the porch having some beers when Ewan, a bloke from Leeds, brought out chocolate liqueur, Bechorovka and Slivovica. Party started. Ewan and Cara were planning on leaving the next day but, in a thing of beauty, there decision was to be made by the ATM. The Zdiar ATM only gets filled once a week so if  there was no money in the machine, they would have to stay until it was filled. After a few hours drinking around the campfire we headed down to the pub where there was a big groups of locals celebrating a birthday. After a few beers and drinking games they bought out the accordions and started singing what I can only assume were traditional songs, as everyone seemed to know them. They kindly bought us a  bottle of vodka and we sang the night away.

On our third day we set off on the long trek over the saddle of the mountain. Leaving at about 11am we didn’t get back until around 6pm, spending what seemed like forever winding our way down the other side of the mountain passed alpine lakes, through forest and climbing over rocks. We had lunch at the top of the mountain looking out to the rest of the mountain range which was amazing. After Ewan and Cara left on our fourth day and we were beginning to think it would be a boring last few days. The thing about good hostels though is that they seem to attract good people and that day Dave, a bloke from Tassie, moved into our room. We then had Andy and Kit move into our room, then we met Andrew, Bethan and Kristin and all of a sudden we had a decent crew to enjoy all the activities with.

The highlight of our time in Zdiar would definitely have been our day trip to Aqua City in Poprad. We spent a lot of time at the hostel trying to plan what package exactly to get but we settled on the works. We weren’t sure whether to get the Vital package but when we found out they had an ice-cave, sun meadow and Russian sauna our decision was made. The best part about the day…water aerobics. Slovak people don’t go half-hearted in their water aerobics and I knew it was serious when YMCA came on. I wasn’t expecting though that we would all be doing it with such gusto. Shortly after this one big konga line formed that ended up in a circle with everyone massaging the person in front’s shoulders and then their ears, then their head. A hard to think of something funnier I have seen then Dave getting his ears massaged with such gusto by an eighty year old Slovak woman.

The day at Aqua City was needed because the night before I had completed the XXL Pizza challenge. The local pizza store makes a 1.5kg pizza and the challenge is to complete it within two hours and not vomit before midnight. Apparently only 1 in 7 completes it but on this night 4 out of 7 did. It was fun, then horrible and finally rewarding. I had to go for a long walk afterwards to try and settle my stomach. It is probably something I don’t recommend doing but at least we gave Australia the lead ahead of the Brits.

Eventually, much to our dismay, it was time to leave the Monkey. We caught the bus to Poprad and got on the train, which was twenty minutes delayed. This was not good. We only had four minutes to change trains at Kosice and had been assured this was enough time as the trains are never late, of course. It wasn’t all together bad. We spent the night in Kosice at an overpriced apartment but Kosice itself is quite a nice town and we wished we had more time to spend there.

On to Budapest.
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