Maybe it’s the nascent historian in me (hopefully the comments section doesn’t let me get away with such self-indulgence), but interesting themes have sprung up through the course of my 3-odd weeks traveling in Central Europe. The last ten minutes in the departures lounge of Bratislava airport have formed something of a microcosm, for example, of the “roll with the punches” qualities I identified as forming in me in my first post.
Recap: I’d just settled down in an ergonomically sufficient chair in the wifi-covered terminal, excited about uploading some pictures to Facebook (and this blog) whilst sipping on the last 2 Euro Pilsner Urquell tall boy I’d likely come across in quite a while. That’s when I couldn’t find my SD card reader, after rifling through my bag for 10 minutes. To top it off, a three year old girl at the table next door started throwing up just as the hops began to settle on my pallet. Although I was compelled to “aww” and smile sympathetically like those around me, I despised this child on the inside.
Things already weren’t working out as planned. But I began reflecting on these “interruptions,” and how important such occurrences had been in animating the randomness of this trip. I began thinking about other “take-aways” from the past three weeks, and it occurred to me that I’ve received a great deal of clarification as to what true hospitality looks like. This has been the case, almost without fail, through the chronological entirety of my time in Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and – briefly – Austria.
Oh, and for anyone who hasn’t been following my itinerary with a microscope, I’ll sum it up before continuing:
Sept 7-10: Prague, Czech Republic
Sept 11-13: Wroclaw, Poland
Sept 14-17: Krakow, Poland
Sept 18-20: Tatras Mountains, Slovakia
Sept 21: Bratislava, Slovakia
Sept 22-24: Budapest, Hungary
Sept 25-26: Szeged, Hungary
Sept 27-29: Budapest, Hungary
Sept 30-Oct 1: Vienna, Austria
As I already alluded to, I encountered warm welcomes – and warm food – pretty well every step of the way. An example of this was in northern Slovakia, where Peter and Rachel – proprietors of a local hostel I stayed at – invited myself and Hans, a Dutch traveller, to spend time with them at their cottage almost immediately following our check-in. Ironically, I spent little time at the hostel which I was patronizing, owing to the fact Rachel and Peter were too busy introducing us to local liquor and guiding us through the mountains.
This was a generosity clearly not driven by ulterior motives. They certainly didn’t have a financial strategy: I think food and accommodation – not to mention the mountain guiding – came to about 30 Euros over three days. Neither was self-gratification evident: Peter and Rachel admitted they had opportunities to do this with people all the time, and indeed had. They were just eager to share their lives and their (in Rachel’s case, adopted) country with a couple strangers, simply on the basis of goodwill and a good initial vibe. This is the type of hospitality that I want to characterize my lifestyle, both for the remainder of this trip and when I return to Toronto. As someone who’s lived in houses of hospitality and participated in intentional living experiments for the better part of the past three years, my trip has certainly shed some new perspective on things. I’m starting to think of it as a clarification of things I already know, but have laboured to put into practice.
Plenty of more stories – and testimonies of this type of welcoming – to come. The fantastic encounters have honestly accumulated much faster than I’ve been able to type this trip, which means I’ll be constantly playing catch-up with myself on the blogging front. Undoubtedly, as we move into Scotland in a couple days, Sharon and I will both have great stories to tell of places visited, food tasted (in my case, distillates savoured), and, most importantly, people met.
People are flocking towards the Ryanair departure gates; I better go. More soon.