Still blogging…

For those of you who think I’ve just disappeared after ceasing to maintain the carpathianadventure site, you can follow the adventure I call life at http://edwardotoole.com/blog/

I miss many of you and your comments so come over and pay me a visit!

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I’m in love… Land Rover Defender 110 Jameson’s Edition

I’m in love… Land Rover Defender 110 Jameson’s Edition

Imagine my surprise. Today, sitting outside my office window in the arse-end of Slovakia was paradise incarnate. I honestly thought it was an early Christmas present. A black Land Rover Defender 110 expedition (with snorkel, of course), emblazoned with God’s own drink, Jameson’s Irish Malt.

Just imagine – a Defender with a boot load of the amber malt….. what more could any man dream of? (Well, aside from it also having a sexy, feisty colleen in the passenger seat).

I nearly cried when I realised that they were just repping to a restaurant over the road.

Red Deer Stag Kills Man

Red Deer Stag Kills Man

A 78 year old man from Prievidza (a town in the west of Slovakia) has died in hospital a week after being attacked by a stag. Apparently, it was a spontaneous attack as the man tended his orchard – the stag charged and skewered him with its antlers. More can be read here – noviny.sk – Stag Kills Man

Deaths from stag attacks are relatively rare, usually only one every so many years. Most often they’re during rutting season when people approach stags because they’re just standing still and not running away (which is because their brains are addled by rampant hormones). My kids and I were charged by one in the forest several years back and we had to hide behind a tree while it went berserk. 99.99% of the time the stag just flees though.

Note – the picture isn’t mine, it’s from the newspaper.

Pension Poľská krčma,Horný Smokovec, Tatra Mountains, review

Pension Poľská krčma,Horný Smokovec, Tatra Mountains, review

Over the weekend we stayed at my friend’s Pension (sort of like an inn) in the Tatra Mountains. It’s called, bizarrely, Poľská krčma, which means the Polish Bar. She and her partner have only had it for a few months (since December) and have done quite a bit of reconstruction on it. It’s in an ideal location, with the main road running between the two major ski resorts of Tatranska Lomnica and Stary Smokovec just outside, and a mountain right behind it (you can see the view from the toilet window in the photo).

Upstairs, they offer a few simple rooms at very affordable prices compared to the mega hotels, and the bar is open and light and friendly. Food-wise, they offer the basics such as a bowl of goulash or my friend’s specialty, zapekanka (a sliced baguette grilled with mushrooms and cheese). Alcohol-wise they stock, I think, the complete range of the local specialty Tatra Tea (a very strong herbal alcohol similar to Jagermeister) in various OBVs, along with Zlaty Bazant beer and international drinks.

I wish them both the best of luck and hope anyone reading my blog, when visiting the Tatra Mountains, will pop in for a visit. My friend is also the godmother to my younger boy so just tell her Edward sent you…

 

They can be found at

Poľská krčma

Horný Smokovec 17, 06201

Vysoké Tatry

New year, new wheels

New year, new wheels

It’s been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened.

Thanks to the new wood stove we could stay at the house over Christmas and New Year at a livable although not comfortable temperature. New Year’s Eve was minus 15 Celsius and that was hard going. The stove now allows us to be be able to live, should the need arise, without mains connection.

My brother and his girlfriend have left Slovakia after spending almost 8 months here. They gave it a good try, first at his hill fort and then later in a rented apartment, but it’s a harsh environment to get set up in financially and bureaucratically. I wish them the best back in the UK.

Finally, the snow has come after only a couple of fleeting earlier visits. We spent several months in dense fog, mud and rain with no sunlight and that was utterly miserable – and completely different to the true winters we’re used to. We’re currently expecting minus 20 and below.

As usual, my family celebrated Slovak Christmas on the 24th, English Christmas on the 25th and then Ruthenian Christmas on the 6th of January (their New Year’s Eve was this Wednesday).

