In a little country even the high mountains are little. The High Tatra mountains in the north of Slovakia are sometimes described as pocket Himalayas. No matter how small they look on the map, you can still reach places where you don’t have to worry about being greeted by a throng of enthusiastic tourists. Thus our hero set off, alone, to tour one of the highest summits of the Tatras. He was a local. The locals hate masses of tourists – they’re like a bulldozer, laying waste to the countryside, and they fail to respect even the most elementary principles of living with the mountains. That’s why he chose a way less traveled for his solitary communing with Mother Nature.

But as so often happens in these mountains, the weather swung around violently – and our mountaineer found that solitude isn’t entirely pleasant. Gale force winds came up when he was exposed on the peak. He battled with the rain, wind and cold. When it became apparent that he was lost, he was fighting for his life. Against the air, which froze the skin as it touched it, he fought for every step – not to go somewhere, but only to move and not freeze solid where he stood. He moved very slowly. Then night came. It brought hope. At last he could see lights. Thanks to the darkness, he saw a light coming from a mountain hostel. For long he moved one step at a time, and finally the lights revealed the door of a cozy and warm hostel.

Awaiting him was the tumult of a group of German tourists. They had been transported there by cable car earlier in the day and immediately hit the bar, where they discovered that the storm had made the trip back down the mountain impossible.

They received the news with enthusiasm, ordered a new round of notorious “borovička” – the Slovak version of gin – and the evening held out infinite promises for alcoholic adventure.

The mountaineer couldn’t take in these sensations. With the help of the staff, he was led to a corner where he drank hot tea and then dragged himself to a common sleeping area and, still dressed, fell on the nearest bed. Immediately, he fell asleep, exhausted.

He didn’t dream for a long time until, from the edge of unconsciousness, he was awakened and saw in the dark an unidentifiable object inexorably collapsing on him. It looked like the moon, better to say like two halves of a moon joined in mirror-like pattern, so horribly close, that our hero was frozen by the feeling that a whole skies are falling on him. Before he could yell out in horror, this object fell on the slim, but athletic body of our little mountaineer. At this moment he lost the ability to breathe under this well-fed mass. Our hero tried to surface, but failed. Every time he tried to catch a breath, he was pressed back on the bed. The object was so gigantic that only our hero’s arms and legs stuck out from under the mass of flesh – like a mouse squashed under the big boot of a mountain man.

Príbeh horolezca, ilustr. Vanek

Príbeh horolezca, ilustr. Vanek

Finally he understood what was happening. On his poor, naturally slim, almost petite body moved two heaps of fat and Jello-like aspic bodies – two humping, passionate, juggernauts of desire fueled by alcohol. It was like an avalanche, but that falls only once. Those two fat bodies were not only suffocating him but also, under the terrible pressure, pushing out what little breath he had in his lungs. The pair of Teutonic revelers connected like a two-ton hammer of love rhythmically and interminably knocked and knocked the breath from our unhappy hero. However hard he tried to yell, every time he opened his mouth, a blow of the love hammer stifled the words.

Then, in this cruel moment of destiny, our hero, with horror realized that an icy death, alone in the mountains, from weariness, buried under an avalanche, might not be so bad. In the era of a global tourism, it was a new, more horrific way to die. More horrific because it was not heroic, in fact it was unromantic, painfully banal. What can be worse than to die, not in solitude of a sheet of ice, but in the warmth of a mountain hostel under a couple of fat and drunk German tourists who, by mistake, decided to pay homage to the greatest pleasure of life on his exhausted body…

 

From a book (see in E-book form here) by Gustáv Murín: Svet je malý/The World is Small – collection of travel stories in bilingual Slovak–English edition, SPN Publ., 2012.