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Today, Juraj and I left after breakfast for my first Slovak castle, Hrad Strenčo.  Many castles litter the region, but a lot are in ruins.  This one, built just before 1400, was also mostly destroyed but it has since been rehabilitated.  Juraj and I made the long walk up the hill to take a tour with another guy.

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Inside the castle were rooms with glass cases full of artifacts, like mammoth bones, pots, and armor.  There were even models of the current castle and of the castle before it was destroyed intentionally.  It was built high above the rocks to keep the Turks out, but I joked with Juraj that they forgot about the Turkish helicopters and thus the castle was destroyed.

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We could see a view of the river and the town far below, as well as a long line of traffic like what Juraj and I got stuck in yesterday.  The tour guide told us she heard it was a wreck.  The other guy in the tour said that was the reason for him being on the tour, that he chose not to wait in traffic and pulled over here instead.  After the tour and many pictures, Juraj and I decided to skip the food at the restaurant because it was all fried.  Instead, we went to the mall and square downtown.

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The square was large and open with ringing church bells and a fountain.  I saw a guy playing the accordian.  We had some lunch at an outdoor restaurant and then walked downhill to get icecream.  Juraj showed me where he used to work, we passed several people he knew, then we headed to go pick up his wife from work and his son from school to prepare for our departure for Skalica.

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I had told Juraj I wanted to go to Skalica, the hometown of my great-grandmother.  I did not realize we would have a caravan of two cars, the four of us plus Juraj´s wife´s sister, mother, and brother-in-law.  It turns out they have family in Skalica.  We took the two hour drive together and were shocked at first when we crossed into the Czech Republic while following the GPS.  Apparently it is faster that way.  I was anxious to start seeing the town and search for clues when we arrived, but we had formalities and duties to fulfill, namely relative visiting.  We first went to the great-grandmother of Juraj´s son.  Her house looked much like that my great-great-grandparents must have lived in.  There was a large door which pushed open to reveal a closed, narrow courtyard with chickens in the back and a coop.  The house ran the other half of the length and was a narrow series of rooms and ancient appliances.  We sat inside and drank wine and ate classic foods, such as the local cake, trdelník, baked on a wooden stick.

We visited two more apartments, cramming into tiny rooms and crowded elevators that looked far from safe.  Then we walked out into the night and went to two local bars.  I had some soup and beer and was ready for bed.  Patrik passed out at the second bar, so we went finally left.  We had three hotel rooms at Hotel Tatran, much to my surprise, so we went back there and went to bed.