Thurs:  Observation: Not a lot of sit down bars.  The bars have tables where people sit together but few “bars” to sit at if your by yourself.  Most people arrive or meet friends to drink with.

I emailed 5 SERVAS Hosts to meet and advise me on what and where I should be going to enjoy Slovakia.  Only Sonika responded with a meeting but not until Sunday. Two others said they were busy.

I started with a bad impression, was tired and returned to the room for a few Vodkas.

Fri: That evening I started getting sick….and sicker…real fast. I took all the meds I had, hot tea with honey….slept on and off with a fever and chills…

Sat: Breakfast and back to bed…that afternoon I had to get meds so walked to local shops where the front desk directed me.  Bad language barrier and I didn’t walk far enough and couldn’t find anything that resembled a pharmacy. I took the Bus to the centre bought what I thought were cold pills but just cough drops.  The other medicine was drops you put in your water and drank.  That was a mild antihistamine I think. Again I drank tea and stayed in bed.

Sun: Breakfast and front desk gave me a message to meet Sonika at 3pm that afternoon in front of the Presidential Palace. Stayed in bed until 1:30pm then took the bus with my Meds to show Sonika. 

She had the same cold I did and gave me some of her Meds and explained the ones I had. We laughed that maybe I caught the cold from her over the internet. We walked around the gardens then she recommended we meet her sister Zora…another SERVAS host. She said Zora didn’t want to meet us in the garden because the last time she joined her with another SERVAS traveler, her dog died and she just got another from the animal rescue shelter but doesn’t want to risk losing that dog.

     We met at the bus stop and I was impressed with her.  She was attractive and VERY fit with her hiking boots and jeans. The dog would nip at anyone and barked at everything. We boarded the bus for a nearby town in the Carpathian Mountains.  I thought I can handle a little hike and it is probably good for me.  Sonika was NOT fit, overweight, balding and in poor health. Both her and her sister transcribe documents from Russian to English. Sonika works for the state and Zora works as an independent contractor.  We stopped at an outdoor Café to have a beer, a BIG BEER, before starting the hike. They also had wine cider which is only at this time of year and very special.  We climbed this mountain overlooking the Danube with Austria on the other side.  There were watchtowers the Soviets used and of course barbed wire fences.  We then proceeded to hike a trail through the woods along the summit to the next mountain and so on.  It was getting dark around the time we arrived an hour and a half later on the other side at this famous castle, now in ruin. Zora had hiked along the river for 5 hours the day before.  I tried to use the bathroom at this tourist spot that sold stale sandwiches, drinks and postcards but the proprietor wouldn’t let me.  We took the bus back to Bratislava then walked through the street while they explained to me the different sites and what it was like during the Russian occupation…all fenced in.  She told me about her son and his ambitions.  How he earned a scholarship to U of British Columbia and is in his first year.  He hopes to transfer to Princeton and loves Cowboy hats. I took them for tea at an outdoor sidewalk café, then we parted. I walked back to my bus stop to return to the Hotel 7 hours later….I slept well that evening.

I did my own walking tour of Bratislava the next day that took me up a hill to a castle overlooking the city and river. I did a few churches, lunch at a Viennese Café, hot Chocolate at a Chocolate House, a few museums and finally a few pints.  I had wished I rented a car and drove around the countryside while in Slovakia but really don’t think I missed much.  I hope to visit Slovania this year which I’ve been told is much nicer than Slovakia, which is still being run by Communist lackies left over from the Soviet Union.  Bribes and mafia. 

        I made arrangements to take Sonika to a Slovakian restaurant that she recommended and I had heard about.  Old wooden tables, high ceilings, pasta stuffed with cabbage and a hearty soup but mostly broth. Beer.  Then we walked to a wine bar where we had the wine cider that is so popular at that time of year. I bid goodbye and flew to Amsterdam on Oct 5th , my birthday.

 Took the train from Schiphol into the Centre and  then hopped the tram to Jeannette’s. 

I arrived to a bouquet of yellow roses, wrapped presents to include Men‘s Cologne, Dutch Chocolate Bar, Rum filled Chocolate Kisses, a book on Holland, and my Hash I left from the last visit with a glass of red wine to accompany it. Then they took me out to dinner at a really nice restaurant in the neighborhood. Lovely Birthday with my Lovely Special Friends!!

The next day I had a nice lunch at my favorite Coffee & Jazz Indonesian Restaurant on Utrechtsestraat…the first restaurant I ate at with David Lavington my first time back in Amsterdam in 1987.

Good to be back home in Amsterdam.

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