On Christmas 2007, I woke in Budapest in the dim apartment-hostel. I was feeling a bit sick and dreary from the weather, but it was time to depart this glorious city. We were to go to High Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. I was very excited to finally check out some nature.
We gathered our luggage and made our way to the Budapest train station, only to find out that we had missed our direct train. In this cold, dismal transit hub, we decided to board another train, which would back track westward across much of Hungary, then through a good chunk of the country of Slovakia, back to Bratislava, and then regress back east towards the mountains.
The train to Bratislava took several hours of crowding into little carts and watching the Hungarian countryside roll by. It is quite a flat scene there, up through the horizon, endless fields that contained no forest after being farmed for centuries. Hardly any wildlife was left, except for the occasional brown hare, hopping around while half disguised against the brown grass and dusting of snow.
Upon the arrival to Bratislava terminal, we decided to get Christmas lunch/ dinner, which consisted of a simple cheese and pickle sandwich. The train station there is quite small and sparse, so it is a decent place to transfer without being overly stimulated. Many people had told me to avoid Bratislava on my voyage, but here I was.
It was then aboard a train from Bratislava to transfer in some distant rural Slovakian town I fail to remember. Again there was more sparse rural action upon the many kilometers of train track, towns with little cottage houses in the snow with perhaps one or two stores as their prime commercial action. We transfered at night in the nameless town in a simple station that looked like it had not been updated since the 1960s, then boarded a new train that took us through more wintery nocturnal scenery. As there were hardly any lights, it was a good opportunity to see the stars through the window.
After a second transfer in an other unknown town, we boarded the last train to our destination, Strbske Pleso, which turned out to be more of a modern tram ascending through mountain heights. This was an interesting contrast to the plains, even though it was dark out, as you could make out the outlines of elevation. The ride stopped fairly often through different areas of the mountains, and an electronic female voice announced to passengers their names in Slovak, German and English.
Being the only ones aboard this train, we felt like standing up and stretching out and dancing around its inside, as we had spent the entire day confined within these carts and terminals.
About an hour later, we arrived to the desired mountain town about midnight, the final stop of the trolley line. This ski resort village was appropriately covered in snow, and you could make out the pointy mountain peaks against the starlight.
We tried to walk down to our hostel, but it was not open at this hour.
We tried to make it to another, fancier looking accommodation with a big and pleasant wreath on the doorframe, but that was also closed.
We walked to yet another hotel, no luck. I decided to leave my suit case there on the patio, as I was tired of carrying it around in the snow.
We made it to a stray bar that happened to be open at an odd hour, and bought some salty snacks to feel a sense of comfort in our situation. Of course it was about 1:00 AM on Christmas, and there was not a huge crowd, so this bar closed shortly after we entered.
After temporary warmth release, we were yet again out in the cold. After a few minutes of wandering, we saw an interesting-looking hotel of the form of gradual rectangular steps, so we tried to test our luck again. Fortunately, they had a room open, and although it was much more than we were looking to pay, it was our solution.
So we spent the night on the sixth floor of a luxurious Slovakian mountain resort hotel, watching the Beavis and Butthead Christmas special, snacking on some potato chips.
The next morning, we were greeted by glorious views out the balcony.
To each direction was some unbelievable winter scenery.
The following morning, we were able to enjoy a buffet breakfast and then check out. Our hotel looked even more interesting in the daylight.
My suitcase was where I left it, and we were able to get the hostel we originally intended. So it was then a day of exploring the snowy trails on foot, and watching some braver athletes climb to the top of slanted, snowy slopes and ski their way down in a zig-zag pattern. There was a giant lake in the middle of town that had frozen over, to it was possible to walk from one side to another over the ice, on foot.
Though it was very hard to finally get to Strbske Pleso, it was a beautiful time worth the adventure.