I’m taking a train from Białystok to Cieszyn. Eleven hours and three transfers. This is not the best possible means of transport, but by far the most accommodating one. I have a scheduled route and a ticket and I don’t need to bother with my fellow passengers. The priority is to reach the Polish-Slovakian border. Later on I will have more time and options to re-schedule the route in details and pick alternative communication solutions.
I admire the landscapes passing behind the train’s windows. The weather changes, the rain is spotting, or the sun is rising. The scenery is more and more enchanting. Vast planes, outlines of the hills, shreds of fog gathering in the valleys.
I arrived at Cieszyn before 4:00 pm. I crossed the border. At this time of a day, it was impossible for me to find a coach to Bratislava. The best solution was to find a friendly person who would pick me up to Slovakian capital. By a complete accident, on a petrol station I met an Austrian girl with a blond hairstyle a’la Marie Fredriksson from 1987. She was also heading for Bratislava with two of her 3-4 year old girls, I was lucky this time. We were driving across narrow, traffic-clogged roads. Traffic-jams were everywhere. Railroad crossing here, accident there, some road strips being painted. The girl helped me to re-schedule my journey itinerary, she also told me some stories about Austria and Vienna. We failed to reach Bratislava, it was dark and late. We stayed at Galbor Młyn hotel, located around 20 km from the Slovakian capital. I will not have a lot of sightseeing today, I still need to sleep the journey off…
Galbor Młyn Hotel – Slovakia
I wake up early in the morning, curious about events brought by a new day. Tomorrow, I will continue my journey. But first things first, it’s breakfast time. I am sitting at the table, browsing my guidebook and wondering how are things in home.
I didn’t want to trouble this friendly Austrian woman. At 8:00 am I was in the bus already. Now, I am closer and closer to Bratislava. From the distance, I can see the city’s outline.
Scenic tenement houses behind the windows, colorful crowds on the street. After a while I become aware that I am in Bratislava, an important Slovakian city located by the Danube waters. and on the crossing of a former Amber Route.
I am strolling across the old town, stopping over and over again, as there are so many numerous attractions. Here is a street busker, paintings exhibition over there; a beautiful townhouse looking as if it was from other historical periods. Gosh, some time ago the life was much slower. I spot a crowd of tourists on the streets.
The castle hill is one of the most important tourist destinations. I can see the Parliament and a beautiful view over the Danube river. There is a Royal Castle, mighty, splendid and overlooking the neighborhood. I am pondering how the past life must have looked like and I am pining for the past days. Without mobile phones, computers and the Internet… but wait a minute, I reach for my cell and text her “What a shame that you are not here.” Well, the phone is quite a cool thing.
View over the Danube River – Bratislava
I shoot photos, I am wandering here and there… I don’t know where I am myself. I’m looking at the castle and suddenly some detail attracts my attention… no, it’s not an illusion. There is a person dressed in white clothes standing in the window. A local White Lady? During the day? But someone is still there and it seems that he or she is looking at me. The sun is glaring and I need to avert my eyes. When I look at the same place again, the person is no longer there. Some tourist probably stood by the window, and I was carried away by my imagination.
I walk across the Old Town center, weaving around the oldest city streets. Succulent aromas are attacking me from all sides – roast meat, coffee, kebabs, pizza. All of it makes my mouth water. I stop for a moment. Tons of souvenir shops, every tourist wants to find something for themselves. Well, it’s not good to come back home empty-handed. I also bought something cold – a cup with Bratislava inscription. I have this private tradition to bring mugs from every foreign country I visit.
Finally, I head for the so called sacral monuments. They are a reminder of the Church’s departed power. I wonder who I would like to be if I was born several centuries before in Bratislava. I quickly come to a conclusion that I would either like to be an aristocrat or a bishop. After some considerations I decide that the second option is better. During that time, looking at the church’s and Archbishop’s Palace splendor, it must have been quite a pleasant job to do… if only this celibacy thing could disappear. On the other hand, the bishop was far too important figure to be accused that he breaks a vow of celibacy.
Me also, just like bishops in the past, need to look after my soul, but also after my body. This is why, according to the Austrian’s woman suggestion I go to Senek in the evening – to take a thermal bath. Later I go back to Bratislava for a night.
Buffet table for breakfast. Everybody eats what he or she prefers, so nobody is picky and nobody complains. You get what you choose. What a pity that democracy doesn’t work like this. People elect and are not happy still.
