When, a few weeks ago, I described the Slovakian trip to my dad, he thought for a moment and then said, ‘That sounds like a jolly.’ Well, this afternoon certainly fell into that category.
It was hot and sunny when we left Trnava High School in the mini-bus. We drove through the flat landscape with its large fields, with the Small Carpathian Mountains (why don’t they just call them hills?) in the distance on the left, and other mountains/hills (which I have yet to identify) in the distance on the right. We took the motorway, and several people were soon nodding off …
Mata had asked, before we set off, if we would like to stop at a special park which has lots of miniature castles. The general consensus seems to have been ‘Yes’, because we stopped here after half an hour or so. The park had a shed at the entrance (it wasn’t at all grand and indeed gave the impression that the park is really somebody’s hobby), and about two dozen model buildings, mostly (but not all) castles and mostly (but not all) at one-fiftieth scale. Some were exact replicas of the buildings as they are today, some were replicas of the buildings as they would have been in their heyday (ie, a couple of centuries before they became ruins). The castles were good, especially the ones built into scale mountainsides, but I also liked the wooden churches, with their tiny individual tiles.
We returned to the motorway for the final bit of the journey to Piestany. There is a very famous spa at Piestany, which is why we were visiting, and some delegates had decided to go for a bathe/mud bath and so on (as if we hadn’t had enough beautifying at the High School. Collectively we must have looked like a busful of film stars coming back this evening). Mata arranged the appointments for these as we were travelling to the town.
On the outskirts of Piestany, Nic and I were very excited to see a branch of Tesco – a proper one, offering clubcard points and everything. There is actually a branch of Tesco in Trnava but it’s on the wrong side of the city for us so we haven’t seen it yet. So this was a satisfying taste of home (even more so as we didn’t have to go in it and do any shopping: that’s the sort of trip to Tesco I like.)
As soon as the minibus had parked, those with early Spa appointments hurried off, and the rest of us frankly dawdled along the banks of the River Vah to the bridge to the Spa resort. At the bridge there was a fountain, with a statue of a young man breaking his crutch (because having visited the Spa he was healed, see?) The statue was naked except for a strategically placed bit of gauze, which immediately put me in mind of Pete’n’Dud, rather than the serious healing properties of the place we were about to visit. There were some group photos here, but not the usual quantity because some of the group had gone on ahead; in fact, today was remarkable for the lack of group photos.
Over the bridge and into the resort we briefly admired the super-posh hotel, before heading for the cafe, where I was able to have a cafe latte and a cigarette and use the free wi-fi. But we weren’t due back at the mini-bus until 6.30, and there was no way we could spin this out for over two hours. So we walked back over the bridge into the town. It was full of little shops selling souvenirs and expensive scarves. I wanted a supermarket, however, because we were ‘eating individually’ this evening and I thought a sandwich and a bit of fruit might be in order. Luckily Nic has holidayed in France lots of times and has an excellent supermarket detector; she found us a supermarket called ‘Billa’, which was a bit like Morrisons.
Choosing a sandwich was difficult. There was no cheese and pickle, or tuna and cucumber; and most of them seemed to include egg. In the end I chose one which looked as though it might be ham, cheese and tomato (although I’ve just eaten it and I think it was ham, cheese, blue cheese sauce and red pepper. It was delicious, anyway.)
Finding the supermarket had taken us in a bit of a circle and as we were wandering about trying to find our way back to the bridge, Mujde suddenly stopped and pointed. ‘Look!’ she said, ‘Burcak!’
Burcak, you will remember, is the ‘young apple wine’ we were served at 10.30 on Saturday morning. It’s a regional speciality, described as ‘dangerous’ by Leos; we found it made us very, very smiley, and Nic and Mujde particularly enjoyed it. We had been told it was only available very locally but here we were, miles away, in front of a big sign for it. Well, we had an hour or so; we went into the vintner’s and sat down.
A litre of Burcak cost four euros. We had two between four of us, although we didn’t quite finish the second. After a while a table became free outside, so we moved out there. And it was lovely. The weather was pleasantly warm, the apple juice pleasantly relaxing. We were experiencing the healing power of Piestany Spa.
We managed to find our way back to the mini-bus (see, it’s not that dangerous) in good time. But I’ve no idea why real writers drink in the afternoons; I can barely keep my eyes open now.