….Will He?…Or Won’t He…

Yesterday I was asked several times, out of concern, whether I was ok. I am fine…we are fine here in Slovensko. The actions and paranoia of one man has led to terror, confusion, and lives lost. I am posting this to let everyone know that I will be ok. If I can allow myself any thought to me…it will be that I can fly to Albania next Saturday the 5th of March. I haven’t seen anything on Austrian Airlines website that says they aren’t flying; yet.

I have been reading some of the news from the west, and I want to clear up some confusion. History tells us that this an action by Putin to set up a clear border to the west, against NATO and its functions. Kiyv is the capital of Ukraine, and one of the “cradles of Russia”. It is historically where the Viking Oleg set up Kievan Rus in 882. He united the Slavic and Finnish tribes. It wouldn’t be but another 400 years that the consolidated power that held sway ( and wavered at times) came to an end with the Mongol incursions into the west in the 13th century. Eventually the Kyivan Rus heartland would be supplanted by the strength of the Muscovite (Moscow) boyars (counts) after power had moved from Kyiv to Novgorad and then to Moscow…owing to the boyars “accomodating the Khanate from the east”. There are countless factors that led to the shift in the seat of power. The fact of the matter is that the Ukraine is the birthplace of what was to become the eventual state of Russia.

The country’s struggle against Russian authoritarianism is not new. In fact, Ukraine has been developing a political culture centered around rights and against tyranny for centuries. In the Middle Ages, Kyivan Rus’ was a pluralistic political entity organized around multiple centers of influence of city-states, without a single tyrannical ruler. In the early modern period, the Ukrainian Cossack polity formed a model of republican politics and contractual idea of the state different from the rising Muscovite authoritarianism. In the 19th century, Ukrainian intellectuals developed an idea of bottom-up politics focused on autonomous communities (hromadas), against tsarist autocracy. And in the 20th century, the Ukrainian version of socialism was oriented towards European models of cooperative economics and emancipation of peasants and workers, rather than the Russian model of a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Cite: Ukraine’s Past Is Present – Yermolenko

Over the preceding centuries, the Romanovs gained a vast territory, through military conquest, suppression of any opposition, and denial of basic freedoms (sufferage,self-determination…etc). After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the situation with Ukraine became a great issue. I would urge anyone who has even a fleeting interest in what has lead up to this point to look at a source that is an “objective history”, and I don’t suggest you look at any modern media for answers. Look at the history and decide for yourself. There has been a great deal said in the last few days that is patently fals

If you want to understand the zeitgeist of this period, you must look back and see what horrors that have been perpetrated against Ukraininas, like the Holodomor, for instance. Putin is doing what every other iron-fisted dictator has done; he is denying history, succumbing to his own paranoia that his once powerful country (Soviet Union) has become a footnote from the past, and most importantly – he is displaying a lack of sanity. I am happy to see photos of Russians in their streets, protesting against this vile activity by Putin.

I appreciate all of your concerns and don’t mind being inundated with calls and texts. I am posting this to let you know that I am fine..we are fine. The Slovaks seem to think that Putin witll stop at Ukraine and secure his western flank for now…for now. Until then, we are preparing to accept the refugees flowing through our eastern border. I will keep you all posted (no pun intended) and I thank you for your love and support

“My friend”….Pavo Dubcek

Today I attended my first Slovak funeral. Pavo Dubcek (Doob-check) passed last Friday, and I didn’t know until Prof. Homza sent an SMS to tell me on Sunday. I hit me a bit harder than I expected, especially when I walked into Zlaty Jelen last night. He wasn’t there. Pavo was one of the first people I was introduced to on my visit to our Tuesday night dinners. He was nothing but warm and welcoming. When I explained to him why I was here, he became very excited. He hugged me and told me that I had to stay here at “home”. He was always very animated and happy to see me, using words like “bratko Amiericansky” (American brother), and “moj najlepsi imigrant” ( my favorite/best immigrant).

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I would learn that he was the son of Alexander Dubcek. I just about dropped where I was standing. Alexander Dubcek was part of the Prague Spring in 1968. He tried to stand up to the Soviets and “put a human face on Socialism”. Needless to say, he was “recalled to Moscow” after Stalinist voices in the party, and the Soviets feared that a free society would move Czechoslovakia away from the Warsaw Pact. The movement was quashed by an invasion of other Warsaw Pact forces. Mr. Dubcek asked that the Czechoslovaks not resist, knowing it would turn into a “senseless bloodbath”. The next day, he and other Communist Party officials were flown to Moscow.

