It was a cold morning when we set out for the railway station in Nyiregyhaza. The train was scheduled to leave at 7:30 but we arrived at the station well in time. An hour after leaving Nyiregyhaza the train pulled in at Miskolc where we had to change to another train for Kosice. However, we had to wait another two hours at the station for this train, so we spent some of the time to have breakfast at the station cafe. The train to Kosice left around 11 am and didn't stop until it reached the border of Slovakia. Two Slovak Immigration officials (I think they were actually the police) came on board to check our papers. My friend said it was just a routine check. I hold a French passport, and when I handed it to one of the officers he smiled and even said, "Bonjour." In reality, the citizens of EU nations don't even require passports to travel to other countries within the European Union. They just need to show their national ID cards at airports or land border crossings.

Kosice railway station is not far from the city center, and as we were traveling light with only one bag between the two of us, we decided to walk to our downtown hotel, the Penzion Platz which is a small but cosy place. We chose this hotel as it was within walking distance of St. Elisabeth Cathedral, one of the city's main tourist attractions. In fact, most historical monuments and sites are located in or around the Main Street.

After changing some money we strolled over to this famed city landmark. The 14th century St. Elizabeth cathedral was built in the high Gothic style of that period, and is the largest church in the country. We also saw the big bell which weighs 7 tons, in front of the St. Urban Tower. Kosice's main street is quite picturesque and it was a pleasure to amble along this wide street with its quaint old buildings and shops. There is a small park in the middle, and inside the park is the Immaculata or the Plague Pillar which is a 14 meter or 46 feet high column with sculptures of several saints and a sculpture of the Virgin Mary at the top. The National/State theater is also at the end of the street.

While we were walking along a man approached us and asked us in perfect English where we came from. He said he had lived in Canada for a number of years, and offered to show us around but my friend politely declined. I later found out that Slovakia used to be a part of Hungary for many years, and there is still some resentment, or even animosity between the Slovaks and Hungarians.

We had lunch at a restaurant somewhere in town. I don't remember exactly what we had, but my friend told me the food there was typical of that region. Slovakia, together with the Czech Republic was known as Czechoslovakia in the past until 1993, when it was split into two different countries, SLOVAKIA and CZECH REPUBLIC. It was a amicable separation and was called the "velvet divorce."

We arrived back at the hotel late in the evening and just had a snack in the hotel restaurant for dinner. I recall that our room heater which was centralized, was turned up so high that it was way too hot and uncomfortable inside. Anyway, I did enjoy our brief but short visit to Slovakia's second biggest city, and on my next trip to this country, whenever it's going to be, I am making a point to go see the capital city of Bratislava.

As mentioned in the summary, Slovakia was under Communist rule after World War II, and it was only in the early 1990s that it became a democratic republic, as did other East European countries. I mention this because in my travels around Europe, I found the people in these ex socialist states to be quite different in nature, from those of Western Europe. I will elaborate more on this in my next journal entry about another former communist country.