From my door in Reading to the door of this flat in Tatranská Lomnica has taken over 24 hours but from Stansted airport very early morning the journey has only taken 10 hours, most of that on a train from the Slovakian capital Bratislava to the station at Poprad. Nothing of note to report from the first part of the trip; arriving anywhere in Europe via a low-budget carrier is much of a muchness wherever you happen to be heading. The only thing to surprise me was the sheer number of people at Stanted airport at 5am. It could quite easily have been Heathrow on Christmas Eve.
The contrast between the ultra-modern airport in Bratislava with the communist era train station was stark to say the very least. I visited Prague about 20 years ago and remember the train station of what was otherwise a very beautiful city being a dark & dingy affair. It doesn’t look as though over 20 years of the free market has done much to improve things on the railways, at least on this half of the former Czechoslovakia. I can only hope that there is a more positive side to Bratislava in the same way that there was a more positive side to Prague all those years ago. We may get a chance to find out later in the week when we have a little more time to explore the capital on our return journey.
What the train station lacked in 21st century architecture, the train itself made up for in relative comfort & efficiency. Once on board and en route, all three of us took the opportunity of catching up on some of the sleep that we had been deprived of earlier in the day. Initially we didn’t miss much when it came to the view from our carriage; the suburbs of Bratislava were as you would expect from an former eastern block city (and quite a few, come to think of it in the west as well). But after an hour or so the mountains started to kick in and as we journeyed further and further east the views became more and more spectacular.
We changed at grim Poprad (that’s the impression it gave from the train station) for a small train that would haul us some way into the mountains at Stary Smokovec where we changed once again for the three stops down the line to our final destination of Tatranská Lomnica. It was immediately clear that this is skiing country although this being the very end of what would normally be the ski season, skiers themselves appeared to be fairly thin on the ground. The very start of April would not normally see so much snow and my immediate concern is whether we be able to do as much walking as we had initially planned.
The walk to Paul’s flat was only ten minutes. It will be our home for the next seven days.