Poland’s been great, but it’s time to head off to the Democratic People’s Republic of Slovakia. It’s not an easy journey between Krakow and my resting place of Starý Smokovec, with three buses and a few hikes along the way, but it wasn’t long before I was in the charming village of Zakopane, close to the border. It was there, while waiting for my bus to leave, that I saw snow for perhaps the fifth time in my life – and was snowed on for the first time ever. In fact, I had more white stuff landing on me than a Japanese porn star.
I was feeling a bit playful, so I threw a snowball at a man who was walking by. He wasn’t in a playful mood and started shouting at me and gesturing wildly. Wanting to avoid any further conflict, I jumped back onto the bus and hid behind a seat, only for the man to storm onto the bus seconds later.
He looked around with crazy eyes and spied me crouching at the back of the bus. He started yelling again, then pounded his way towards me. I closed my eyes, waiting for the inevitable pounding from the punchy Pole, but it never came. I opened one eye and looked up to see him standing there with a grin on his face and a snowball in his hand, which he threw at my face before bursting into laughter. Unfortunately, that was just the start of my adventures with this very troubled individual.
As the bus took off, the Polish plonker took the seat next to me and started yapping his fuckin’ head off. His name was Viktor or something like that, and it soon became obvious that he was smashed off his gourd. He was rolling around his seat with a can of beer in his hand, jabbering away at me in broken English and spitting like a camel as he went about it.
“You are very good man,” he spluttered. “I am very poor man. Alcohol very expensive. You give me 100 Euro.”
I politely told Viktor to go fuck himself, but the idiot just kept jabbering away, asking me where I was going and whether I could buy him a beer or suck his dick or whatever it was he wanted. I was relieved when we finally reached Lysa Polana – the border of Poland and Slovakia, where I needed to change buses – because I thought I’d get a break from him. Then I realised that Lysa Polana is nothing more than a couple of empty buildings, and I was going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with Viktor, hoping a bus would show up at some point. That’s when things started going wrong.
Lysa Polana is actually quite scenic, with huge, tree-lined cliffs in every direction, but as the snow started coming in more heavily, all I could concentrate on was bloody Viktor, who was getting more aggressive by the minute. “You are small and weak, I am big and strong,” Viktor fumed. “You are lucky I do not kill you, but I am nice man. You give me 200 Euro, we stay friends.” To make it worse, he kept flagging down passing cars and trying to climb into them, returning angrier every time they drove off. While Viktor was close to twice the size of me, I was pretty sure I could take him in his drunken state, but I didn’t want to find out. Luckily the bus turned up and, after the driver spent 20 minutes fixing the engine (during which Viktor downed three cans of beer) we were off.
Viktor kept babbling on about how poor he was until finally, mercifully, he passed out, and I was able to enjoy the glorious scenery leading into Vysoke Tatry National Park. The mountains reached for the heavens as snow fell all around us, and the bus wounds its way towards the village of Stary Smokovec, my final destination. When it finally pulled into the bus stop, I looked back to see Viktor fast asleep, and grabbed my bags and headed out into the freezing afternoon. As the bus took off, I looked back to see Viktor furiously banging on the windows, and flipped him a couple of cheeky birds. I was rid of him at least… or so I thought.
As I walked up into the village, I looked back to see that the bus had stopped again. It sat there for a few moments, and when it took off, there was Viktor, ranting and raving and carrying on like a pork chop. He was screaming my name and looking around for me and, wanting to avoid any further confrontation with the dickhead, I charged in the opposite directing and headed to the place I’m staying.
Starý Smokovec is a wonderful little town sitting 1100m up a mountain, so it’s cold and snow-covered and lovely. It’s used as a base for skiiers in winter and hikers in summer, and I’m here in the middle of both seasons so it’s quiet. Very quiet. As I walked around to have a look, I saw no people, and it felt as if I was in a ghost town. It’s also very small, so it’s only a matter of time before I run into my old mate Viktor again…