Posted by James
“I can believe I ruined this break,” I thought to myself as I rolled out of bed Thursday morning.
I reach over for my phone and see its 2 pm, the memories of yesterday’s travels start to fill my head. The all-day travel, routing on train after train, then eventually a plane to end all the worrying. Followed by one last train and finally a bus. The monotony of the travel was only interrupted by my vomiting and constant sickness. Yet, as the saying goes, there is a silver lining to every dark cloud, even here.
Now that some time has passed and the wounds are less sore, I see that my break may not have been normal or even “fun” at times, but it sure makes a great story.
As Thursday, Oct. 21st rolled around, the homework and tests had piled up and eventually subsided, but they left a toll, a wanting to be free of school life for a change. We left for the east right on noon. and six or seven trains and 18 hours later, we resurfaced to see the beautiful Czech Republic. Prague, our main destination, bore our company for two days and two nights.
The city’s character is almost impossible to describe with words, and it’s filled with history and importance around every corner. Passing bridges or churches older than the nation I was born in was a truly humbling experience. With the Czech Republic being the sister country to my father’s homeland, Slovakia, I came with prejudices I soon forgot or no longer believed. There is so much culture that it’s all blurred together, and what remains in my mind is food and the people. For the cost of nothing one can spend hours sitting eating some of the best dumplings (Knedliky) in the world, and laugh with friends to forget about the world.
Next stop was Poland, specifically the small southern town of Zakopane. Here is where it all began. Arriving in the dead of night, we rose early next morning to conquer the mountains. The high Tatras of the Polish and Slovakian border were our target, and only after hours of pain -both mental and physical – could we claim our prize as King of the Mountains.
“How much longer until the waterfall?” I asked.
“Umm…” was Cannon’s response to a question I could barely breathe out of my mouth. The reason for hesitation was due to a mistake: we were climbing the wrong path. Never truly intending to summit this beast, we had our measly sights set for climbing to a waterfall and going home. Yet, due to a mistake we were apparently already three-fourths the way up the entire mountain. As my legs screamed, my joints ached in the cold and I stumbled to the top, I turned to my compatriots and said “Pain is temporary, but glory is forever.” Quite a good way to summarize the all-day climb.
Things began early next morning at 3am, and within hours disaster would strike. As I’ve told my friends now a careless mistake made me the lookalike of an action hero. During a bus-to-train transfer outside Krakow, a sleepy and deprived Jimmy left his passport and Eurail behind on a bus. As soon as I sat down on the train I knew! I darted off without saying a word to anyone and sprinted for the bus. But as I turned the building’s corner it was gone, nowhere in sight. My heart leaped in my mouth and I was truly speechless for the first time in my life.
As I turned to walk back to the train, I saw its doors slam shut and began to haul away from the station. My mind began to process everything, slowly waking from the two hours of sleep I had — “do I find the bus, wait, the train, my stuff, where, oh, uhhh!” In a moment of instinct I jumped onto the side of the train and hung on for dear life. Beating on the side door, I was eventually let inside and didn’t even have to tell my friends what happened. They knew. The embassy was next and within a day I had a passport in my hand. Before leaving Krakow I was lucky enough to find my old envelope entirely full of all my travel essentials, and as I flew back to Metz on Wednesday I couldn’t help feel I had betrayed my friends. We missed our flight to Sweden and in turn the second half of our entire trip.
But all was not lost. A spontaneous decision Friday morning saw me renting a car and driving 11 hours to Barcelona for one of the best two days of my life. And though I may have lost some money I gained a real life experience and one hell of a story.