Debbie Downer Goes for a Hike

Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Jan 22, 2006

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Flag of Slovakia  ,
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Czechoslovakia (bless you) sneezed in 1993 and out popped the Czech Republic and Slovakia. An interesting fact about Slovakia is that it produces more hockey pucks than any other country in the world. We saw ads featuring Miroslav Satan everywhere.

We went to Slovakia to trek in the High Tatras Mountains, the highest in Eastern Europe. To get to the High Tatras, we stopped in Poprad, a transportation hub that didn't have much attraction. We stayed there one night and caught the morning train to Stary Smokovec, a small developing resort town at the base of the High Tatras. The area between Poprad and Stary Smokovec had been devastated by major floods in 2004. As a result, the landscape was desolate and looked as if Saruman's orcs had swept through.

The half hour morning train was more like a tram and had only two small cars which filled up quickly with hikers. At each stop, more hikers piled on. One person in our group who had a remarkable resemblance in demeanor and appearance to the character Debbie Downer on Saturday Night Live was so exasperated with the situation she climbed one of the poles on the train and exclaimed that she was getting off if any more people got on. The rest of us had to talk her down from the pole and convince her that being misplaced in Slovakia was worse than hanging on for two more stops.

Our hike in the High Tatras Mountains resembled a hike up an untouched Squamish Chief. There were icy waterfalls and vistas of craggy mountains and forested valleys. During our hike, we hit our first chilly weather in awhile and the crisp air was a good break from city life.

In Stary Smokovec, the souvenir shop at the train station stocked a bizarre variety of tacky goods. The oddest souvenir we saw was a naked doll which was sticking out its tongue and flipping the bird from both fists. Maybe the Bulgarian girl who greeted us on the Bosfor Express had been given one of these dolls for Christmas.

In Poprad we set out to try Slovakian cuisine which like most other Eastern European food is meat and potato-based. There were potato dumplings on the menu and we wanted to try it. We were quite surprised when the dumplings arrived as four slices of bread. One girl had ordered the dumplings as her entire meal ... which went well with her water.
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