The One about Cormorant

I am planning another cycling trip across Wales. It commences in a week. Because my Seagull bike stayed in the Netherlands, and there was no point for me to bring it back to Wales since I am moving to Tilburg soon, I had to get a new bicycle. I went to Pedal Power Charity based in Pontcanna Fields. I donated my old bicycle Foxie to them last year and so I saw it as a great opportunity to buy the new bicycle from them again.

Finally, I will cycle from Cardiff to Snowdonia. I was planning on doing a trip for the last three years but the circumstances interrupted it. In the first year, I had to withdraw from the university because of the financial problems and had to work to pay back my debt so I was allowed to come back to study. In the second year, I took a chance and went to study to Rotterdam as an exchange student and again I missed the gap during the spring term holidays.

This time, I will cycle as a part of the project I am preparing for my degree show taking my photography equipment on a journey. I cycle quite often, including commute trips and long-distance tours. For me, cycling is the most honest way of transport. It directly copies the terrain and reflects in our life experience. If I cycle uphill, I must push hard and make an effort to be on the top, while going down it is very easy and fast. Just like in life. Every our decision, positive action and effort we do make an imprint. Sometimes it shows more, sometimes it develops blurry just like the imprint of the light on the photographic paper.

I am commuting to the university on the Taff trail along the river Taff. The most beautiful path to commute! River Taff is crossing the park and the green fields never stop. It is always worth to take the longer route along the river where heron birds are waiting still in the water for their prey. I often have thought of heron birds to be my good luck. When I got into the troubles with student finance I have never seen heron birds in Taff river. Instead, I have seen blackbirds with the long necks – Cormorants. I convinced myself to believe that they are my bad luck from now.

We often pay a big attention to symbols and we believe in them if we want to. We can fear them too. That blackbird was worrying me that I failed my chance to study what I love. However, only if we believe them too far they become the truth. I named my new bicycle Cormorant as the bird I used to be afraid of. Now I conquered that fear.

The One about Cycling in Slovakia and Being Surprised

Eva has never been to a wine cellar. That almost sounded like an insult to Honza who comes from a wine region of Moravia in the Czech Republic. Coming from Zakarpattia Ukraine to Slovakia we were following river Latorica. Then we got to Tokaj region with the easy cycling paths and plenty of wine fields. We tried our luck and when we saw an owner of the cellar walking in with two tourists we asked if we can join them. He smiled and said: “Of course, bring the glasses.” We truly did not cycle with the wine glasses but because we wanted to recycle our glass jars we carried some pickles and horseradish jar and marmalade jar.

We walked to the cellar and tried the best wines of the regions. Luckily, the owner strictly does not use any sulphurs in his wines and so we tasted the real stuff. In the cellar, it is nice and cold. You can drink a lot and still do not feel tipsy but once we got back up to see the sunset, the head started to turn.

I got a message from Joseph, my boyfriend, saying I must be in Kosice, the next town where we were going, for a lunchtime. He gave me an address I must look for and did not say much more. We made our bed on the top of the cellars and went to sleep so we can wake up with the sunrise. In the morning I still felt tipsy but there was no time for being grumpy, there was a surprise waiting for me in Kosice! =)

We cycled the forest paths towards the Izra lake. The terrain was so bad that we managed to get there by almost 11 am. We had a little rest and met the group of fathers and kids who were celebrating the birthdays and days without wives. They invited us to to the table, we must have cheered with one who celebrated his birthday and we ate almost all the food they prepared for their kids. But definitely, it saved us. We continued up the hill towards Slanec and then down to Kosice. The city where my grandfather comes from.

