Dawn and Walter’s trip to Poland and Slovakia. July 11, 2018 – Time to Say Good-bye.

 

At 8:30 we met downstairs in the dining room for our last breakfast with Lucjan. Today was the last day of the tour  with him and although I was pretty  tired from all the travel, family meetings, and sights I was feeling sad that our time was coming to an end. After breakfast we had made plans to sit and review what we had accomplished and to come up with a plan for what still needed to be done. Lucjan came to our room and he and I sat down in the sitting area to discuss things. We took this time to exchange gifts, I gave Lucjan two of the fabric bowls that I made, and he gave us a magnet and collectible plate from Przemyśl, his hometown. Before too long there was a knock on the door and a cleaning person informed us that it was check out time and that they needed to clean the room. They very generously offered to let us finish our discussion in a sitting room.

Lucjan gave us a magnet from Przemyśl, his hometown.

While Lucjan and I were talking Walter wandered around the town watching the carnival workers setting up all the rides that we had seen scattered around town the night before. After returning from his walk Walter befriended a woman who worked behind the desk at the Penzión who spoke English and German but strangely enough for living and working in Slovakia, not Slovak. Walter and she talked about where we lived, why we were travelling and what we had seen.

 

After leaving the Penzión we decided to take a walk around the lens shaped town square of Spišská Nová Ves. We found out that this particular shape of town square in which the sides bulge out, instead of being parallel, is typical of medieval towns. There were many shops and food vendors along the street and before too long Lucjan and Walter found someone who was selling ice cream, and they decided to indulge in some. A little further down the street
was a clothing and accessory resale shop where Lucjan purchased a Simpson’s cartoon t-shirt that he was going to take home and tease his wife by wearing. In the resale shop I noticed that there was an arched opening that was locked off with a metal gate. I couldn’t see down into the opening but when I took a picture with my flash turned on I could see a steep staircase. The staircase was intriguing as it was completely lined with stones and gave off the feeling of being of ancient construction, perhaps from the city’s medieval past.

Staircase gave off the feeling of being of ancient construction, perhaps from the city’s medieval past.

 

We window shopped for a short time and then walked into Nanebovzatia Panny Márie, the church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, a Roman Catholic church that was built in second half of the 14th century. This is the church that Master Pavol had made the carvings for, including the one that was now in the church in Stratená that we had seen the day before. The tower of the church is the tallest in Slovakia at 87 meters. Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures inside the church as there was a mass was being conducted.

 

It was quickly approaching the time when we were to meet Sue, and I wanted to make sure that Lucjan would have the chance to get home to his family as soon as possible, so we climbed in the SUV for one last trip, this time to Levoča.

 

When we reached Levoča I learned that the town still had most of a medieval wall surrounding it and that we had to drive through a gate to enter it. Just a couple of blocks from the town square we drove through a residential area on old cobblestone streets for a few blocks until we reached our accommodations for the night, and where we were to meet up with Sue, the Boutique Hotel Pracháreň. The hotel was originally a bastion that was constructed in the second half of the 13th century.

It had been a ruin of the largest fortification fortress on the wall and had been converted into a hotel and restaurant. I knew just by looking at the outside of the building that it was highly unlikely that we would have an elevator, so I asked the guys to wait with the car and I walked up the steps into the building looking for the registration. When I entered the building I walked into a small foyer area which from there lead to a step set of narrow wooden steps. I heard someone working on the second floor, so I climbed up the steps and found a woman who was changing sheets in one of the bedrooms. I asked her where the registration was, and she shook her head and pointed up the steps to a third floor. I knew then that she didn’t speak English, so I thought I would try a different tactic. I pretended to write on something with one hand shaped like a pad and the second one shaped like it was holding a pen. Obviously, the English pseudo-sign language for registration doesn’t translate well into Slovak and she again pointed up the steps.

I thought perhaps for some odd reason that the registration was on the third floor and I started my climb. This flight of steps was by far one of the steepest sets of steps that I climbed in all of Europe. I would say that were more like climbing a ladder then regular steps. Like the flight from the exterior door to the second floor the steps were wooden, and they had the heads of the ancient looking metal spikes that held them in place visible on the top of the planks. By the time I climbed just this one flight I was completely winded and could feel my heart beating in temples.

There was an open door at the top of the steps and I stuck my head in and found that Sue was sitting at the desk waiting for our arrival. We said our hellos and then walked downstairs to meet Walter and Lucjan.

The sky began to turn gray as we walked downstairs to join the guys at the Hotel’s café. Sue, Lucjan, Walter and I picked a table under a large market umbrella where we could visit as we had a drink. After about 15 minutes of us sharing with Sue about our experiences and her telling us about hiking in the Slovakian paradise I turned to Lucjan and encouraged him to leave. I hated to have our time with him end, but, he had been away from his wife and young children and during that time away he had put in long, long hours with us. I remembered being a parent of young children and how hard it was for them, and me, to be away from them. After just a little bit of prodding from me, Lucjan said that he thought that we would leave. I gave him a big hug and thanked him so much for all that he had done for us, both on the trip and before. Walter walked Lucjan to the SUV and that is where they said their good-byes and where Walter apologized for the times he had been crabby.

