Me and my host parents woke up pretty early and had breakfast with Valeria’s family one last time there. We said goodbye then left for the day. We drove about 30 minutes to Slovensky Raj (Slovak Paradise). Slovensky Raj is a national park where you can climb on ladders through small narrow canyons with a lake running through. We got there and had to put “mački” (foot spikes) cause the entire river was frozen over. In addition to that, we were the only people there.
My host parents told me in the summer, you have to wait about 2 hours to enter cause its so crowded and takes people a while to go on the ladders. The entire hike took us about 2.5 hours or so, and was actually pretty dangerous for America standards. It was full with wooden ladders, bridges, metal foot platforms, and all other types of makeshift pathways. The park was quite beautiful and was a good experience too. At the very end of the hike, we crossed onto a rode to walk back around to the start. Right before the road we crossed through an ‘invisible’ line with a complete change in the air temperature. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was within one foot, the air was completely different temperature! We hiked all the way down, then drove to a nearby village called Spissky Stvrtok. There, we left our call and walked back to another trail.
In Eastern Slovakia, all the villages have something called an “osada” which is a part of the village where the gypsies live. Usually the houses are run-down looking and completely separated from the village, but Spissky Stvrtok is known to have wealthy gypsies, ones that moved to other countries to work for a while. They had big houses and everyone of their houses was either bright pink, purple or red, it was so interesting haha! At the end of the village, we hiked another 20 minutes or so to a lookout point of Slovensky Raj. The view was unbelievable. You could see the entire Tatra (mountains) panorama. I took some photos with my Slovak flag, and we stayed to enjoy the view a little bit.
When it started to get dark, we went back to the village and drove another hour to Martin where my host parents brought me to an American/Mexican restaurant. The restaurant was styled just like a typical American Western Restaurant with license plates, posters and flags everywhere. It was really cool! After that, we came back to Trencin, and my parents dropped me off at my host families house. I quickly packed for my trip the next morning to Ukraine! As I mentioned a long time ago, my Rotary Club is bringing me, Pablo and Valeria to Ukraine for our Spring break in school. Tuesday morning, we took a train to Bratislava then a bus to the airport. The airport is small but pretty modern and nice. We went through security and customs (since Ukraine isn’t in the EU) then got on the plane. We flew through WizzAir which is a type of European cheaper airline, which are so amazing these days! The flight lasted about 1 hour, and instead of selling drinks or food, they had a cart full of makeup, nailpolish and other beauty products. (It literally looked like the clearance rack at the Marshalls Mega Shoe-store in Westport hahah.)
At one point, one passenger wanted to buy something with a hundred dollar bill, so the flight attended walked elegantly along the aisle hold the bill up seeing if anyone could make change. It was so funny how professionally unprofessional they were. Another note to add, the entire plane was Ukrainian or Slovak, but the flight attendants were all Polish and actually didn’t speak English so well haha. Overall it was a very entertaining flight and I enjoyed. We arrived in Lviv in the late afternoon and figured out the bus to our accommodation. The woman selling out apartment explained us everything in Polish, but I didn’t have to translate much cause my host family understood Polish. We went to a really nice Ukrainian restaurant (service buffet) style. The workers didn’t speak English, but most of them understood Polish and the food was very similar to Polish food, so I did my best to help Pablo and Valeria to communicate what foods they wanted. (Almost everyone in Lviv understands Polish as it used to be a Polish city). We went shopping, got Russian Ice Cream (the best ice cream ever!!) and went back to the apartment to sleep. Pablo, Valeria, my brother Matej and I all shared an apartment, and my host parents and Valerias former host mom and her sister had another apartment. The first morning, we did a free walking tour with a really nice and passionate Ukrainian man who loved Lviv.
Me and Valeria met the cutest Welsh lady who was retired and traveling to many different countries. She was so cute! The tour was about 3 hours and we saw all the main sights of the city. It’s shockingly so beautiful in Lviv with such a rich history. The city had a Jewish section, Polish section, Armenian section and Ukrainian section. We bought a 3 day city pass which allowed us to enter any museum, use any transportation and also gave us a free Ukrainian sim card with 10gb. Instead of explaining day by day, I’ll give an overview of the 3 days. Our groups split up a lot, and me, Valeria and Pablo got to explore a lot on our own. We went to the city tower with a beautiful view, bought some nice pins at a really cheap city market where you have to bargain for the price (everything in Ukraine in general is so cheap!), visited a super cool mining cafe with underground passages, took a 3 hour long bus tour of the city and ate a lot of good and cheap Ukrainian food. The last day, we went to McDonalds, and for me, Pablo and Valeria it was only around 6 Euros total, which is an amazing price! Together as a group, we visited a traditional Ukrainian village museum with homes/churches from Ukrainian and Polish villages. It was really cool! We then went to a rooftop cafe with an amazing view and a fun coin-throwing game before we went back for the night. Funny story, 3 years ago I attended the graduation party of my friend Anizia (Ukrainian girl) and her cousin had this beautiful black and blue traditional t-shirt. He told me he got it in Ukraine for so cheap, and until this trip I never forgot about this shirt. I ended up finding the same one in a tourist shop and bought it! It’s beautiful.
That night, we went to a Rotary club meeting of an International (English Speaking) club in Lviv. Everyone was from different countries and we got to present about our program and Rotary clubs. We met a lot of people and it was a great experience. The next morning, we ate at the nice Ukrainian restaurant again, then went back to the airport to go home. Overall the trip was quite amazing! Ukraine was really beautiful and I hope to be returning soon. At the same time it was nice to be home and relax again. Sunday morning, I spent time with my host sister Kristina who was visiting, then my best friend Joaquin took a train in from Kosice to visit me during our 3 day Maturita holiday from school. We stayed home most of the day and relaxed, playing board games and watching modern family. It was a good week for sure
More from Nicholas: