Sunday, June 10, 2012

Raw garlic and energy: Train Travel (6/4/2012)

4/6/2012, 17:33.  I am sitting on a train from Zilina, Slovakia, to Prague, Czech Republic.  I wrote this before catching up on other entries because... well, you’ll see why.  But I’ll post them in chronological order.
6/6/2012, 18:44.  I edited/added to this post on my ride from Prague, Czech Republic to Berlin, Germany.
I was woken up at 7:30 by Nicole, an employee at the Ginger Monkey Hostel.  I was excited to be waking up in such a cool place.  After dressing and getting ready, I went to the kitchen for breakfast.  On the table was a large and untouched loaf of delicious-looking bread, ready to be sliced, and a selection of juicy fruit jams and butter.  I slathered a thick slice with butter and pear jam and sank my teeth into the physical manifestation of a perfect morning.  I enjoyed more bread and some tea as I listened to the breakfast playlist and selected a short hike from the hostel’s homemade hike manual.  After packing my bag and finalizing my plans for the afternoon transportation, I headed out for a solo hike in the woods. 
The view from the front porch was unbelievable: the rooftops of a charming mountain village with mountains behind, sentinels with their mighty crests obscured by foggy clouds.  I marched down the street and took a left, reading the route directions on my camera’s screen (they didn’t have copies, so I took a picture.)  I got lost quickly, though: the first instruction was to walk 300 meters and you’d find a path, but I don’t have a sense for meters.  Although the path up the mountainside that I took was not the correct one, it eventually met up with the right one, and I trekked into the woods.  
It was a quiet, peaceful morning.  I don’t have much else to say about the hike.  It took me a bit more than two hours.  Like my walk through “the backs” of Cambridge, it was cathartic and rejuvenating-- definitely worth skipping Bratislava.  (Although, I forgot to mention, I forgot to cancel my hostel booking in Bratislava, and still had to pay.)
After the hike, I bought some rolls and honey at a grocery store and said my goodbyes to the neat folks at the hostel.  From there, I was headed to Prague.  First though, I took a bus back to Poprad-Tatry Train Station, accompanied by Carly, a girl my age from Australia.  She was cool: she studied archaeology, went camping alone, didn’t plan ahead, and had a very kind and friendly spirit.  We parted ways at the train station.
About five minutes after I took my seat and the first train started rolling, a spunky young African-American woman and her Slovakian-American husband sitting (who were sitting across the aisle and a few rows ahead) asked me about the book I was reading.  I went and sat with the woman and her husband at their table and we began talking and joking around.  They immediately set a tone of free-spiritedness.  They were intensely enthusiastic about everything-- my book, their vacation, my travels and pending academic program in Norway, my career plans, etc.  They even shared their meal with me, a spread of organic vegetables and meats (we ate raw cloves of garlic and fibrous shoots, Slovak sausages and pork, all prepared by the man’s mother, who they had been visiting.  They were the sort of people who laughed a lot for their health, drank kombucha, and appreciated the deep passion of Rachmaninov and Rodrigo y Gabriela.  An all-around fun, youthful couple.
After a while of small talk, Cheryl (the woman) started to “read” me.  I don’t remember how it started.  She looked me straight in the eyes and began describing what she thought she saw in me, as though she was picking up on subtle spiritual frequencies exuding from my soul.  “You’re a very strong person,” she said again and again, “very strong.  And warm, too, you have a warm spirit.  But you seem guarded, afraid of letting others see your faults.  I was starting to believe her now.  “See this?”  She put her fist on her gut.  “You hold all that tension right here.  Don’t do that, don’t do that... it’ll make you sick.  You’ll come down with something in Norway.”   
