Forget Work, I'm Going To Another Country Today

Believe it or not, I climbed the tallest tower in this picture. Read on to find out why. (click to see larger)Last Tuesday, I didn’t go to work.  I went to another country.  Most people get in trouble for this, but I was almost forced to do it – by my school.

As usual, I found out in an unusual way.  One of my students raised his hand the week before and asked if I was going on the “teacher’s trip”.  I’m used to handling questions that I don’t have the slightest clue about, so I bought time by making them go into more detail.  It became apparent that they were excited because they wouldn’t have school the next Tuesday (my next lesson with them) because the teachers were leaving.

I’m a teacher.  That significantly increases the likelihood that I’m one of the people who should be leaving.  I’m glad the kids mentioned it.  On the other hand, I do have to verify these things.  I wouldn’t put it past a creative kid to tell me that school is cancelled so he (or she) can cut class.  That’s one of the advantages of having a teacher who doesn’t speak the language of the country.

Here's the view from the tall tower in the first picture. It was worth it. (click to see larger)Another building in the town. It's nice, but it could use some paint. (click to see larger)When I got back to the teachers room, I was asked if I had signed up yet.  Things were moving pretty quickly because I was supposed to have already told them whether I was going or not.  With no time to think, I put my name on the list.  Right afterwards, I strained myself trying to remember if I had any other plans.  Hopefully I didn’t – to this day I haven’t realized if I forgot to do something else.

The weekend before the trip (last weekend), I told my friends that I was going on a trip with the school.  They asked me where, and I realized I forgot to find out.  All I knew was “Slovakia”.  That really narrowed it down.  It’s just a country, how many places can possibly be there?

It didn't look too much like a castle, but it did have a cool wall. (click to see larger)Fast forward to Tuesday.  Bright and early, I got on a bus.  I sat with the other American teacher from my school, and she knew about as much as I did.  We ended up isolated from the other English teachers during the ride, so I didn’t find out anything new until the bus stopped for a  break.

Eventually, I was filled in on the secret.  We were going to visit some medieval mining villages.

In case you don’t know, Slovakia was part of Hungary until the locally detested Treaty of Trianon in 1920.  Since I was traveling with a group of Hungarians, we were visiting a town that is part of Slovakia right now, but is rightfully Hungarian.  This is important to note because the Hungarians and Slovakians aren’t really on the best of terms.

It ended up being a great trip for anyone who likes riding on buses.  We were scheduled to leave at 8:00 in the morning and were only a few minutes late.  This meant I got up at the same time that I would’ve if I’d gone to work.  So much for a day off.

We arrived home at about 9:00 at night.  By my estimation, we spent about 9 of the 13 hours on the bus.  That’s pretty awesome.

We did, however, see some nice things.  We started by going to a museum that was closed for lunch, and a castle that wasn’t open yet.  This gave time for a beer, so I was happy.  When the castle opened, we went in and walked around for a few minutes.  The HIGH-light was when we climbed a tower with roughly 125 steps.  It was terrifying and dizzying.  There was a rope to hold onto, but it was so tight against the stone wall that I couldn’t grasp it without rubbing the skin off my hand.  It was the stereotypical spiral staircase in a castle, and my legs were burning by the top.  But, I didn’t have a heart attack from the steps or my fear, and I took some nice pictures.  I suppose that makes it a success.

Churches in the second town. (click to see larger)Next we visited the museum.  They said they tried to go to it last year, but it never did open.  I was beginning to wonder if next year’s trip would by attempt number 3, but we managed to get in.  It told us a lot about the local mining history, and had some pretty cool exhibits (including a small mine in the basement, and a bunch of money - old and new - that was made from its materials).  Ironically, I understood more than many of the other teachers.  The descriptions were in Slovakian, English, and occasionally Hungarian.  Since only a few spoke Slovakian, and not all of the teachers spoke English, I had an unexpected advantage over many of the Hungarian teachers.

There was a stop in another town on the way home.  This one contained a few pretty churches that used to be segregated for different nationalities.    Today, the main attraction seems to be cold weather and communist buildings surrounding a pretty old square.

More of the second town. (click to see larger)I never really did find out the names of the towns.  People told me, but I forgot.  My little brochure  from the museum in the first place seems to claim that it’s called “Kremnica”.  It’s up to you to decide if you believe that or not.

After a few more hours on the bus, we got home.  It was late, school would start early, and I hadn’t planned anything.  The next day saw well-rested students interacting with an exhausted, ill-prepared version of myself.

That’s my story of how I went to another country on a Tuesday.

 

Hungarian word of the day:

Szlovákia

If you can’t figure out what this means, well, I don’t think I can help you.  It’s pronounced nearly the same as in English, except the „á” is more of an „aaahhh” sound.