For February half term I finally decided to make my first European excursion since arriving in the UK. I was fortunate enough to be invited on a ski trip to Slovakia with Ron, and three of his friends, Lydia, Sarah and Karel.
I have to say I had never envisioned my first side trip being to Slovakia but it was a wonderful experience and I thoroughly enjoyed being back on skis!
The trip got off to a bit of a rocky start as our Ryan Air flight from Stansted was at 6:25am Saturday morning. Having done my research and finding out I could take the 45 minute Stansted Express leaving at 4 in the morning, I trudged out of my flat around 3am and headed for Liverpool Street. I boarded the train with time to spare and was well on my way to an easy connection. Then disaster struck! An announcement was made that the Stansted tunnel was malfunctioning and we would have to stop at Bishops Stortford, approximately 15 miles short of my required destination.
As time ticked away and the queue of 200 people waited agonisingly for taxis to arrive I began to think of alternate plans for my week off. Finally, after a 25 minute wait, a coach arrived for us and I was able to get to the airport, talk my way ahead of the ever growing line up, and rush through security. I made the plane, but only just. Crisis averted.
After an uneventful flight we arrived in chilly Bratislava ( -17 as we landed), where we were able to pick up a rental car and make our way to Devin Castle just on the Slovakian border. This was only a very quick stop but well worth it as the hilltop provided a stunning view of the Danube and the Austrian countryside. We then hopped back into the car and set off on the 3 hour drive to Liptovsky Mikulas, one of the ski resorts on the Low Tatras.
Upon arriving in Liptov, exhausted and starving, we were greeted by Josef, a 70 something Slovakian man with very limited English. Josef was an interesting fellow to say the least, walking with a noticeable limp, an old war injury, he showed us to our bungalovy and we settled in.
The next day we headed up to the mountain, sorted out our rental equipment and hit the slopes on just a gorgeous day. I had not been on skis for 15 years and had been a bit hesitant on going on this trip at all for the fear of spending all my time on the bunny hill, but I managed to think back to my Grade 7 Whistler ski trip with Mr. Brown`s class and made my way down that first hill. As the week progressed my skiing improved dramatically and I was able to get down every hill, albeit not quite as fast as the Olympians.
The first 2 days of skiing were beautiful, but extremely cold. While it was a great time to take pictures by the end of the second day the mountains were very icy and we were in desperate need of snow. Our prayers were answered in a big way as on Tuesday morning the skies opened up and didn`t stop until after we left on Saturday! The drastic change from day 2 to day 3 on the slopes allowed me to gain a bit more confidence as falling in the powder didn`t hurt nearly as much!
Being that I was on a holiday with 2 other Canadians one night we decided to take advantage of the fact we were in a country where ice hockey is a popular sport once again. We spent about an hour driving from Liptov to the city of Martin, where we watched a Slovakian Hockey League game between Martin and Dulka Trencin. While the level of hockey reminded me a lot of the UBC Thunderbirds it was the atmosphere of the crowd that I particularly enjoyed. Singing all game and whistling instead of booing, it was much more akin to a European football crowd than an Ice Hockey crowd. It, like everything else in Slovakia, was very affordable and well worth seeing.
Another cultural experience was dining out in Slovakia. There was no kitchen in our bungalovy so eating out became a must. This experience was made much easier by the fact Karel is from Slovenian background and was able to speak enough Slovakian for us to get by. It certainly made ordering much easier. One of the popular choices for lunch was Klobasa (sausage) and hronolky (French fries). When I first ordered this I wasn`t sure if I was getting French fries or a French rugby player but eventually I learned to not rely on Karel too much and try to order for myself.
It was certainly a very memorable week in Slovakia and I am really looking forward to February half term next year when I will hopefully get another opportunity to hit the slopes! Attached are a few pictures from the trip, I hope you enjoy them!