74 days on the road yet we still have the energy to tour like new travelers! Perhaps it is a tribute to the infectious energy of our hosts, Milan and Svetlana. This is the second day spent in their beautiful home. Milan has explained that 100% of the credit for the tastefully selected art, the interior decor, and the amazing landscaping goes to Svetlana.
I will add that she manages not only these things, but a busy professional career, and home cooking daily dinner for the family. She “demands” that the family relax at table every evening to share the experiences of the day. The discipline shows in the pleasant maturity of their two children.
We were off after breakfast for the countryside. First stop was one of Slovakia’s 12 caverns, the Driny Cavern. A steep walk up a forest path brought us to the cave entrance.
Driny is a limestone cave located in western Slovakia in the Lesser Carpathian Mountains. It was discovered in 1929 by S. Basic, a Slovak and inventor of the parachute! The cave is home to two species of bats and extends for approximately three-quarters of a mile, 80% of which is open to the public.
Our tour was enhanced by the presence of a group of excited elementary school children who were indistinguishable from their North American counterparts, except for the language.
After the tour of the cavern we enjoyed beverages and were then off to nearby Red Stone Castle.
This fortress was originally built in 1230 as a border fortification between the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary by Queen Constance of Bohemia. It was expanded and modified between the 13th and 16th Centuries. It became the property of the Fugger family who then sold it in 1583 to the Palffy family, rich Hungarian nobles, who retained ownership into the 20th Century. At one time the Palffys owned virtually all of what is now modern Slovakia. The castle became the property of the State in 1945.
The Palffys constructed resident apartments atop the fortifications and gentrified the structures and grounds. Nevertheless the castle retained its utility as a point for defense.
It’s extensive underground vaults which are over 200 feet long and are among the largest in Europe. Within these remarkable structures the family stored copper, gold, and silver which were mined from the nearby mountains. Our tour benefited from the expertise of a young tour guide who was excited to exercise her excellent English language skills with our small group.
For me the highlight was the subterranean well. It extended downward over 300 feet to water that was then another 75 feet deep! It seemed to take an eternity for a dropped coin to reach the water below. The acoustics then resounded with the deep reverberations of the splash. Human bones were found in the well, and legend told of a castle servant who committed suicide rather than be captured by invading Russian troops.
After touring, the adults enjoyed an incredible gourmet dinner at a local restaurant. The meal featured an excellent local wine and (literally) white glove service from our waiter.
Back at the home of the family Rosina we joined the children on the patio for snacks, beverages, and a sharing of the day. The children had been diligently studying for their major exams that will be given over the next week. Christine, ever the grandmother, helped by quizzing the 11 year old daughter Lujza on her Spanish lessons.
Tomorrow we tour the capital of Bratislava.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. Over the last week the impermanence of life has reclaimed two of our dear friends.
While walking the Camino in 2013 it was our good fortune to meet a “pilgrim” from Colorado, Kris Ashton. She in turn brought her husband, Dennis Waite, into our life. We have enjoyed a very rich friendship with these two fit and adventurous souls. They have become more like a brother and sister to us.
Sadly, Dennis perished on May 30th while hiking the mountains of Scotland.
On June 4th a dear friend from my high school days passed after a lengthy illness. I was a newcomer to the community of Crete Illinois mid year as a freshman in high school. Dean Ortinau welcomed me as if I had shared friends and teachers with him my entire childhood. We reconnected in the last 10 years and created new memories of a shared friendship built upon our childhood “roots”.
In these two passages I am reminded that life is temporary, life is a lottery. Don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you may then find you are no longer able to do. Dennis and Dean never did.