After a car-bus-taxi-train never showed-bus-train-taxi ride where pretty much everything that could go wrong did, I arrived in my lovely Bratislava hotel just before midnight on Friday. The journey would have been on my (mercifully short) list of worst travel days ever except that I met some wonderful Czechs on the train.
Our friendship was sealed the moment I pulled a corkscrew out of my bag as Grampa was trying in vain to open a bottle of wine with a knife. Here is a picture of happy, beautiful Ani and me:
How many Americans, except for Vic and Alex Trebek, know Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and that Slovakia became an independent nation shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union? Before that, Slovakia plus the Czech Republic were together Czechoslovakia. Like all of Eastern Europe, the land now called Slovakia has been a tromping ground for empire builders for a long time, leading to many border shifts, name changes, and regional wars.
My main impression of Bratislava is that it is friendly and livable and working to be a little more on the map but after two days as a tourist I don’t understand much. I spent most of my time walking around Bratislava’s Old Town. It is gorgeous, and full of cafes, bars and churches. Although the Soviets razed a lot of the City’s historic buildings and neglected many of the rest, Bratislava appears to have accomplished a lot of architectural restoration in the past 20 years.
Capital cities usually have museums that tell the story of the country’s history and place in world, and I wanted to understand Slovakia better. So I went to the three largest state-run museums and learned….not much of anything. I guess they are working on that. But I found some interesting things in other places:
Slovakia seems to be one of the little brothers. Other little brothers might be Belgium (to France), Portugal (to Spain), Uruguay (to Argentina) and Korea (to China). Little brothers are not as powerful or rich as their neighbors, but they seem to be calmer, nicer, and better at staying out of trouble. I don’t know whether the countries I call little brothers would like that designation but they are probably not paying attention to me, except for my friends from Canada.
The Slovak word for thank you: d’akujem (sort of pronounced “yek-weem”)
Important post script! Note from friend Gary Mankin: “The Festrunk brothers on SNL (Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin) were from Bratislava. They’re the ones who shouted, “we’re two wild and crazy guys!”