“Hmm....”  She would pause, still looking intently at me, and occasionally turning her gaze inward to pick up on spiritual vibes.  “Rado, look at his eyes, they’re amazing!  Actually, it’s what’s behind the eyes... beautiful.  Luke, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, be free!  And when I say mistakes, I’m just using an English word, because they’re not mistakes-- they’re the biggest opportunities to grow.  Now... hmm...”  She was very invested in figuring me out, but also concerned about draining her spiritual energy.  “Rado, give me two minutes, and then stop me.  He needs to hear this, though!”  And Rado, who was still participating in the conversation, stopped to teasingly explain to me that “when Cheryl gets going, she won’t stop until she’s drained herself.  So I know when I have to stop her.  It’s why I’m here!”  He a light-hearted, jocular guy.
Sheryl continued.  “You don’t know what I’m about to tell you about yourself...”  She had my complete attention, in spite of ridiculous all of this free-spirit talk seemed from the outside.  “You’re the leader of your family!  And in ten years or so, you’re going to help your parents release some of the strife they feel.  Now let’s see... Your mom is very nice.  And your father... he really wants to be a good father! Are you... you have siblings, don’t you?  A sister?  Let me think, hmm... younger?  No?  Oh, well... she’s a strong person.  Gets her way, kind of thing?  But she’s very loyal...”  Most of what she said was surprisingly accurate.  “So are you the oldest?  No?  Oh, middle!  That’s why you’re such a strong person!”  She moved to the topic of love.  “Now, I can tell... you’re a lover.  You love deeply.  But you’re going to be hurt by a girl-- I think she has long, brown hair, but hair color isn’t always clear...  But you will grow from that!  Rado and I, we both got hurt like that, and we grew from it, ya know?”  And she advised me in the area of love: “Don’t fuck girls over.  You’re a lover, and the girls will love that.  They’ll fall hard for you.  So don’t fuck them over.”
“Are you religious?  I think you are... Catholic?  No, what are you?”  I told her.  “Oh, Lutheran... well, you know, there’s nothing wrong with religion.  Some people need that for support, you know!  Like Rado’s aunt is a devout Catholic, and she goes to church and rubs the saint’s knees and she needs that to be fulfilled!  But I feel like in your case, religion might be holding you back.  I don’t think you need religion, but you don’t seem to want to let it go of it.  And that’s okay!  Are your parents conservative?  Like, tied down by societal structures and rigid routines?  You know, Rado and I have a similar understanding of our relationship with spiritual energy and the quantum-physics of the cosmos, and if you can find an understanding higher than any one religion that works for you, you’ll be more free.”
We talked-- that is, Sheryl talked, Rado interjected or agreed occasionally, and I listened and answered her questions-- a little bit more.  Then Rado got up to buy some more wine, and Sheryl stepped out of her zone.  “You can’t go!  Stop me in two more minutes!”  She had made similar requests a few times before, but we kept talking past the limits.  Then Rado went to her and whispered a suggestion in her ear.  They exchanged a few whispers, laughed, and kissed.  Then Rado sat back down, and Sheryl said a few more things.  Just as I asked Sheryl a question (I was going to take the conversation in a different direction, to get their perspective), she said, “I’m sorry, I have to stop.  I’ll be out of energy.”  I sat confusedly as the two of them made their enthusiastic and gracious goodbyes, left their stuff on the seats, and walked out of the train car.  I returned to my seat, pondering all we had talked about, and curious if they would come back.  We reached my transfer station, and I left before they returned.  However, Sheryl foretold, “We will see each other again!”  And I actually hope she’s right.
I have very little to report after that. The next train ride I spent journaling, and when I arrived in Prague I asked around for guidance, based on the directions I had written earlier that day.  When I got there, I met my friend from choir Jeff Knutson, who had flown to Prague from London. We chilled for a while and then went to bed, ready for the next day of adventure.
Travel notes:
  1. If you go to Europe, learn the basics of the metric system.
  2. When you change travel plans, don’t forget to cancel your hostels.
  3. You can indeed eat raw garlic, but not American breeds.
  4. There are actually people in L.A. that act as they are portrayed in movies.

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