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Slow Vacationing in Slovakia: Sauntering Through Varying Degrees of Snow


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“There is one way to understand another culture. Living it. Move into it, ask to be tolerated as a guest, learn the language. At some point understanding may come. It will always be wordless. The moment you grasp what is foreign, you will lose the urge to explain it. To explain a phenomenon is to distance yourself from it.” ― Peter Høeg, Smilla's Sense of Snow

The curse of the journalist is that you have to detach yourself from the subject to be able to objectively tell a story. Good thing I’m not just a journalist. I’m using my poet card today. So, you can watch me grovel about my softest spot and safest corner this side of Europe, strolling along snow-laden lanes and braving the winter weather. Besides, I couldn’t really explain to you exactly how snow falls, or how it looks like, how it tastes in your tongue. The only thing I could do is to describe in degrees my days there in the former half of Czechoslovakia.

Every time I talk about Slovakia, it gets as personal as it is slow, a little too laidback compared to its Czech neighbour. But if you think that heavy snow would dampen our spirit, and discourage us from sightseeing, you’re in for a very cold surprise. Let’s take it one step, one snowflake at a time.

23 December 2010

Bratislava is unexpectedly warm. Sunny almost the whole day. Many things to discover yet. Slovakia is new territory to me. Danube is at its familiar, tranquil charm though. Here is a city of contradictions: old castle beside a UFO-shaped tower; shining cars along an ancient river; cold weather, warm people.

My friend’s house is a labyrinth, a house of doors.

Photos of Slow Vacationing in Slovakia: Sauntering
Through Varying Degrees of Snow 1/19 by Unshod Rover


Photos of UFO watch.taste.groove., Most SNP, Bratislava, Slovakia 1/1 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Danube River 1/1 by Unshod Rover

24 December

Challenge of the Day: Learn Slovakian and not get lost around my friend’s house. I helped prepare lunch with my friend’s parents. They talked to me in Polish, Russian, Slovakian, English, Italian, German, Czech, French.

Traditional Christmas dinner involved cabbage sour soup, fish with potato salad, dessert. For starters, slices of thin bread were served with honey and garlic. My friend’s mom signed a cross on our foreheads using honey for “sweetness” all throughout the year. Garlic was for good health, instead.

25 December

It’s snowing on Christmas Day. Sneh, snow. Biely, white. I’m having “Death by (snow and) Chocolate”, hot dark chocolate with pistachio and whipped cream after a visit at the ruins of the Beckov Castle by the Jewish cemetery on a snowy day. It’s real Slovakian weather, according to my friend’s dad.

Photos of Hrad Beckov, Beckov, Slovakia 1/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Hrad Beckov, Beckov, Slovakia 2/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Hrad Beckov, Beckov, Slovakia 3/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Monsalvy, Teplická, Piešťany, Slovakia 1/1 by Unshod Rover

26 December

It’s -6* and by some Slovakian logic, it’s the perfect night to go out with friends until 4:00 in the morning.

27 December

Sunny. But it’s -7*, so just a little stroll in on the schedule. It’s just that a stroll in this part means two hours of walking in the snow and into the woods. It was all worth it though. Snow is immaculate. It brings down everything to its bare essentials. It also makes it easy for the eyes to freeze a moment into a postcard. Every detail against a backdrop of white. Quite a beautiful for a “short afternoon walk”.

Photos of Piešťany District, Slovakia 1/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Piešťany District, Slovakia 2/3 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Piešťany District, Slovakia 3/3 by Unshod Rover

28 December

So, you get the logic, by now. -6* = perfect for a night out. -7*, an afternoon walk. -3*? Warm enough to go out swimming in an outdoor pool. There, as you are chest-deep in thermal water, is the perfect spot to look up the sky and watch the snow fall.

Photos of Zlaté kúpele Turčianske Teplice, SNP, Turčianske Teplice, Slovakia 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Zlaté kúpele Turčianske Teplice, SNP, Turčianske Teplice, Slovakia 2/2 by Unshod Rover

29 December

It’s -13.5*, let’s go visit the mayor of the town. It’s -10*, let’s go check out a nearby castle. It’s only -3*, we still can go see a wooden Church.

Photos of Orava Castle, Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia 1/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Orava Castle, Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia 2/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Orava Castle, Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia 3/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Orava Castle, Oravský Podzámok, Slovakia 4/4 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Kaštieľ Čičmany, Čičmany, Slovakia 1/2 by Unshod Rover
Photos of Kaštieľ Čičmany, Čičmany, Slovakia 2/2 by Unshod Rover

30 December

It’s -16.5*, perfect day to drive up to Prague for the New Year’s.

Slovaks are so used to the snow, the moment some little snowfall would come, the city trucks are there immediately to erase them off the streets before they accumulate, perhaps even before they could fall.

But the winter that I welcomed into my tropical sensibilities, and carried home with me back into the islands, it’s still frozen within the walls of my warm memories, unstained, unmelting.

Photos of  1/1 by Unshod Rover
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