When Walter returned we discussed what we would be doing that day. We had planned on going to Spišský hrad, Spiš Castle, but, with the sky getting more and more gray and our weather apps on our phones saying that the chance of rain was high we decided that we would spend the day hanging out in Levoča and make the trip to the castle the next day. Before we went for a stroll we decided to organize our luggage. I knew that if we had to bring everything up that was currently in our suitcases either Walter or I were going to have a heart attack. Sue opened the hatch of our rental car and we began sorting out what we really needed for the night in the hatch and backseat. We finished getting our bags organized for the night and then we began the long climb back up to what would be our room, this time we weren’t just struggling to get ourselves up those steep steps but our nightly “necessities”.

After dropping things off and while I was trying to catch my breath, I took a good look around the room. It had been decorated as a medieval chamber but fortunately the beds looked like contemporary ones. There was one window in the room and it looked out over the countryside toward a small village, farm land and a gothic church.

The three amigos, as Sue had referred to us, took a quick walk into the market square of Levoča. We window shopped for a while and then located a café where we could sit down, have a drink, and talk more about what had happened the last few days.

Over beer for Walter and Sue, and a glass of wine for me, Sue told us about the hikes that she had gone on in the Slovak Paradise. She told us about areas that she had to climb wooden ladders and walk on paths that were constructed of two parallel logs with planks nailed to them. She went on to say that hikes had been worth taking, that she had seen gorges and water falls and beautiful scenery.

 

We talked about our adventures with Lucjan and how exciting it had been to met cousins. Over my second glass of wine I made the determination that it seems that Walter was related to half of Poland. We chuckled over this observation, and every time I have repeated it to our friends I get a little chuckle. I am not sure that is very much of an exaggeration.

It had been a long three weeks and though I am sure that there is a lot to see in Levoča we all felt satisfied in sitting there, chatting and watching the world go by.

“In this church is the top work of the master Paul of Levoca, the 18th century Slovak Gothic artist”.

A cage for public shaming of individuals that had done something wrong.

 

The sky started to show real signs of getting ready to rain and we decided that we would head back to the Boutique Hotel Pracháreň. We scurried quickly across the square, through an archway, and down the residential streets as it started to sprinkle at first quite gently and then a little harder. By the time that we reached the steep steps of hotel it was beginning to look like it about to pour. We climbed the ladder/steps to our room and the clouds opened up and it began to rain in earnest.

Sue grabbed her Ipad, I grabbed my Samsung tablet and Walter went for the television remote. Within a few moments Sue was engrossed in something, I was fighting a loosing battle of trying to access the Wi-Fi and get on-line, and Walter was discovering that there wasn’t a single English program to be watched. After exhausting every methodology that I could think of I went in search of a Wi-Fi transmitter on the next floor down. I was able to see that there was a signal there, but it was too weak for me to pick it up, next stop, the next floor down. Standing in the small foyer I was able to find a signal and log in, but the minute I started climbing upstairs I immediately lost it. Wondering how I would keep myself entertained I decided that I would go to the bottom floor reception/dining room area to see if I might find someone to help me.

After waiting for a few moments at the desk a young woman came out to see how she could help me. She spoke a few words to me in Slovak, I replied with a sheepish shrug and said “English?” to which she shook her head no. Just then I remembered an application that I had added to my cell phone, “SayHi”. This application is supposed translate what you say in one language to another chosen language as long as you have access to the internet. Fortunately, there was Wi-Fi service there and I was able to give the app a try. I spoke into the app saying that we were on the third floor and that there was no signal that I could log into. Out of the speaker came in what I assume was somewhat understandable Slovak the translation. Immediately the look on the young woman’s face went from panic, I guess because she couldn’t understand me, to a big smile of recognition. She held up a finger, for me to wait a minute, and went down a flight of steps. After a few moments she came back with another woman who waved to me to follow her back towards our room.

On the way upstairs I showed her the signal on my phone, gesturing the whole time that the signal was getting smaller. When we reached the third floor I showed her that there was no longer any signal. She smiled at me, indicating that she understood and then said “sorry”. I shrugged my shoulders, said thank you, and entered our room to tell Walter that we would have to find other ways to entertain ourselves on a rainy afternoon. For some curious reason the antenna on Sue’s Ipad was able to pick up a signal.

About 20 minutes went by and there was a timid knock on the door. It was the first young woman that I had spoken to and she was carrying a tray. She came into the room and offered us from the tray each a parfait glass filled with fresh fruit and whipped crème. The first thing that jumped into my mind was perhaps the hotel offered an afternoon refreshment, something like having tea in England. As she handed me my parfait she said in a very quiet voice “Sorry, no Wee-Fee” and then I realized that this was the way that the hotel was apologizing. We all thanked her and said “no problem” as she headed out of the room and back down the steps.

The afternoon progressed at a snail’s pace while we watched out the window the rain slow, stop and then the sun break through. We had decided to have an early supper as we had had a light lunch; and as the Boutique Hotel Pracháreň had a lovely dining room we decided to eat there. Dinner was very good, not what I would consider traditional Slovak fare but European and very upscale in its presentation. After dinner Walter excused himself to go upstairs while Sue and I sat, finished our drinks and chatted.

 

After dinner we climbed back to the room where we planned what we would do on our next day, which was our last day in Europe. Amazingly, Walter found an American movie that we could watch that was being broadcast on the TV in English, the classic, “Singin’ in the Rain”. Watching this classic musical-romantic comedy was a fun way to spend our last night in Slovakia.

 

Dawn

 

 

Pocket

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