Trip Start Jul 16, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Slovakia  , Bratislava,
Sunday, August 17, 2008

Finally time to move on. I shook hands with my friendly front-desk bloke whom I woke up so many times so early in the morning. Well, he was pretty hard to wake so I used to just sleep on the bench outside till he checked to see whether I was there.

Then back to school. Yes, they're so keen that they even scheduled classes on the morning of the last day. The day I wagged class completely they of course had something that I would have loved to have been there for, but I got my chance again today. The teacher likes to project pics from his computer to give subjects to talk about and one of the ones he showed when I wasn't there was of an Australian Rules footie match with no-one having any idea of what it was. But it came up again today so I was able to point out that it waw the Sydney Swans playing.

After class everyone mingled for a bit then I was off on the first bus to Bratislava with Oleksandr, the Ukrainian who'll be helping me find my way by bus and train and bus to L'viv.

One of the Esperanto teachers (who lives in Budapest) was on the bus to Bratislava and when I mentioned to her that there's a half-marathon coming up in Budapest that I'll be taking part in, she said, yes, she knows, she works for the organisers. She said she'd look out for my entry application.

Had a very interesting chat with an Italian fellow who was at the Esperanto school and who had the same idea as me as regards the classes. He was just interested in being there and didn't sign up for any classes. I gather he doesn't work at all but manages to take part in lots of Esperanto events by travelling very cheaply, no doubt hitch-hiking and taking advantage of special fares in western Europe and cheap fares in eastern Europe, and camping once he arrives somewhere so hotel costs are zero. He seems to have taught himself Esperanto or just picked it up by going to so many of these events. Hmmm, I think I forgot to ask him why Esperanto? Anyhow, pleasant bloke, interesting. No doubt there are quite a few like him as camping seems to be a big part of the Esperanto scene. No doubt they all know each other so they look forward to these events as a way of catching up with old friends.

Then I wandered around the old town in Bratislava with Oleksandr. It's very big and quite impressive though everything seems to be either a church or a restaurant. I think I'd get pretty sick of it pretty quickly as it has such an artificial feel to it. Plus it's close enough to Prague to get lots of sheep.

Medieval busker. He didn't seem too happy. Not sure whether it's because he plays such a strange musical instrument... or maybe he's worried about catching the plague or something.

Classic! We passed a church that had a sign in front - no tourists. How ridiculous. What? There's no such thing as a religious tourist? Or God wouldn't want a tourist to wander into a church and be so impressed with it all that he might convert? All in all it doesn't seem like a very Christian attitude and they should be ashamed of themselves. I'll have to go back and push my way in.

They have a really impressive castle. It's a great place to hang out and it's free!

Also a pretty good view. This is I suspect a pretty famous bridge. The thing on top looks like the Starship Enterprise. We ended up walking across on another bridge further up and walked back over the one in the pic. The spaceship is in fact a restaurant.

Between the old town and the river (Danube maybe?), they have some really interesting works of art... and a nice pedestrian walkway.

Back at the railway station there were no soccer hooligans about... but this being one of the major ice-hockey nations of the world... there were a few hockey fans about.

At about midnight we got on a train to Michalovce which is quite close to the Ukrainian border. There was an incredibly bubbly girl in our compartment... on her way home. Blonde, chatting away. It was just so weird to hear her speaking Slovak all the time. She just seemed so... western!

Although it was pretty hot in Bratislava, luckily I still had my light jacket in my rucksack. The train to Mihalovce was so rickety that the window kept on opening... depending on how rough the bit of rail was that we were going over... it might be 5 seconds or it might be 15 seconds... and as the night wore on it got colder and colder. I might have slept for a while in the cold but eventually at about 4 o'clock in the morning or so it was so cold I couldn't sleep and eventually it was so bad that every time the window came down I stuck my hand up and closed it again... so that I could have that few seconds without the icy air rushing in. That must have gone on for a couple of hours too... If I didn't happen to have my jacket in my back-pack I can just imagine myself sitting there just in my t-shirt and refusing to rummage through my suitcase trying to find my jacket.

Luckily I was able to convince Oleksandr not to speak to everyone in English all the time. For starters you can't assume that someone will speak English but above all, if Ukrainians and Slovaks speak nice and clearly they really can understand each other and that's much more interesting than using English. For some reason, now with the dominance of English, some Slavs seem to have lost the ability or even the opportunity, to mingle and get on with other Slavs.

We stopped somewhere and I had a chance to observe some railway workers in action. Postal workers and railway workers... they do such a good job... mail always arrives and trains keep running.

Getting off the train in Michalovce. I always find it strange actually having to cross the tracks to get to the station... Anyway, looking at the pic I think it's not hard to believe that the window wouldn't stay closed... brrrr.
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