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The View from Kafka’s Head

The Tatranska Lomnica cable car and tram islonger and higher than the tram in Zakopane. As we looked up the mountain we could see the tram had two sections, a cable carleading a good distance up the mountain and a tramwhich went to the very top. The tram was located within a drive-around park, consisting of several hotels including the massive Grand Hotel Praha . We bought tickets for the tram and discovered that only the first leg was available. The smaller tram to the top of the mountain only took ten passengers at a time and had sold out around 11 am. The cable car & dropped us off at a small Alpine lake featuring panoramic views of the Slovakian valleys below.

Kathi at Land's end, Slovakia by KPBS, on Flickr

We noticed that even though the tram was sold out, there was a chair lift which would take up almost to the top of the mountain.

So we rode up to a windy rocky plateau. A short walk took us to an overlook of the other side of the mountains where I almost fell off.

Falling Byron by KPBS, on Flickr

Just kidding.

Kathi loved it up here.

Kathi Diamant at top of Lomnica peak in the High Tatras by KPBS, on Flickr

We completed our hike and took the chair lift and then the cable carback down the mountain which took a good half hour. At the bottom, Kathi wanted a beer so we spent the last of the Slovakian crowns on a beer for Kathi and an ice cream for me (65 SK, about $4). I sat at a table while Kathi stood examining a large map of the area . & She called my attention to a spot on the map designated by the figure of a hiker with the designation Tatranske Matliare. The reference on the map seemed to refer to a three-hour hiking trail near our present location. & Walking back the car, Kathi called out, "108," pointing to a light pole with the number 108 on it. (Actually 1084 but we could only see the 108 part.) 108 is Kathi's lucky number and appears at significant moments in her life. (Twilight Zone music here.) We drove around the park trying to find this trail without success. We decided to head back to Poland. & We hadn't driven very far until we saw a small road sign saying. "Vysoke Tatry, Tatre. Matliare." & I stopped the car to take a picture of Kathi by this sign as it was obviously as close as we were going to get to finding Kafka's sanitorium.

Matliare sign by KPBS, on Flickr

While taking the photo I looked across the street to a little offshoot road. There was a small sign partially obscured by bushes. I couldn't make out the whole thing but the first word was Franz and the second word started with a K. (Twilight Zone Music here.) We drove onto the road to investigate.

Franza Kafku--a sign we were close by KPBS, on Flickr

This sign said "Pamatnik Franza Kafku." We drove along the road for a hundred yards or so and then, off the right side of the roadwe found it: a small cairn of rocks bearing a bronze memorialof Kafka's head withan inscription noting that this was the site of the sanitorium where Kafka stayed from 1920-1921. Up the road, beyond the memorial, a sanatorium of sorts still exists there now.

Kathi Diamant at Kafka Matlaire memorial by KPBS, on Flickr

The mountain where we had spent our afternoon would have been the view that Kafka would have seen from his sanatorium window. On the left you can see the tram station where we had been an hour before with no idea what we would later discover. Now, that's weird.

View From Kafka's Head by KPBS, on Flickr

The view of Lomnica peak from the site of Kafka's sanatorium in Matliare, Slovakia.

Text and photos respectfully submitted by Byron LaDue, a founding & member of & the Magical Mystery Literary History Tour.

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