I am not sure how many times I crossed the various borders in and out of Slovakia but most of the time it seemed to have been in the winter. What I do remember is the border guards attempting to destroy my old school British Passport twisting it hin and yonder in an attempt to make my real gypsy one fall out from its place of concealment. They never did because like many gypsy things, it was of course enchanted.
Central Europe inhabits a kind of fairy story hinterland in my head. A place of great forests, stony peaks, castles in lakes and bears and wolves. The seasons are abrupt and strict, summer’s summer, autumn is always colourful and one windy night will turn it into winter. Spring though, that one is quick shouty and very very short. It seemed they were decided on the flick of a wand, probably by someone in one of those castles on the lake.
The band of mountains at the base of Poland and the top of Slovakia are not for observatories and science but questing princes and sagacious birds. Many a time I staired out of coach or train windows and saw the landscapes of Grimms fairytales which were a far cry from the soft and unexceptional Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire landscapes I know best of all.