I’m a city girl. I traded in stars and quiet for bustle, late-night activity options, and public transportation.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss peaceful moments. That’s why I regularly found myself on the open-air top deck of the ship at night, when everyone else was down in the lounge or (more times than not) asleep in their cabins.
Few lights were visible on the riverbanks. If anything, the Danube River scene was black on black, accented only by the brisk breeze and the sound of metal slicing through water. But there were stars and there was time to reflect.
The night before we were scheduled to explore Bratislava, I was on deck when the captain took a spin around. He was exactly what you’d expect if you’d try to imagine a Slovakian captain: tall, broad shoulders, close-cropped jet black hair. He cut an intimidating figure, with his muscles. Even the lines in his face were strong.
But he’d already revealed himself to be a nice guy, kind to the passengers and not afraid to be self-deprecating when the occasion called for it.
He stopped over to say hello to me and lit a cigarette as we looked out over the water. So I decided to pose to him the question that I’d been pondering.
“This might sound random,” I said, “but I’m a big hockey fan, and my family is, too. I’ve been thinking that Bratislava would be a good place to pick up some fun hockey items to bring home to them. Do you have anywhere in particular that you’d recommend?’
He turned, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
“You like hockey?”
“Yes. Boston Bruins.”
A huge grin was my reward. “Bruins! Zdeno Chara! He’s from here!”
I grinned back. “Between Chara and the tournament here last year, Slovakia’s been a place I’ve been looking forward to seeing. Chara is fantastic. How can you not like him?”
Ten minutes later, I knew every place within a mile radius of our port where I would be able to find hockey gear. I knew that one of the chefs on the ship went to school with Chara. And I knew that the way we pronounce his name in Boston isn’t actually the way it’s pronounced in Slovakia.
And I got the first hint of a reality that was in place for the rest of the trip: The captain of my ship totally had my back. We were cool.