The most beautiful church of Europe… With sincerity he had spoken, yet I stood reproached. The most beautiful church.. of Europe?? I wouldn’t mind a chat with the judge who decided this small town deserved to earn such a plaque. Without much lingering I had departed, as the ambiance within the Holy House did not feel all that comfortable. They welcomed me, yet as a man without faith their smiles felt strained. My thumb back up, defying Isaac’s theory, I awaited my upcoming ride.
Jozef. I remember him well. His face was drawn and he wore a serious look in his eyes. Not great in English, most conversations were lost in the thin, stale air within the four doors. Short hair covered his head. I guessed him about the age of my father. A silence began as we rode through Slovakia, with surroundings to occupy the wandering eyes. Up high stood a castle. Kapitula. A smile appeared on his tired face. Then his words cut through the dead air. Jozef started asking questions. However his words did not meet an answer. I merely nodded in endorsement to avoid embarrassment, awkward as I am. I knew he had offered something, although no clue what.
Soon we arrived at his house, occupied by his mother. He was forced to return after a paper titled ‘divorce‘ landed on his seat. “Wait”. My feet paced towards the pavement, where I gazed to my left. To my right. A simple town to the left. Slums to the right. My eyes watched all the people walk by. People close and people far away. Mothers with children, groups of teenagers and a guy watching back, staring with contempt or revulsion. Something, but no affection. His eyes had met mine and seemed locked. A few seconds. Strange I felt. Then a shiver went down my spine and I disregarded the distasteful eye contact to return to the sound of the gate opening. Jozef returned, giving his dogs, true guarding hounds, a loving pet. They became the topic for following minutes as I wondered where we headed. Mayhap to drop me off at a spot to continue.Nope. His brothers house. Although not for long, as a minute later we depart. Where the heck are we going?!
Zemplinska Sirava, a must visit, beautiful, fun town. That’s what I was told as we stood on its beach. Jozef showed me all the bars and restaurants on the strip. The shops, the games and shower/restroom. His nod directed to a passing lady. He then pointed to the cabins one could rent. To the beach where one could use a tent. I figured these suggestions for a sleeping place, the ending of the lift. But no, back into the car. As I said my goodbye to the town that seemed lovely, he took a sharp right. Some houses in this small quarter. Big houses. In front of one he pulled over, pushed the brake and got out. More than slightly confused I followed him on the tour of the house. Three floors. A place forgotten. One floor to be used by me, with kitchen, bathroom and sleeping room. All be the water cold, the furnace worked, a kettle was present and the bed was soft. Back outside, Jozef left the keys in my hand to thereafter jump in his car and exit the driveway. Two nights. A weekend. That’s what he had said. Slowly I began to understand. The man had shown me the place of nightlife and shops, granted me a house for two nights and wished me a pleasant weekend. Such kindness brought a smile to my face. With fair in town, bars filled with lively locals and restaurants serving delights, the weekend flew by.
Gratitude goes to Jozef, as the town is a special one. An ambiance in the air, giving feel to be nowhere yet everywhere. The Slovakia my mind had pictured was not here. A feeling of far from home, lost, yet safe. Hilled forests surrounding the grand lake that took the interest of so many. A relaxing spa and people carrying smiles. The company of many, bloodthirsty gnats. Drenched in warmth by the shining sun, I wandered the place squatting said mosquitoes. The man had me confused, yet gave me a weekend to enjoy. Sunday had reached and at noon he knocked the door. While he smoked his cigarette, we discussed what to follow. Ukraine was such. His face said all. Fear. Worries. Ukraine, the dangerous country. Never in a lifetime would I return safe home. Yet stubborn and curious I stood, declining his suspicions and worries. Not willing to believe all the people that spoke before him. I wore a thin smile, insisting. Without struggling he drove me to a road leading to the border. Before flinging my legs out, I was asked a contact, a way to let him know I am still alive. After he waved me off. I figured hours would be spend there, waiting and waiting, for not many would take a hitchhiker near a border holding controls. Boy could I have been more wrong.
Pictures displayed are not owned or take by me. I wanted eyecandy for any readers, yet found out I somehow didn’t take any. Sincere apologies!