To the true traveller, the journey matters more than the eventual destination.
When most people travel, they fly from one airport to another and either stay in the second location or get a short transfer to their final destination.
On this occasion I decided to buck that trend and try something different!
My target destination was Kosice, Eastern Slovakia, where I had been a couple of times before and a place where I have many friends.
Things started out pretty normally, I got the train to Dublin and my flight direct to Bratislava.
This is where things began to get interesting. I got the bus and made my way to Hlavna Stanica (the main train station). The next train to Kosice was an hours wait, but there was a train departing in 10 minutes which served a town called Ruzomberok, another town in Slovakia where I had a friend living. One short phone call later and I had arranged to meet her. I was quite excited as I had not seen her for nearly two years and she's a very entertaining girl.
It was about 4pm when the train pulled into the station at Ruzomberok. It's a nice place, quiet and peaceful beautiful mountain backdrop and beautiful buildings in the town. I had a while to wait for my friend to finish school so I went to a small café for lunch.
While there I got to talking to two local girls, well we attempted to communicate. I had only very basic Slovak at the time and they had a similar level of English, but we managed. Somewhere in the conversation we struck on the fact that the friend I had arranged to meet was also a friend of theirs, and right on queue she showed up.
We exchanged the usual pleasantries, stories of what had happened over the last two years, what was new etc etc. The girls who I had been talking to beforehand left us, but not before inviting us to a drink later that night. My friend and I then went to a pub just down the street. It was an old fashioned place, it had big wooden tables, stone walls and a large fireplace. A nice relaxing place for a drink. At this point I should point out that the price of alcohol in Slovakia is much cheaper than in Ireland. I handed €5 to the barmaid in exchange for as much as it would buy...for that €5 I received 6 large glasses of lager, I mean bigger than a pint!
And so the night began in earnest, at about midnight we went to the nightclub to meet those girls I mentioned previously. So the night continued, the cheap drink and good music adding to the merriment. It was 5am (after consuming a considerable amount of alcohol, and spending very little money for it) before we decided it was time to leave. We went to the train station with the intention of going to my friend's house where I would stay before continuing on to Kosice the next day.
The train journey should have taken only 15 minutes, but in those few minutes I had drifted off to sleep and my friend had met some of her neighbours. While I slept they got off the train and realised too late that I hadn't followed them off.
So I was whisked away on the train to god knows where!
Some time later I awoke to the sound of a ticket inspector asking me for a ticket, I didn't have one. I was confused and quite terrified at this point. The ticket inspector had no English but somewhere in the amount of words flowing angrily from his mouth I hear "Praha" which I knew to mean Prague. There was no way in hell I was going to Prague! So I jumped off the train at the next stop which was a place called Vrutky.
I won't bore you with the details of my slight panic attack and fumbling efforts to make contact with someone (my phone had refused to work since arriving in Ruzomberok the day before).
But luck happened to be on my side!
Not long after I left the train, I heard the announcer mention Kosice over the intercom. 50/50 chance it was either coming from or going to Kosice. I decided to take the chance and paid for a ticket and got on the train. After about an hour of worry, I began to recognise place names, and by the order I was passing them I knew I was indeed heading in the direction of Kosice.
I arrived in Kosice having still failed to get my phone working and was unable to contact my friends in the city to let them know I had arrived. So I spent a couple of hours wandering the city hoping to bump into someone I knew. Eventually I decided to go to a phone shop and bought a phone with credit so I could contact one of my friends in the city. But, just as I stepped out of the shop after buying the phone, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a Kerry accent, followed by a Dublin accent.
I followed the sound and stumbled across a group of Irish students from the medical and veterinary universities in Kosice. Needless to say I was quite surprised, even more so when I discovered that one of the guys in the group had been on the opposing team of a Gaelic Football match I had played the year before.
So with that I joined this group for lunch and spent the night chatting with them and getting to know each of them in turn. We spent much of the night in the Irish Bar before heading to the university digs where we played traditional Irish music for the entertainment of the local Slovak students.
I stayed with that group for the night before meeting up with my friends the following morning. After that the rest of the trip was pretty much unremarkable, aside from an attempted interview from a news crew which they gave up when they realised I couldn't speak much Slovak.
This was one of my more interesting trips to Slovakia, and one where I met some amazing people and saw some beautiful towns and cities. I would recommend anybody to visit the country, although it may be advisable to plan things a bit better than I did, just in case!