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They made me go with them on this hike to the abandoned castle.

No, they didn’t make me – I chose to go. I chose to go because it would be me, Sylvain and his friend Tony (both French expats), and Ints. Just us four. No one else was around so they thought it would be nice to treat their new American friend to a worthwhile experience – exploring Lietava castle. I thought it could be somewhat romantic, a daring adventure that would draw Ints and I together in some adrenaline-pumping way.

There is only one problem, however; I am desperately hung over.

It is a combination of terrible things – it’s freezing outside, I’m dehydrated, the men are more physically fit than I. They race to the top of an outcrop as I lag behind, struggling not to vomit. In true French fashion, they have the audacity to smoke cigarettes during their short break, watching me trudge through the snow.

“That’s it,” I say once I reach them. “I can’t go on anymore. You guys go ahead to the top. I’m totally done.”

They look around, confused. “But…we’ve already been there,” Sylvain replies.

I sit in the snow, defeated. The view from this ledge is something to behold, and I appreciate this little pocket of Slovakian beauty to this day. It would be cool to get to the top and explore the ruins – I’ve never been that close to an abandoned castle before, much less a Slovak one – but today it’s really, really hard.

“I seriously can’t walk anymore. I’m going to throw up.”

Ints shrugs. “No big deal. We tried. Let’s go to a pub and get fucked up.”

The men take one last drag and we head down the hill.