19 December 2010
We are on some sort of transportation vehicle, most likely a coal train. The Austrian-Slovakian frontier is just flat, endlessly reaching white snow. I left my fingers behind on the station. It's bitterly cold.
There are suddenly factories everywhere. It's the perfect expectation. Factories mean factory workers. We are entering the Eastern Bloc.
It's weird to think that not 40 miles away, lies Vienna, the 'free world.' Vienna and Bratislava are the world's closest capital cities. And yet couldn't be more different. The only similarity is that the Danube River flows through both of them.
We arrive and immediately enter a mindfuck. It feels like we've stepped into two things:
1) The world's worst train station
2) The Seventies
Everything is lino, or written in weird Cyrillic Russian (Slovak?), and the people. Yirra. They're seven shades of cretinous and weird.
There's that Communism again.
I couldn't believe how much this is exactly like how imagined it: grim, poor and with Soviet throwbacks.
The Brit: I think we've made a big mistake. Let's turn around and go back.
Peas: No. It's perfect.
Brit: You're bloody joking.
Peas: Nope. It's everything I imagined an Eastern Bloc country to look like. It feels like we're standing in Stalin's back yard. Isn't this AMAZING?
Brit: Where the fuck have you bought me?
We got into a taxi and promptly got screwed. The taxi driver charged us triple than what it said on the meter. Try arguing with a wall in Slovakian.
Luckily he dropped us off at our plush apartment. The Brit started to smile again when he saw the sheer size of the place. Plus they threw in a free bottle of Slovakia's finest. Wine. (Not recommended on the rare chance you ever see it on a menu.)
Suddenly your money goes far in eastern Europe. We got a giant bed boudoir thing, plus all the trimmings, overlooking the old city. Our surroundings were beautiful again. There was a distant castle from our window.
Turns out a few emperor's lived it up in Bratislava in their time.
Immediately put on all the clothes we owned, put on my fake bear hat (one needs to fit in with one's surroundings) and walked into town.
The temperature was a cool negative fifteen. Whereby you can't have naked skin outside for more than five seconds or it literally starts to ache.
Turned a corner, and suddenly stumbled onto this:
A Slovakian Christmas market. With kids doing a full on nativity play in this square.
It was ridiculously beautiful. And so cold we could hardly speak as our jaws lost the ability to move.
After ducking into a traditional Slovak restaurant, we ordered schnitzel. Seems Austria isn't too far away, culturally speaking.
Except we couldn't actually determine whether they were, in fact, schnitzels.
Peas: What do you think 'traditional Slovak food' is?
Peas: What's this on my plate?
Then we got drunk. In a dungeon bar, (the name: DRZBNOS. Any idea how that should be said?), which was built in the 1400s.
God damn were we hammered. But then, it's a matter of survival here. Get drunk or die of cold trying.