We were coming late and I did not know if my surprise will be waiting there for me. When we arrived at the address which Joseph gave me, it was just a block of flats. I did not know what number I should ring and so I stood there and shouted Hello around to raise the attention. With no response, we thought we must be in the wrong place. We were asking around if they know the address and somebody sent us to another street saying it looks like it could be the vegan cafe which was just open nearby. I thought it must be it. Floriánska 1408/28, 040 01 Košice, Slovakia, Vegan Bistro VE.DOM.E

I came inside the cafe and asked if there is something for me. They brought me a letter which Joseph sent there some time ago. When we sat down they started to bring the food. He paid for our lunch. Moreover, it was a peanut curry which I was dreaming of these days so much. We were still quite tipsy and we ate lots of food at Izra lake, nonetheless, we finished our lunch and had a coffee and dessert and I was the happiest girl on Earth.

We had a great rest in Kosice. We went to a cinema and a concert and decided to stay one more night. We stayed with a Couchsurfing host who recommended us some weird stuff to see like the tall tower from the era when Kosice was the industrial city. The coal used to be transported in the air between the towers and the fence underneath the wagons of coal were protecting the streets from the fall of the coal. Nowadays, only the courageous ones are climbing to the top.

From Kosice we continued along Hornad river and water dam Ruzin towards Muran and Slovak Paradise National Park. We visited Dobsinska Ice Cave. Unfortunately, all days before the visit was very hot weather and we thought that the visit will be just a great opportunity to cool down. Just the day of our visit the weather changed and it was very cold.

Slovakia was the best country for me to cycle. Maybe it was also influenced by the fact that my mum comes from Slovakia but I have not really travelled the country and felt like I know nothing about it. I enjoyed the nature and cycling paths which were easy to cycle and well labelled. Slovakia is the country of mountains and forests, hills and meadow flowers. I loved it.

The One about Cycling MANless

Maybe that policemen on Transnistrian border sparked the question. Should a girl be afraid of cycling without the company of a man?

With Eva, we were always cycling until the dark so we can find our spot to camp unnoticed. I would wake up very easily thinking of the action plan in case we need it. Perhaps I also felt overprotective for both of us. Anytime I would hear a woman’s voice somewhere from a distance I would imagine that if she saw us maybe we will wake up in the morning and there will be doughnuts baked for a breakfast, on contrary, when hearing the man’s voice talking nearby I was hoping he will not discover us sleeping in our hammocks. More and more I was thinking about why the girls can not have an easy sleep. Do not take me wrong, this will not stop me from travelling, but it will always involve better and sharp planning and overthinking just because as a girl I am more likely to be seen as an easy target.

When Eva’s friend Honza joined us in Mukachevo I realized how much I calmed down. Just the feeling that somebody sees us not as two girls cycling but as a group with a man cyclist, I thought we are safer. Although I was aware of how much nonsense it is because I knew that Eva would probably kick everybody’s ass better than Honza. And still, that feeling that the man will not interrupt the “territory” of another man is an animal instinct.

On our way to my auntie’s village in Slovakia, we met Jaro. The guy in his 40s cycling every day who comes from the neighbouring village of my auntie’s one. At first, he was a great company and a guide, showing us around and adding interesting stories about his region, later he became interrupting. Honza finished his trip with us and I and Eva were cycling alone again. When we were leaving the village of my aunt, we met Jaro again. That is a coincidence, he said, and joined us on our ride for another 10 km, pouring his heart to Eva. At first, we were laughing about it, we did not feel he would be harmful, rather a funny figure of the region, a bit of weirdo which is not bad at all since we might be seen as two weirdos too. It became quite serious when we said goodbye the second time and met him again in the Czech republic COINCIDENTALLY cycling the route we told him we will cycle. Maybe he was just a lonely guy. Nevertheless, it does not give him the right to stalk. I did not feel afraid of him as rather insulted that the personal space of a girl can be so easily interrupted.


The One about what was “Forgotten” in the Park

In Chisinau, we had a day off and so we decided to wander around and do an improvised exhibition in the park about what was left in the grass. We prepared some cyanotype papers in advance and collected the rubbish. It was a nice sunny day, ideal for the cyanotype prints. We made imprints and got for lunch at Andy’s pizza using their big sinks in the toilets to clean the solution off. The empty boards in the park which used to be newspaper showcases became the exhibition walls.