I need to take a train to Vienna at 10:00 am sharp.
The building designed and erected by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
My first impression – deep sadness. Why the hell I need to spend so many days in the office, if there are so many places around the world? If the reincarnation exists, in my future life I would like to be born as the only beloved son of the wealthiest sheik in Kuwait. I would be able to sightsee for my entire life, and, who knows, perhaps I would live in Vienna.
I visit the Kahlenberg hill and admire the church of the St. Joseph. From the tourist guidebook I know that king Jan III Sobieski was commanding the battle over Vienna from here. I’m looking at the breathtaking view and feel as the king himself. The entire city is lying at my feet. I am taking my camera out and taking photos, I would like to capture this moment, preserve the magic to enjoy it after coming back to my everyday treadmill. I will hang these pictures on the wall. But from my own experience I know that it doesn’t work like this, I’m cheating myself a bit. The pictures are not able to capture this fleeting moment, when I’m standing on the hill and savour the city panorama. You need to be here, see everything with your own eyes.
Finally, I go down the hill and head for the nearby park and Strauss monument. I can see a splendid Oprah House. How many times the musical pieces composed by the genial composer were reverberating in this place? I think about all of our Eurovisions and the so-called hits. Will anything what is played today survive for the centuries?
The bell of a nearby church tears me away from my contemplation. The time is running fast, and I still have so many things to watch. St. Peter’s Church, St. Agustin’s Church, Votive Church, Drama Theatre, Holy Trinity column, St. Stephen’s Cathedral … there is so many things to see! A small St. Elizabeth’s Church turned out to be the most interesting sacral monument for me. The small church was founded by the Teutonic Order. To this day, it houses archives relating to the Order. The Altar, a modest miniature of the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss from Cracow, was founded by the Guild of Longshoremen from Gdańsk in 1447.
St. Elisabeth’s Church in Vienna.
It would take many years to examine, and learn about the secrets and history of each of these monuments… So I’m taking the photos relentlessly, hoping that the camera will capture everything what my memory didn’t.
Time to leave Austria. It was nice, but it’s gone. I only have 5 days to go and I would like to reach the Moravian Karst.
Here, for a change, I will be confronted with the power and beauty of nature. I sightsee Punkevni cave and Macocha Abyss. A good place for people with vertigo and claustrophobia. So they could feel some emotions. I don’t suffer from any of these conditions, but I feel the emotions, especially during the underground boat trip. One attraction after the other, and the views are just breathtaking.
In the Cave
Finally, to add some extra sensations, I scheduled the sightseeing of Europe Gardens in Kroměříž. A sweeping area full of flowers, effuse trees and incredible fragrances. The sun is piercing through multi-coloured flowers. I keep taking photos, quietly despairing that my memory card cannot store all those scents, soft wind and sun which heats my cheeks. I cannot store it on an electronic device, so I try to register as much as I can in my own memory. These memories will be priceless when the grey winter comes.
Finally, I taste bishop’s communion wine. This kind of a bishop had a good life, I think yet again. I promise myself that in my future life I will become a bishop who sips wine day by day. And then… the life concert. Well, “wine, songs and women” as the Polish saying goes. Perhaps, I would change the order. There is some wine, some music. And women? I wonder how the bishop dealt with it. I should know, since now I decided that I will become one in my future incarnation.
Is there anything worse than the last day… when you already know that you need to come back? The fairytale is over and the plain day-to-day reality awaits me. I hug tenderly my camera and all the photos registered in its memory. Well, something stays, even when you leave a spot. Memories. Awareness that there are places where it’s worth to come back. Am I getting older? Well, I’m getting more and more nostalgic, that’s for sure…
I say farewell to the nature and visit Brno, the capital of Moravia region. Old Town Hall, Old Brno Priory, Blessed Virgin Mary’s Cathedral… I’m looking around and admiring, trying to register as many details as possible. A thought suddenly occurs to me – if I really were a bishop or a sheik even – would I be able to savor this grandness like know, when I am a regular Polish tourist? Perhaps I would be too much preoccupied with Church matters, gold coins in the coffer, another theological dispute or enviousness of this or another competitor? And maybe, as the sheik’s son I would be bored to death with my riches and I would be looking for new spurs, immersing myself in hazard, drugs, sex and becoming more and more bored? Can’t you be not bored if you have everything right at your fingertips? Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to delight on the moment’s singularity like now, when I’m just myself…
I know one for sure – it’s worthwhile to come back to such places.