After the closure of the Deg Goes East tour it was back to reality and catching up with classes at the University. However, Bavarians love their religious holidays. For Halloween weekend we had two days off from school to celebrate All Saints Day and I had some professors who cancelled class on top of that. Simultaneously I was talking with Zuzana, who I had met in Bratislava, about visiting her and seeing more of Slovakia. When talking about dates in winter, we discovered that the best time was actually the upcoming weekend and the corresponding holidays. Therefore, I picked up my rail pass and jumped on a train bound for Bratislava.
Bratislava is located only about 40 kilometers from Vienna, both of which are on the Donau River, the same one which runs through Deggendorf. In fact, Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest capital cities in the world! I arrived in Bratislava in the afternoon and met Zuzana where we then took a train together to Zilina in the north, her hometown.
From Zilina we made 3 day trips around northern Slovakia. First, with Michael, Zuzana’s brother, we went to the High Tatras, the highest mountains in Slovakia. The city below the mountains was covered in beautiful fall colors but unfortunately it was impossible to take the gondola to the top due to high winds. Therefore, we hiked through the high lakes located in the mountain range where a winter ski jump was also constructed.
The next day we went to Orava Castle. This castle is in great condition and located in a beautiful valley with a river passing by. The site has been used as the setting for several medieval films and is absolutely beautiful. I later found out that this small village around the castle was where one girl who I studied with in Deggendorf the previous semester lives! What a coincidence!
Zuzana and I went back to Zilina and saw the town by night. The city was really special for me to see because it’s about the same size as my hometown Chico so it was a good European perspective of a similar sized city.
Another day we went hiking atop another mountain range with a friend of Zuzana’s. At the summit it was VERY windy but the views were spectacular. I was so happy to have these outdoor experiences in Europe as this is what I truly love and appreciate about home in Northern California. We stopped in a small pretty city in the countryside called Terchova.
The time in Zilina with Zuzana’s family really made me feel touched. They opened their house to me for 5 days and we shared countless laughs as we mingled between Slovakian, English and German. It was great that we could share things such as watching movies together with the help of sub-titles. All of Zuzana’s family was so generous and hospitable that I was truly sad to leave Zilina after such a wonderful time with them. I have promised that I will return one day in the near future!
The last day we went to Bratislava but through Trenchin. In Trenchin we stopped for lunch and to meet two friends of mine who were students in Deggendorf in the spring, Dominika and Martin. We had lunch together, walked through Trenchin, up to the city’s castle, and through the executioner’s house (he is long retired). At lunch, one of the hot items on the menu was the “Smoked Tongue”. Not quite sure whether that’s pig, cow, horse or human tongue but I didn’t goûté.
It was so wonderful to see Dominika, Martin, and of course Zuzana all again. When moving to Germany I never would have imagined what truly wonderful friends I would make from Slovakia and Eastern Europe in general. In fact, my prior knowledge of Eastern Europe was so limited before this year abroad, but I’m so happy that I have educated myself in this part of Europe. With this trip to visit Zuzana, the Deg-Goes-East tour, and Poland in the summer, I honestly have much more of a desire to continue exploring Eastern Europe than re-visiting popular touristic Western Europe locations. While the Deg-Goes-East group only got to experience the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava for a short half a day, I am so lucky to have had the chance to experience how truly beautiful of a country Slovakia is and how welcoming and hospitable the Slovakian people are. I thank Zuzana from the bottom of my heart for making this all possible. Ďakujem Zuzana a vašu rodinu!
[gallery link="file" order="DESC"]