Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thursday 10/1: Abandoned Hotel and a Party

During the snowless off-season, the Ginger Monkey's main attraction is a collection of awe-inspiring hikes in the High Tatras. One hike goes up to the top of a ridge along the Poland/Slovakia border, but our shoes were sadly insufficient for such a trek. I really want to do that someday. (Nic, are you down?) Instead, we settled on doing the shorter "River Walk" through the low forest, a 3-4 hour round trip walk.

The hostel breakfast consisted of a giant loaf of fresh bread from the market and an array of spreads--chocolate frosting, butter, marmalade, fresh homemade jam, etc. A really good way to start the day. We set out on the river walk, but almost immediately got distracted by a giant, abandoned hotel/ski-lodge. I have a pretty intense fascination with abandoned buildings, and this hotel is by far the most gripping. The building is located on a corner lot, right off the main highway, but set back a bit in an overgrown jungle of bushes and trees. Including the basement and attic, it's five stories high.

Unlike most abandoned buildings, this one has preserved so many signs of its original life. We found a room full of identical books in the basement, all wet and warped. We found a full-size wooden sled, a room full of skis, blank hotel ledger books and stationary, aerobic workout books, old lipstick tubes, and more. I took an antique barbers brush as a small souvenir. On a table in the main room, we found a ledger book that fellow trespassers signed with their name, date, and where they came from. We had no pen, and it nearly killed me.

We climbed the decaying staircase up to the top, but only ventured out to one of the floors. All the others were sagging to the point that I could see the room below. The floor below the attic had one room with double doors opening out to the forest. Jessica gingerly stepped out on the balcony, but jumped back inside as it sagged beneath her weight.

On the first floor, we found the room-outlines of a commercial kitchen; tiles and swinging doors still intact. Unanswered questions: What did this place look like when it was full of people? How old is it? What happened to put it out of business? Why didn't they sell it? Who owns the property now? Can I please use the old skis to decorate? We ended up spending more than an hour here at the beginning of our walk, and a bit more time on the way back.

We continued down the road towards the trail, but realized that we didn't have enough time anymore to do the river walk and make it back in time for that evening's paintball appointment. We continued walking, and came across vacant soccer fields. Jessica, a lifetime soccer player, had an instant cow and went running onto the field, kicking an imaginary ball.

The other three of us decided that this was as good a place as any to hang out, since we couldn't do the hike now anyway. We poked around the field a bit, and ended up laying down in the middle of the grass, looking up at the sky. So far from any city pollution, the sky was a thick, bright blue, almost capable of dripping down on us. Cotton clouds sailed by, and we pointed out cloud-sculptures that seemed to get more outrageous the longer we lay there. The mood fluctuated between side-splittingly funny, and comfortably quiet. When our eyes watered too much from looking at the clouds, we created a new game: "I Love ____." Not very complicated; we just lay side-by-side in the grass and went down the line talking about things we love. The smells of home, sore muscles after a workout, winning a game at the last possible moment, boyfriends, family, hot chocolate, perfect waves, etc. Some were big and life-sustaining, others were hardly noteworthy but completely lovely. (Who doesn't love a good sneeze?)

(Jess wore one pair of my socks the whole week...)

Our hike abandoned, we wandered through the town and back to the hostel for paintballing. A bigger group was supposed to go, but it ended up just the four of us and our sole American friend, Andrew. We left the hostel with instructions to just follow the main road for about fifteen minutes. We walked the entire length of town along the main road (the only road, really) and gave up after 45 minutes. We couldn't find the paintballing place, and we had no phones to call back the hostel for directions, so we just gave up and enjoyed ourselves. The whole town is located on the one main road which runs mostly parallel to the highway, connecting at both ends. We walked to the top of the road, and could see the whole town. On the way back, we walked down the highway, moving to the side to let farm equipment and tiny cars go by. One tractor passed us both on the town's main road and on the highway, driven by a man with his bundled-up baby on the seat next to him. Not something I see everyday, and incredibly cute.

We failed on our paintball appointment, but it was Andrew's birthday and Ashleigh's last day working at the hostel, so we all went out to dinner to celebrate. Jimbo, the hostel owner, took us down to a restaurant by the hostel for Slovakian food. The restaurant owner and Jimbo seemed to be on really good terms, with Jimbo helping serve food and clean the table. We packed the entire hostel, 15 people, around an eight-person table. Personal space was thrown out the window, and we sat and ate for a long time, sharing food with people we'd just met, and singing loud birthday songs to Andrew.

The party eventually moved back to the hostel, with a karaoke contest and an untalented-talent-show. (Four-string guitar, anyone?) As the only sober people in the place, we started a late-night dance party in the kitchen with our "socially-lubricated" friends. I don't dance unless I'm drunk, and since I don't drink, I quietly made my way to our room upstairs. I walked into the dark room, and only then did I notice the rain pouring down outside. Muffled music from downstairs wafted through the floorboards, and I sat in the bay window for awhile in the dark, just watching the rain. Tell me again, how did I end up in Slovakia?

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