August 12, 2008

Depressing Ukrainian Enclaves and Dry Skiing Villages
Chmeľová, Slovakia

Becherov, Regetovka, and Chmeľová, all but a stone's throw from Poland.

I've been taking some time recently to explore some of the villages and surrounding countryside around Chmeľová. It'd be great to have a bicycle in this part of the world, but I've been making do quite fine with my feet. The extra 20 pounds of baby strapped to me are certainly a motivator to shed excess pounds of my own.


The day before yesterday, the three of us had a picnic behind a particularly communistic-looking World War II memorial. This area was very much a Ukrainian enclave, and most of the signage (be it church literature, roadside information marker, or monument) was written in Cyrillic.

The vibe of the small village (population 284 people) was the complete opposite of that found in Chmeľová. Homes were dreary and dilapidated, or looking as if they were built out of heartless Soviet concrete. The yards were unkempt, and the dogs inside their fences hostile. About the only saving grace of the visit was the occasional home that sported some very old, odd-looking exterior designs—beautiful in their decay.


Two kilometers or so from Chmeľová is the small ski village of Regetovka (population: 21 people!). What I'm sure is a popular destination in the winter, is nothing short of a ghost town during the summer. I have little doubt that my current accommodations in Chmeľová were built to hold skiers during the snowy season.

The highlight of this walking trip, taken only with Aidric, was the discovery of a few local Slovakians catching and cleaning fish in small pond behind the only notable hotel in town. The shallow pond was so overstocked with trout that the "fisherman" was simply dangling his barely-baited hook into the water and snaring the fish that pounced onto it.

For the life of me, I can't figure out what this pond is doing behind this hotel. Surely it freezes solid during the winter, but it's too small for ice-skating. The trout have obviously been stocked or born in the pond, but their numbers are so ridiculous that it'd be silly not to remove a dozen or two every so often.

I'd say that the pond was for little kids to fish in during the summer, or for the staff to cook meals with, but the hotel looks to be closed during the off-season. Very peculiar.

It turned out that the fellow cleaning the fish lived in Germany for a time, and spoke much better German than I (which is now quite pathetic after a decade and a half of forgetting high school musings). He told me there were currently well over 200 fish in the pond, which sometimes reached upwards of 800.

I would've asked him for some trout (which I'm sure they'd have been happy to give to me), but Tatiana is mildly allergic to the meat of this fish, and didn't (turning out to be something that she couldn't believe, telling me that she would've taken her chances). Oh well…

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