2467 km so far.
This morning one of us was in a bad mood. I’m not saying which one of us. It makes very little difference, since it happens to both of us now and again. Just a sour mood out of nowhere, no explanation, except for maybe lack of morning coffee. One of us is just grumpy.
In The Mood
The temptation, when you’re feeling this way, is to find someone or something to blame. The weather, your bike, the hills, your wife… in reality, you know that it’s just you. So you struggle to not be in a bad mood. You remember how lucky you are to be here, to be healthy, and to be affluent enough to afford this decadent trip. You remind yourself how pretty the views are and how nicely the birds sing. Of course, there’s nothing to be done. You’re still in a bad mood.
Of course your bad mood affects your travelling companion too. They try not to be too annoying, knowing that pretty much anything they say or do will be irritating to you. But they also wonder if it’s something they said or did that has caused this disruption in the smooth-sailing universe. So they ask.
“Really, because you seem… angry.”
[angrily] “Nothing’s wrong!”
“Um, OK then.”
Then they just stay out of your way, trying not to let your bad mood become their bad mood and hoping the dark clouds pass away soon.
Today, it took 40 km of riding, a lunch break, arriving in our destination, and sitting down for a beer before the grump was gone.
Here are some scenes from the grumpy portion of the road.
Ah well, we have lots of days to be happy (I hope).
Searching For Sleep
We got to the town of Banska Stiavinica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by 12:30pm. We followed the instructions to the pension we’d found on the internet last night, only to see that it was up an extremely steep, extremely long, cobbled street. Halfway up, I told Stephen to stop, left the bikes with him, and continued the walk without pushing 60 kg of stuff up the hill. When I got to the pension, I discovered several workmen, all busily installing brand new windows. I got to see the room, but was told we couldn’t come back until 5pm.
By the time I’d finished seeing the room, Stephen had pushed the bikes up another section of hill. Very nice of him, but damn. Turn around, push back down, too steep to ride.
We then visited the bar to review our options. For some reason there are no campgrounds near here, so my vote was for finding somewhere out of town to free camp. Stephen wanted a pension.
A few hours later, we’re nestled cosily in the beautiful little Penzion Nostalgia. It’s in an historic house that was renovated in 2009. The house was owned by a Jewish family who were all killed in WW2. They have even kept the original front door, bearing a carved Star of David.
The current owner of the house showed us before and after pictures of the renovation. The house had been a complete ruin, presumably destroyed in the war, with walls falling in, piles of rubble everywhere, and seemingly no redeeming features. Somehow they managed to carve out a great pension and living space for their family from the rubble.
It is stories like these that help make spending the extra money to stay in a pension worthwhile (the comfy bed and hot running water are nice too). We’ve met so many lovely people this way, which just doesn’t happen if you’re camping in the middle of a field somewhere.
After we got settled, we walked around town taking millions of pictures of all the stunning buildings and views.
Even though cobbled hill towns are a pain in the butt for cyclists, they are certainly more picturesque than normal towns. The buildings here have the traditional brightly coloured exterior paint, and steeply sloped roofs covered with sheet metal, which is, presumably, to help the snow slide off in winter.
There was also some kind of Mini convention in town.
As we wandered through quiet streets towards the knocking tower, where they used to knock two pieces of wood together to call the miners to work (really!), we heard some pretty folk singing.
We gravitated to the sound and found the most adorable little tea shop at the base of the tower. Čajovňa Klopačka has hundreds of kinds of tea, and the best strudel we’ve had in Europe so far. Where Hungarian strudel was heavy on the (heavy) pastry, and light on the filling, Slovakian strudel seems to heap the filling between the thinnest possible pieces of pastry.
I ordered a pot of Indian Spiced Chai, while Stephen got the Hare Krishna tea (ginger, lemon, and spices). My chai was some of the best tea I think I’ve ever drunk.
Čajovňa Klopačka is yet another one to add to our list of favourite places.
While we sat, we were entertained by a young juggler, who we think was the folk singer’s son. He was really good, and tried to get us to learn to juggle. But, out of sheer inertia, we declined.
As we sat waiting for our tea, the rain started to bucket down, making us quite happy we weren’t out in the woods somewhere.
After the rain, we got a little sunshine and a few more photos.
Even though we’d had three desserts and big pots of tea, we continued to eat at Tulisa, another tea shop in town. It’s also a sushi bar / hippie restaurant, and we both had big plates of rice with tofu and veggies. Yum! We then ordered ridiculous desserts that we didn’t need to make our day of gluttony complete.
I swear, one of these days soon we’re going to return to our frugal and healthy ways, and then we’ll have no stories with which to entertain you.
Soundtrack: Blitzen Trapper, Furr ♥