We left Poland this morning enroute to Slovakia. Along the hilly roads we saw women in babushkas, a dog that would not budge from the middle of the road, stork’s nests and a dog corralling cows into a pasture. The earth had become less fertile. It was now yellowish and claylike. Fields were used more for grazing than vegetable production. The surroundings were very rural and houses spread out.
We dropped down into Slovakia through a low mountain pass and first visited the medieval town of Bardejov, a UNESCO Heritage Site. We knew only one Slovak word, ďakujem – “thank you”. At one cafe, where we warmed with coffee and richly flavored hot chocolate, we were given servings of fresh cinnamon torte, “gratis” by our pretty Slovak waitress. Wonderful memories.
The drive cross country from Bardejov to reach the Ondava River valley was a wild ride… and we loved it! We had suddenly left 2012 and were experiencing a rustic travel route, seeing old and primitive villages along the way. How did people ever manage to live here, especially in snowy seasons? Our day was full, visiting numerous small villages and cemeteries, interacting with locals who had big smiles. No matter that we could not speak the language. Tavern keepers and patrons at one tavern used gestures to explain their local hunting pastime. The men in our party understood perfectly well and replied easily in kind. We came, we saw and we photographed the important villages that our ancestors left in 1870. We saw lumber trucks on this portion of the drive.
We traveled north from Slovakia through a pass in the Carpathian Mountains into Poland at dusk. Only small villages existed along our route in the foothills of the Beskidy Mountains. When we approached a village after dark, we could see lights, otherwise the earth and sky were black. Only our headlights illuminated the path ahead. Those of us still awake in the vehicle saw village lights ahead on a hillside. As we got nearer, we realized that it was not a village at all. It was an illuminated cemetery; a glowing village of the dead! Multi-colored lanterns and covered votive candles lit hundreds of graves. It was serene and beautiful against the dark October sky. All Souls Day was approaching.
We arrived in time for a late supper at Janczar Ranch in Pstragowa, Poland. The fire and celebration music in the large dining area warmed us. We had pre-ordered dinners that included venison, and it was outstanding. None of us were brave enough to try the wild boar that was another option! Soon the family was bedded down in rooms in the two storey ranch house. We slept well and warm.