18 May 2013

Ice caves?

We are heading out of Poprad today.  We had wanted to yesterday, but needed another trip to Tourist Info.
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So, this morning, we made our way to Tourist info.  Yes, there is plenty of places to stay in Dobsina, even though there are no hotels, there are plenty of private residences or Zimmer Frei, similar to Germany.  This made us feel a lot better, as there was just one place we could fine on-line last night and it was a few kilometres out of town!  Then it is only a 20 minute walk to the Ice caves.  They printed out a bus timetable for us and we went off to find breakfast.  We love Tourist info in Slovakia, as they have always been helpful about the region and what’s around.

Last chance to see some traditional dancing before leaving Poprad

Last chance to see some traditional dancing before leaving Poprad

Breakfast was as good.  A nice meal at a terrace cafe.  I got Ham and eggs, and Anna got Bacon and eggs.  Not the way we had intended but still good.  We did have to pick them out from the menu by very small pictures!  For 2 Euro it even came with coffee and “juice” however it was very good, sitting there in the sun and having a nice meal.  Yet we still needed to catch the bus to Dobsina.  Making our way back to the hotel, we picked up our bags from the friendly people at the hotel and made our way back to the bus station.  We have spent much too much time here in the last few days and are happy to be leaving.

Pretty Slovakian countryside

Pretty Slovakian countryside

The bus arrived about half an hour after we got there, and we set out on the scenic trip south to Dobsina.  The road winds up and around mountains before winding back down the other side.  Through forests, past streams and mountain fields.  There was not much cultivation here, or even fields for cattle or sheep.  We didn’t see a flock anywhere.  Although we spent much of our time looking out the windows for bears than sheep or cattle.  Apparently there are meant to be bears, but we couldn’t find any.  Past numerous brown blurs in the bush, but most of these are tree stumps left over from the logging that has gone on in the area.  There are small stretches where all the pine trees have been felled and cleared.

Is it a tree or a bear?

Is it a tree or a bear?

This is sustainable logging that, from the bus, looks like it is done well.  There is not the left overs that you get in Australia, and they seem to be using most of the trees.  Branches and all.  Only the tree stump is left behind in a lot of cases.  Still, they are not bears.  There were no bears to be found.  I did wonder what they eat up here in the pine forests, and Anna thinks they could live off the Deer.  This would also explain why there were no Deer either.  So, Bears here eat Salmon, Honey and berries as everyone knows, but are also feeding on larger life forms.  Probably starting years ago with the spermophiles, and moving onto Gophers, Foxes, Wolves, and Deer before adapting to Tourists?  We will see.  (OK, we have had a nice meal tonight with a few drinks as is probably showing.  Especially that natural stuff they make here.  It is stronger than you think!)  OK.  Back to the trip.  Not much more to say.  We made it to Dobsina without seeing a bear.  We did pass an Ice cave about 20KM before the town, and thought that was a bit unusual, but this is the region, and there may be more than one Ice Cave.
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On arriving at Dobsina, we started to worry.  The bus station i.e one sad little bench with the words “bus stop” painted on the pockmarked bitumen, was next to the town square, and right beside a vacant, vandalised building with most of its windows smashed.

Dosbina from above

Dosbina from above

A good start.  On the drive through the town we did not see a place advertising accommodation at all.  Walking to the square, we were very happy to see a tourist info sign.  And very disappointed that it was not open on the weekend!  When do most people have time to travel around (excepting these weird people that have been on the move for the last 12 months)?  Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm?  Or do they get out on the weekends to see their country?  I would bet on the weekends, however Tourist info here is that people have their breaks during business hours.

So, we were stuck in a town with no-one around.  Tourist info closed, and on the board they only mention the local church as the must see for the area.  Not good at all.  Where is this cave?
We started walking around the town and it was not that long until we came across a Penzion.  This was proudly displaying a sign beside the road with its fitness gym, well being centre and restaurant.  Going up to check it out we quickly found that they no longer do accommodation!  Asking on another place to say we got one word.  “Up”  Up where?  Up the street?  up the mountain?  “Up, I have no idea what you are saying, up”  So we continued walking.  Dragging our decrepit bags behind us.  At the moment they are being held together with masking tape as we are sick of buying new ones every time we take a flight.  The wheels no longer work properly, and the handle of one only half extends, but we persist (For those of you not following the blog, we have had to replace the bags after nearly every flight due to the quality baggage handling that you get at airports).

