As I mentioned before, my friend Ivan took me on many bike rides around his home of Borovce, Slovakia. The most grueling ride was in May 2002 with him and his brother Bohus (bo-hoosh) from Borovce to Kosarice and its surroundings.
This was a bike ride from hell that would have reduced Lance Armstrong to tears of pain because it almost killed me, and I was shooting daggers at Ivan for most of the uphill climb and trying to figure out a way to lose his body in the woods without leaving any evidence.
Kosariska (ko-shar-eeska) is a little town outside of Piestany, Slovakia whose claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of one of the country's military and diplomatic heroes, Miroslav R. Stefanik (1880-1919). Stefanik was born in Kosariska to the town's Lutheran minister and his wife in 1880. Stefanik became a war hero fighting for the Austrian Hungarian Empire as a general during World War I. After the war, Stefanik's diplomatic prowess did a lot to create an independent Czechoslovak state in 1918. Stefanik also was a talented astronomer and mathmetician when he wasn't off promoting Czechoslovakia to the world. Unfortunately, Stefanik's life was cut short at the age of 39 when the plane he was flying in the Bratislava suburb of Ivanka crashed on May 4, 1919, killing him and a couple of other Czechoslovak politicians on board.
After Stefanik's death, his body was buried in a huge hilltop mausoleum outside of Brezova nad Bradlom, another village near Kosariska. You can see Stefanik's mausoleum from the road from Kosariska to Brezova, but patriotic Slovakians will take a car ride or bike ride up the hill just to get close to Stefanik. He was the Kennedy of his nation complete with huge gravesite!
Now, this is where our bike ride got hairy. Ivan, Bohus, and I rode our bikes up the hill to the mausoleum, but I wound up walking my bike up most of the hill because I would have collapsed at the side of the road if I rode up the hill. It took us about a half an hour to get to the mausoleum, and once there, you are dwarfed by this huge stone monstrosity scattered with wreaths. People have their pictures taken in front of Stefanik's final resting place and catch their breath, and of course, I had to pose for a picture, too.
Stefanik's birthplace of Kosariska is now a national monument in Slovakia, and there is a plaque and statue of him on the front entrance of his birthplace. His father's church is behind his house.
Now, you think the ride ended nicely after seeing Stefanik's mausoleum, you are wrong. Bohus decided to take the shortcut back to Borovce, and it was a wild downhill ride down a rocky dirt road. I think that was one of the only times I prayed for a safe journey.
Luckily this trip was fueled by three beer stops along the way. Usually I don't drink and drive or ride bikes, but if you saw this route, you would need a cold one, too!