Okay, so up next on our journey is the splendid country of Slovakia. After a great day in Budapest, we took to the streets again for a 2 hour ride to the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava. Now this was never an intended stop on our route, but we figured as long as we were seeing the capitals in each country we were in, we might as well hit another one on our way back to Poland.
We stopped in the capital city and here is where I need to insert my first regret. I did not take a single picture while we walked around downtown… (Don’t ask me why I didn’t). The only photos I have are driving along the highway as we try to get ourselves to the main center.
The history of present day Slovakia dates back to the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 7th century, they played a significant role in the creation of Samo’s Empire and in the 9th century they established the Principality of Nitra. By the 10th century, the territory was integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary which then became a part of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After WWI and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks and the Czechs established what we used to call Czechoslovakia. This ended on January 1st 1993 after a peaceful dissolution, often called the Velvet Divorce.
So without taking any pictures, we walked around the pedestrian only Old Town and had a bite to eat. It was a rather quiet day in the city, so it was nice to sit back and enjoy some people watching while enjoying the beautiful day. Sitting high above the city is the Bratislava Castle, which is really neat and also on my regret list because we decided to head onward instead of taking a tour.
Slovakia is known for its dramatic landscapes and many castles, which we were about to witness first hand, so onward we go! Goodbye Bratislava…
(Terrible pictures, I know…)
Heading north now back to Poland, we start to see the stunning landscape. The mountains started to grow taller and it was as if the color green was taking on a new meaning… It’s as though time was taking us to a place which it had forgotten about, and it was marvelous.
Not too far up the road this came into sight and unfortunately, I couldn’t turn my camera on quick enough to get a good shot.
To this day I am trying to figure out what the name of this castle is. It’s as though each and every town was situated around an ancient castle, but this one seemed special. The way it perched over the town it was protecting was straight out of a fairy tale.
Why we didn’t stop I do not know, so this turns out to be another regret. (I do believe it was starting to drizzle outside)
If I remember correctly, we were also trying to reach a certain place on the map and it was getting that time of day where the sun was getting ready to say goodnight. Paul knows all to well that if we would have stopped, we would have been there for the remainder of the day exploring and missed our target. So onward we go…
We finally make our destination and the views are breathtaking (or at least we will find out in the morning. These photos are all taken the next day as it was pitch black when we arrived). Our first stop looking for a place to stay turns out to be a winner. Welcome to the Penzion Montana, in Terchova Slovakia.
A little look around…
This place was great! Not because it was a 5 start hotel, or the accommodations were out of this world, but because it felt like true Slovakia. The smells, the furniture, the wallpaper on the walls made this a truly special place. The hotel also had a restaurant which we tried out and had a scrumptious meal and a beer before hitting the room.
Now comes for the biggest regret in our travels so far… While we are getting ready to unpack a few things from the suitcase and take showers, we open the window to let in some fresh air. (Our room is on the back side of the hotel which faces the mountains and forest.)
Now remember, it’s probably close to midnight our time and we weren’t expecting the sound we heard as soon as we pushed the window open. Music and laughter rang out and filled the air as if even the forest was dancing. We looked around and in the near distance there was a lodge with lights on… voila! You could see the smoke coming from the chimney and a smell filled the air that was pure delight. We were kind of caught off guard, as it was the middle of the week and very late at night, but there it was.
We sat and listened for a moment, and that’s when we started to hear the singing! It almost felt like we were standing on the set of a movie. We couldn’t help but smile and look at each other and giggle. Then we asked the question… “should we”? We pondered it for a little bit and for some unknown reason, we decided against it. It was too late and we had a big day ahead of us so we thought a good nights rest would do us good.
To. This. Day, this would become and has been the greatest traveling regret I have. If only we would have walked up the hill and opened that door. Opened the door to true Slovak celebration, whatever it was they were celebrating. Drank with the locals, had some beers and danced the night away.
Only in my imagination do these things happen as we completely missed out on a night I know we would have remembered forever. As it turns out, I will still always remember that night, but with regret.
If there has been one thing I have learned from all of our travels, it’s to regret nothing. Nothing is worth saying “we should have”, or “maybe next time”. When the moment presents itself and it feels right, just do it. If you regret it later, so be it. At least you did what was right in front of you and trust me, those rarely end in regret.
After a goodnight’s sleep, we were up with our bags packed and ready to head out for our next destination. As soon as we opened the door to head out, that’s when the beauty hit us of where we were. The air smelled of wood burning furnaces, which you could still see chimneys smoking in the fresh morning air. And when I say fresh air, I mean fresh air…
This was the place were you could tell time didn’t so much forget about, but just went a little slower than usual and it was fantastic. I would have loved to stay for a while to hear the children laughing in the background while the farmers went about their day. Seeing the mid day activities that brought the people out, to the setting sun and the nightlife that blossomed after dark.
This is all why Slovakia and I will meet again someday. There are too many regrets left behind in this gem of a country. You don’t hear may people say that they have a dream of visiting Slovakia… While now you have and it’s a dream I will fulfill before my travel days are over.
And with that comes our time to say see you next time, and not goodbye.
Our next stop on this journey will lead us to a place that has touched our lives forever. A place which has seen more pain than you can ever think of, and ground that still holds onto the ashes of those souls which were taken there, Auschwitz-Birkenau.