We parked our campervan on a small patch of grass by the side of a country lane. Straight away, a couple in their 60s emerged from their cottage and came towards us.
I stepped out onto the grass, anticipating trouble. Probably this was their land and they didn’t want random tourists squatting on it.
Lucy also came out and slid open the side door. The couple were coming closer, frowning and on the verge of saying something.
Martha, aged two and a half, blonde and smiling, stepped out of the van.
“Aaaah!” said Anton and Justina, in unison. “Aké krásne diet’a!” (“What a beautiful child”).
We were instantly forgiven for trespassing and welcomed into Anton and Justina’s home for cakes and gooseberry wine (‘egrešové víno’). The next day, they invited us to lunch, serving ham from their own pigs. The next day, to lunch and dinner. After that, they introduced us to their children and grandchildren. And finally, before we left, Justina made a suit of clothes for Martha, which she's wearing in the picture above.
They lived in a region known as Slovenský Raj – the Slovak Paradise – and it really was. We walked through pretty forests, along paths next to tumbling streams and through fields of flowers. We swam in pools fed by waterfalls.
Anton and I spoke to one another in German, which was a stretch for me, but somehow worked. They lived a simple, happy life tending to their few animals, drawing water from their well and growing their own fruit and vegetables.
We were sad to leave. I think I saw Justina wipe away a tear as we drove away.