It has been upwards of 33C ( 91F ) here and I have to remind myself that it is only temporary…I hope. I am now in my last apartman , a sweet little place on the northeastern side of the Old Town. Soltesovej ( Sholtes-sovay ) is a really nice corner of the Old Town. I have two parks around the corner and it is a bit more spread out than Grosslingova where I was last. I am a firm believer in Airbnb after this trip. Each stay has been as nice ( or nicer ) than the last. Most are converted apartmans from Communist era blocks and they are done up well. My last stay was the exception ; it was a building built at the turn of the 20th century and had a jumbled architectural twist. Half Art Nouveua , part Baroque , and some pre-Art Deco , it was very cool. My host , Vlad , was the best of the best. He bought it and is in the process of slowly bringing it back to it’s original setting. The inner courtyard was a mess of building material and ladder and scaffolds.
I am forever grateful to Vlad , we spent some time together , and as he had been in Chicago ( John Marshall Law School ) there was always plenty to talk about. He is responsible also , for helping me make contacts for the future. On my last day , yesterday , we made plans to dismantle an Ikea-type cabinet that was in my apartman , and then he was going to make lunch. He had already sold the cabinet , and the lady buyer was going to pick it up later in the day. He knew where I was going next , as he uses the same cleaning lady as my new hosts Sona and Jan. It is a small town here and they all know each other. We continued our talk about Slovensko’s future as we took the pressed-board behemoth apart. It would have been a big job for him alone and I didn’t even blink when he asked. We are good friends , and I was in no hurry to travel the 5/6 blocks to Soltseovej…dragging my duffel. He promised a ride after lunch.
The cabinet is on the right in the photo above , and it was a chore to get it apart. Vlad mentioned that he felt as if he should have taken it apart when he bought building , but thought it would help with his Airbnb guests. He wants something more traditional and ornate , definitely made of solid wood. He has other plans for rhe studio and we talked about me possibly renting it , if i were able to secure a teaching job. I am very fortunate to have chosen this place to stay and to have crossed his path.
We carried all of the cabinet pieces out to the hall near the doorway and Vlad went to his apartman to start cooking the Halusky ( hahlooosh-key ) and I ran around the corner to the potraviny ( grocery store ) for slanina ( bacon ). I returned and was awed when he let me in to his building , which was next door to mine. The entrance-way was like stepping back into the 18th century. Of course , they didn’t have scooter and modern baby buggies , but the style of the 1700’s was everywhere. The steps up to his apartman on the 2nd floor were polished marble , as were the banisters. The whole of the railings more florid and flamboyant than the ceilings and door jambs of the apartman doorways.
We continued to discuss the future for either of us , and for Slovensko. He explained that the halusky he was making was not the standard ; usually made with bryndza cheese from sheep’s milk. He is from Bardejov , which is in the far northeastern portion of Slovensko . His Grandmother made her halusky with cabbage. When he mentioned this , my first reaction ( and I didn’t show it ) was sort of ” uuuhm ” . I have been eating sauerkraut soup and many dishes with cabbage in it , and although it isn’t my favorite thing to eat , Vlad was making this out of the kindness of his heart. He piled it into a big tureen and I went at it. He sliced the cabbage thinly and since there were no big chunks of it , the halusky went down rather nicely. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it ; again , during this whole trip my mantra has been ” open mind , no place to be parochial or obdurate “. I bought Vlad some Erdlinger Weiss Beer the night before and he cracked open one , and said ” if you don’t mind , I will carry something , instead of driving you to Soltesovej . I am going have another pivo as these are excellent and I won’t be able to drive due to zero tolerance “. ” Ziaden problem ” was my answer , no problem. We continued on , laughing at some of the things we shared about Chicago and his surprise that I was so close to him while working in Blue Island ( modry ostrov ). Vlad stayed with a family in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago while he went to John Marshall , part of an exchange program that was the first as Slovensko was gaining its feet after the Velvet Divorce , in the early 1990’s.
The ” Velvet Divorce ” occurred in 1992 , and describes the separation from the Czech Republic. It followed the ” Velvet Revolution ” in the late 1980’s when the Communist Bloc fell apart. It was so named because Vlaclav Havel , a Czech writer ( who else? ) was a big fan of the Velvet Underground….at least that’s one of the theories. Another is that the revolution happened without bloodshed ; it was also known as the ” Gentle Revolution “. Vlad and I covered this and many other absolutes about Slovak history. At one point he said , ” wow , you really are serious about our history ” ; I kept eating and with a mouth full of the magnificent halusky , just nodded.
We finished eating , and washed the dishes – I insisted on drying , and we went next door and grabbed my bags and backpack ( I still believe I overpacked – oh well – lesson learned ) , and headed up to Soltesovej. He knew exactly where to go and as we walked through the nearby park , the one he pointed out with the farmer’s market , he greeted a few of the farmers and and introduced me as a future customer ; very funny and the farmers struggled to push their English as I struggled to push my Slovak. I was really glad to have this time and when we arrived in the apartman , Vlad was a little jealous . He looked around and said that this is what he wants to do with Grosslingova. We stepped out into the heat of the patio and quickly jumped back into the cool of the apartman, The difference was at least 20 degrees. He thanked me for all of my help and I couldn’t thank him enough for what he had done for me. He said that it was already a good friendship and we shook hands , and he was gone.
Vlad called me later in the evening to make sure everything was going alright and we promised to stay in touch. Tomorrow , Thursday 27 June , I will meet up with Alexander/Gabor and he is going to show me his inside Bratislava…some of his favorite places , away from the crowds. I am looking forward to it. I will have 3 days left after that and who knows what they will bring. I have found a treasure trove of inspiration in this city and even more in the country. In spite of the road ahead , the Slovaks are anxious , and even humorous about what they have to face. I feel like I am on another planet. Sitting on my patio as I write this , I have had enough of the heat – even in the shade my phone is showing 27c ( 80/81f ). Since there is no breeze , I am going back inside to the ” cool ” of the 22c ( 71f ) of my apartman with the fan. I will return to my patio later , with a cup of kava and ponder some more where my path has led me and where I have yet to go…..