Small towns in the valleys

Small towns in the valleys

Finding an old man watching us move up the street, we ask him for a penzion.  There is a bit of confusion, with no Slovak, or English but we made it known what we wanted with international gestures of sleep.  There is apparently one place.  It is a way out of town.  Not sure if it was a long walk in time or distance, but we decide it is not worth the effort as it seems to be the place we found last night on-line.  We thank him, and make our way back towards the bus station.  One last ditched effort to find a place to stay by dropping into a pub along the way.  Here we are a curiosity, but there is one person willing to help.  The others would have as well, but were already having trouble sitting on their stools, and again the language thing.  He even decided to walk us to our nights accommodation.  As we went,we got a run down on the town,its history, how it was not doing so well now, but the council was planning big things to renew the town.  Unfortunately for us it was in Slovak so we did not understand a word of it.  He could have also been telling us we were idiots for coming here as there is nothing in town, and nothing near by!
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We made it to the place he was thinking of.  It was the non-pension we had found before.  We tried to let him know it was no longer a place to stay, but he would have nothing of it, and we went back up to the girl behind the bar.  He tried very hard to change her mind and let us stay there.  Even to the extent of pantomiming us dragging our bags along the street.  This was somewhat amusing, but she didn’t change her mind.  By now, Anna had had a closer look at the maps we were carrying from tourist info and found out that the cave we had passed before was the right one, and nowhere near Dobsina.  So we let our friend know we would just catch a bus back there.  He even walked us back to the bus station.  Checked the times and let us know there would be a bus at 12:55.  Thanking him, we let him return to his now warm beer.  He wouldn’t even take an euro or two to buy a new one!  He was very disappointed that we were not staying, and was sure we would have a great time in town if we did stay.  Especially at his local.  The bus never came.  The next one on the time table didn’t come either.  Or the next.  Eventually one did turn up at 3pm and we got on it to go to Stratena, a town close to Dobsinska Ladora Jaskyna (where the ice cave is, and so close in name that it can be confused with Dobsina)  By now we were cursing Tourist info.

Stratena town

Stratena town

As we drove through the town on the bus, we saw three pensions, and when we were finally allowed off the bus we started walking back towards them.  The town is basically along the main road.  Stretched out, but not that many houses.

The first penzion was locked up tight.  The second was closed, but there was someone there that pointed us further along the road to the third.  Our final hope for the town was bustling with people.  Making our way into the restaurant, we asked if they have a room for the night.  No English.  Do you speak German?  Anna took over then, but all the responses were in English!  Still,  we were getting somewhere.  As it turned out, we got nowhere.  They were booked for the night.

Finally a place to stay!

Finally a place to stay!

With all our options exhausted, we made our way back to the bus station to wait for a bus.  Any bus.  I walked all the way up the other end of town.  Finding a Zimmer Frei sign in a vacant plot.  This was hopeful, but these hopes were dashed as the sign pointed nowhere, and on asking at all the nearby houses they knew nothing about it.  Back at the station, Anna thought it was worth asking at the Hostinec.  This looked like a pub, so could be worth a try.  I sat with the bags this time.

Success.  We had found a place to stay!  It had only taken us all day.  They had a room that we could stay in, and after taking our bags back down there, we were introduced to the dog (a really nice German Shepard) and shown our room.  Then back downstairs for a beer.  This turned into dinner of soup and dumplings, and yet more beer and wine.  Topped off by the local spirit mentioned earlier.  Still, we had found a place.  Whilst drinking we asked for a deck of cards, and was given half a tarot deck.  Too many jacks, and only one queen, but we made up our own game (that Anna always won) and watched the USA get thrashed 0:3 by Switzerland in the ice hockey.  A good evening.

AA

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