Finally, I have a Land Rover – a Discovery Mk2 TD5. I’ve wanted a Land Rover since I was a toddler, albeit a LWB Defender, but Discovery was always my second choice. Because of what I actually need it for, the Discovery seemed a much better idea. It’s taking a bit of getting used to – when I’m driving I’m half shaking with nerves and half grinning from ear to ear – as I’ve been driving a low powered saloon for the last 6 years. I still can’t believe I’ve finally got one, and it’s mahoosive.

Just getting the car was an adventure in itself (buying a  car or house out here can be problematic to say the least) and saw me taking a long pre-dawn bus ride through small bush towns and through snow draped countryside, dealing with scary dodgy blokes in big cities, going from police station to police station… but I finally got it. Just need to change the clutch now.

Today, after returning on isolated bush roads from Bardejov, where the boys and I went to buy a new stereo for it, I got to see just what the Discovery is capable of. I hit a  bad patch of ice coming out of a sharp bend and the car slid this way and that with me fighting to rectify it and slow it down. I really thought it was going to flip and then go crashing down a hillside into trees but i managed to swing/slide it across the road into a steep, snow filled ditch on the other side. We came to a stop, in shock, nose facing downwards and with the right rear wheel up in the air. Having come off icy and snowy roads into ditches in several different cars over the years out here, i suddenly realized that the Discovery is way too big to be pulled out by the average passing car and would need a tractor from a nearby village some several kilometres walk away. And then I thought why not see what it can do? I told the boys to stay in the car to weigh their side down and then I put it into low and reversed. It did so, without any effort whatsoever.

I was stunned.

The Discovery reversed on 2, maximum 3, wheels, out of a deep, steep, snow filled drainage ditch. I put it back into high and, with heart still pounding, we drove carefully home on the icy and snow-covered remote roads through the hills. I’ve had way too many adventures with it over the last two days to fill me for a while. For now, I’m content to just watch it from the window.

I’m hoping that this year is a good one and will bring some positive, forward, momentum. And money 🙂

New green ceramic wood stove

New green ceramic wood stove

This week I realized an aim I’ve had for several years – to have a wood stove which cooks and heats. When we first bought the house it had one of the old, traditional brick and ceramic sit-on stoves, a giant contraption. Unfortunately, I tore it down and replaced it with a modern fireplace which heats part of the house via tubes.

We also have a ceramic and brick heating stove in another part of the house and a propane cooker in the kitchen. What i really wanted was something that both heated and cooked and kept its heat. This new stove is extremely, back-breakingly heavy as it’s made of cast iron, ceramic tiles and the interior is clay. We also had to have a new chimney made to use it due to new regulations. Hopefully, it doe sthe job as room temperature in my house at the moment is a balmy 6 degrees Centigrade and winter hasn’t even really started.

Alex, Robert Fico and Dukla

Alex, Robert Fico and Dukla

Today is the 71st anniversary of the KDO (Carpathian Dukla Operations) one of the worst battles of WW2 and also known as the Battle of Dukla (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Dukla_Pass). My town of Svidnik was rebuilt by the Russians after the war to commemorate it. The sheer number of casualties, both dead and wounded, is staggering. This is also a battle within living memory (the bus loads of old people in town today attest to that). Svidnik was utterly destroyed in WW1 during fighting between the Germans and the Russians, and then again in WW2.

As part of a school trip from the Gymnasium, my younger boy Alex went to the Dukla memorial, on the border of Poland and Slovakia, some 15 miles out of town. As this is such a major event for Slovakia, both the Prime Minister and President attended, along with survivors of the battle and the modern military from both Slovakia and Poland. The photo is of Alex at Dukla with the Prime Minister Robert Fico, who’s currently doing a damned good job sticking up for Slovakia’s rights in Europe. Alex doesn’t have a problem with confidence – he just walked right up and asked the PM for a photo.

Alex said he also spoke with an army nurse who’d attended the wounded during the battle. She’d saved 122 lives and was apparently covered in medals. After visiting the Dukla memorial, all parties then headed to the giant Soviet monument in the town.