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Andy's Travel Updates "The real thing is not reaching, the real thing is the journey, the very travelling. If you are too bothered about the goal you will miss the journey, and the journey is life - the goal can only be death."

Update from a land of cheap beer, Gypsy fortune tellers and cabbage

SLOVAKIA | Friday, 3 October 2008 | Views [610]

But first, I went to Scotland... leaving London in the same way I left Brisbane, running late. I didn't miss my flight to Inverness, only because they reopened check in for a child travelling without parents. Driving North from Inverness I found plenty of very old (5000 years) houses and burial mounds (Cairns) to break up the journey - they are just sitting by the road with no one around. My highlight was watching the sunset over a Loch from one of the oldest Stone circles in the Orkney islands (off the North coast of Scotland) with no one in sight except the silhouette of a fisherman and his dog.
Further South in Scotland I visited relatives I hadn't seen since Christmas and had a great time with Eilidh (a distant cousin about my age) seeing the sights in Edinburgh.
I spent 3 days in Prague walking around the streets looking at the buildings which are beautiful. The Czech beer was good too. Made some friends in the hostel who quickly become best friends, for a day or two (which happens in most cities).
Last week I stayed in a village outside of Kosice in Eastern Slovakia with a housemate from London, Janka. Arriving at her parents house I knew I was going to be spoilt when the first thing her Mum said to me (translated by Janka) was 'Why are you so skinny?'. Her sister sister said the same thing when we visited her. And I was spoilt - food from the women (hearty is the word, my favourite: pasta and cabbage made tasty with just a little butter and pepper) and shots from the men (straight vodka or a local plum liquor). During the day we borrowed Janka's sisters car and drove to castles, caves, mountains and waterfalls (see facebook photos).
I met plenty of people, mainly Janka's friends. They liked having an Australian at the village pub to break up the routine (and to practice their English). They pride themselves on getting visitors smashed on their potent plum drink, but I managed to not overdo it (because they are already drunk before they start buying shots). They have sayings here - dozens of times I've heard the phrase 'we have a saying here...', For example, an itchy hand doesn't have just one saying: an itchy right hand means you will get money and left means you will get attacked. I think superstitious is the word. One of them made a trip to the city to ask a fortune teller if they should move back to London.
Slovakia felt less like Europe than other places I have been. I guess they are not as well off as Western European countries and there is even a hint of Russian in the accent, drinks and dancing. The dancing was at a pre-wedding celebration we went to, very fun and again shots of straight spirit are the thing.
There is a noticeable population of Gypsies who, it seems the Government has given up on them finding jobs and built housing for them which are now roadside shantytowns. Children walk or run down the highway while adults pack and unpack bags or wheel homemade trolleys along the road. What they pack or why it needs to be constantly moved about I can't imagine. Equally baffling was the news story of a 7th story room in a Gypsy apartment block being destroyed by a horse that was somehow carried and housed there.
From there I flew to Croatia where I am now. I'll tell you about it soon.

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