The second stop on our trip last weekend was Košice, Slovakia. The only direct train leaving from Budapest was, brutally, at 6:30 AM. The train stopped in Miskolc, where three of our fellow American teachers got on board, and we reached our destination by 9:30 AM.
Riding trains can be exhausting. The hours accumulate fast. But they are an integral part of traveling in Europe, and I enjoy the opportunity to stare out the window and watch the villages flickering by. Jesse and I always keep an eye out for wildlife. I love catching a glimpse of deer, pheasants, a cat prowling for mice, or birds of prey.
Košice, or Kassa in Hungarian, is the second largest city in Slovakia. Like Bratislava, the old town is charming while outside the city the landscape is marred by communist era apartment blocks.
We spent the day meandering through the city. We snapped pictures, stopped frequently for food, and went inside St. Elizabeth’s cathedral. The cathedral is Gothic (and huge), but much of the city’s architecture is from the late-19th century. The diverse colors and textures of the ne0-baroque and art nouveau buildings are a feast for the eye. We walked until the shadows grew long and our feet were sore.
I am always enthusiastic to charge to the top of a tower for the great views, and then I quickly regret my decision. The tight spaces and heights frequently set off my claustrophobia and vertigo. After making it to the top of the Nagytemplom in Debrecen, Giotto’s bell tower in Florence, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I still haven’t learned my lesson. This tower was particularly narrow. Jesse beat me both to the top and to the bottom, but my other friends and I clung to the walls for dear life as we navigated the steep spiral.
For dinner, we waited for a table at a traditional restaurant. We all stuffed ourselves.
I ordered tatanka, a Polish drink made with Żubrówka, or buffalo grass vodka. This special vodka is only made in Poland and is banned by the FDA in the U.S. because it contains trace amounts of a toxic compound called coumarin. Considering some of the disturbing things the FDA allows Americans to eat, I don’t put much faith in their regulations. I enjoyed the vodka, which was mixed with apple juice, knowing that I might not have an opportunity to try it again!
We enjoyed one day in Košice, but we wanted to see more of the country the following day. With the help of a super friendly woman at our hotel, we decided to rent a car. Next post: five Americans piling in perhaps the only automatic vehicle for rent in Košice in pursuit of a castle.