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June 19th, 2007

By my count I have visited nine castles across Europe on this trip, and far and away the best is Orava. The locals don’t mention the Nosferatu connection, as apparently film history isn’t of huge interest to Slovakians. For them, the history of their castles is tied to the Hungarian and Polish families that alternately and repetitively conquered the region. This is a region where tourist information isn’t guaranteed to be in English and we don’t always know the context of what we are seeing. This, however, is a good thing as the places aren’t full of cheap commercialism.

While climbing the various stairs and sections of this castle, we got to speaking to a couple of German gents about the satisfaction of finally finding a place that properly preserves it’s artifacts, including a ban on flash photos of paintings. When they asked us to drop our admittedly meagre plans and accompany them on their travels for a few days, with the normal caution of travellers and Simon’s new respect for not talking to strangers, we opted to make a judgement of these fellows over lunch before committing to anything or dismissing the offer out of hand. I am glad we did, as we discovered we had chanced upon the most connected guy in Slovakia, Wastl, and his well-travelled friend Günter. In the next 2 days, Wastl got us out of our previous accommodation, found us new digs at a cheap price and showed us more of Slovakia in than we had seen in almost a week. He introduced us to the Slovak spirits Borovička (juniper brandy), slivovica (plum brandy) and demänovka (pear brandy that goes down smooth), he introduced us to more of the food and he introduces us to a former Miss Orava and many other pretty girls. He explained whatever we had seen but didn’t understand in the culture, and gave many more insights (it turns out Slovakians don’t celebrate birthdays, the celebrate name days. They all have the name of a saint and each saint has a day. This also means you can't abuse your kid by calling them Jazmeynefzjiyrt as is the trend at home) and even drove us into Poland for a refreshing kvas. Top bloke. And, as I know you’re reading Wastl, feel free to add any comments and corrections.

By the way Alan, Wastl roadied for The Butterfly Effect.

So, I’ll leave you with all the Slovak you will ever need:
ahoj (ahoy): I’m not kidding, ‘hello’
dovidenia: ‘goodbye’
prosim: ‘please / you are welcome’
d’akujem (da-kwe-em): ‘thankyou’
kurva po pici (kurva-po-pits-e)

As a post script, the late arrival of the post card to Alan, while delaying these updates, was beyond perfect: the card arrived mere hours after he saw Hostel 2. According to Father his face was incredible, and the first thing he said to me over the internets was "U ANUS I SO DT+TNK".

This lunar cycle

April 2015
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