Friday, April 09, 2010

Flashback Friday: Locked in

Today I bring you two stories of being locked in.

1. The first took place in Spišské, Slovakia. My parents had come to visit us in Moscow, and from there we went on a trip together to the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, and Slovakia (and almost Poland). One of the first sites we visited in Slovakia was Spiš Castle, a gorgeous, crumbling, 12th-century ruin set on a hilltop overlooking a picturesque modern-day village. It was early afternoon when we arrived there and we were all set for a pleasant few hours at the castle before continuing to travel deeper east into Slovakia.

The ticket booth lady at the entrance to the castle was in full-blown Soviet, "service with a snarl" mode. She reluctantly sold us tickets to enter the castle and mentioned something under her breath about the gates closing, eventually. None of us really paid any attention to what she said. Surely such information as the gates closing would be mentioned more prominently by her, or printed helpfully on our tickets, no?

We really enjoyed our visit, despite the fact that the castle's ancient courtyard had been turned into some kind of techno fair, overrun with kitschy souvenir booths and overwhelmed by the tinny pop music piped in on speakers. When it came time to leave, we painstakingly made our way back down the crumbling edifice and down the hill to the exit. What do you know - the gates were locked, with no surly ticket lady in sight.

We weren't the only tourists who were standing there, bewildered and stranded, at the gate. Fortunately, one of us figured out that there was another exit up and over on the far side of the castle hill. We'd have to retrace our steps to the top of the castle, come down on the other side, and then circle around the entire site again to walk down the hill to the car park, but it was the only way out.

So that's what we did. I wonder if Soviet ticket lady watched from afar and cackled at our dumb tourist mistake. If so, the joke was on her because it was a fantastic walk through deserted, romantic Slovakian countryside at dusk. In fact, it ended up being the best part of the castle exploration, so there.

2. The next story of being locked in took place in Damascus, Syria. Toward the end of my pregnancy with Miriam, Jeremy and I took to enjoying long walks around the neighborhood every evening. There were always lots of families and children out doing the same thing, enjoying the cooler air, which created a neat atmosphere in which to be out and about. (Also, our walks may or may not have often found their way to a certain patisserie in East Mezze, but that point is irrelevant to both this story and my weight gain with that pregnancy.)

One evening, walking back toward our apartment, we decided to cut through Jelaat Park (one gate pictured in background, above). This was a fenced-in park with grassy areas and an asphalt track around a small stadium. It didn't shorten our walk home so much as vary the scenery. We walked in through the open gate on one side of the park. By the time we got to the other side of the park, the gates were closed. It had gotten dark sooner than we expected and now we were stuck inside the park, locked in.

It really wouldn't have been a big deal to climb the fence to let ourselves out of the park - which is what we ended up doing - except that I was hugely pregnant at the time. I don't even remember the mechanics of how, exactly, we got me up and over. I think I climbed on a planter and then a wall to get enough height to climb over the fence. Jeremy went first to ease the way. I'm sure it was a ridiculous sight. I only wish some one had been there to see it and take pictures of it.

On second thought, maybe I don't wish that.


Liz Johnson said...

HAHAHAHAHA. I especially like the second one. Kudos to you for not just giving up and sleeping in the park.

Craig said...

In 1990 Suzanne and I were sightseeing in Skibbereen, Ireland, (epicenter of the tragic potato famine of ~1850) and walked into a Catholic Church in the evening, and went up into the "loft". We went to leave and found the door locked. I had visions of spending the night in the loft, but we finally got the attention of someone, who let us out. Great memory!

I think that was the same city where we couldn't figure out the hot water situation and took a freezing cold shower the next morning. More great memories!

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I remember that long walk all the way back up to the top of the castle, then around the outside back down the hill. But I don't remember the 'service' lady warning us (how could I--she spoke in Russian).

Merkley Jiating said...

I am impressed that you were able to climb over a fence. I could do nothing of the sort while "hugely pregnant."


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