One Pavo came over with glasses and his perfunctory bottle of cognac, sat down, and asked me to tell him what was wrong with the US. I told him that there was not enough time, he replied,”there is more time than liquor…let’s get started”. We both laughted and I had to decline, as I was telling him I was nearly 22-years sober, at which point he drank both glasses and signalled for another mug of Kofola (soda) for me. We had a stream of laughs as I was telling him about how things were going in the US. It was quiet for a moment and I asked about his father and the history surrounding such a big moment in our past. He deflected and said that his father was doing what my dad did. “Your father built bridges of his own free will…my father had to fight to build them”. I could tell that he wanted to talk about anything else, so we changed the subject to how he liked the US when he traveled to it in the early 2000’s. His English was very good, and his descriptions of Pittburgh and Cleveland had me in stitches.

I saw him last, a week ago and we having fun at the sake of Anton. He is a surgeon, like Pavo. Pavo was kidding him and telling him that his surgical work reminds him of his dog’s veteranarian. Anton told Pavo that he would do better in a deli because his hands were so poor. And so it went for the better part of an hour; I was pulled away into another conversation, and when I looked down the table, they are leaning on each other singing.

That was Pavo to me. He was a bright soul and always had a warmth about him that was genuine. I had only known him for nearly 3 months, but he represented the good things about the Slovaks that appealed to me immediately. Since, I have met people in this group who are willing to help me with my visa search, exchanged phone numbers, and routinely call/text to see how I am doing. It is going to be very easy to stay, learn the language, and assimilate into this culture, with friends like the ones that I have. I will always remember the tall (at least 6′ 7″), and smiling figure that started sentences with, “my friend”….Rest in Peace Palo! I have another post planned for the next couple days. Until then, I wish you all well. I encourage you to comment. Above it all, please take care of yourselves

Four Gates To Enter….

Laurinska Brana (Gate)

When I walk into the Stare Mesto, my usual entrance is through the Laurinc Gate – or “Strana”. It is also referred as “Laurinska Gate”. At one time there were four gates. Laurinc (East), Michael’s (North), Vydrica (West), and later “Fisherman’s Gate” (South). The first 3 gates were started in the 13th century and the city would have these 3 until the Fisherman’s was added in the 15th century on the South side of the fortificatio. This was a much smaller gate and controlled the entrance from the Danube river. On my walks with martin (Prof. Homza), we are quick to remember how close the river was to this older part of the city. At this point of the Danube, the river runs almost East to West. Bratislava sits on the North (or left) bank. In the following blogs, I will show the others, approximately, as the only remaining gate is the Michael’s.

Although the Michael’s gate has some interesting architecture, my path is always in from the east-most, since I live just to the east. I love this walk in; on most mornings there are no human bodies. It is very quiet and these wonderful “palacs”, or palaces are mine to scour with my eyes.

The palace of the Pallfy family seen in the photos above are numerous, and spread throughout the town. In subsequent posts I will show a few more. They were a very powerful family and garnered many titles, along with property, and castles in the “Upper Kingdom”. There are many names for this portion of the Hungarian territory. It woould become this polity when it was given back to Hungary by Poland in the 12th century. The photo contains just one of the many of these Palffy properties.

I encounter markers like this on all my treks. I will make an effort to get a few more. The best that I can tell, Franz Liszt gave a concert in this building as a nine-year-old. I know also, of another building that Mozart gave a concert as a child; I have to remember where I saw it when I was here in2017. I will find it.

As I walk closer to St. Martin’s Cathedral, the buildings that housed palaces, and apartments of the nobles become more ornate. Between 1563 and 1830, the Gothic/Romanesque church served as the coronation site for Hungarian Kings. Ten kings, one queen, and seven royal wives from the Hapsburg Dynasty were crowned in St. Martin’s. I would really like to include a photo of the spire; it is topped with a gold crown that is really a sight in a sunny day. This gold crown marks the 250+ years of the coronations. The buildings closest to the church are where the nobles of the highest rank stayed during the coronations, celebrations that would take place over many days. The history of the cathedral, and the surrounding western portion of the old town require more time to tell their tales. I will try to divulge their secrets as they become better-known to me. There is a great deal to know in this small space.

In 1775, by order of Maria Theresa, the medeival fortifications and gates were demolished. By the 18th/ early19th century, there was not much left but shards and short-runs of the bastions and redoubts built to hold off all takers….the Ottomans (Turks) would hold on to some of these bastions for quite some time.

The Old Town has done a good job at re-inventing itself. Of course, there are Burger King and Mcdonalds for the tourists, but all in all this space seems to hold on to its past. Unlike the US, there are statues here to conquerers and conquered…subjugators and the emancipated. There is a distinct lack of cancellation to the past. I am reminded of this as I stroll past a statue of a Magyar (Hungarian) soldier on the tips of his toes, bayonet at a thrust and body tense-cast in bronze. Exiting through “my gate”, I walk back into the present, with a John Cale song spinning around my wool-encased noodle. Into the modern world with a cognizant disdain for things we don’t understand. It’s 3pm now and I know that everyone back in the US is just getting up and I anticipate more calls about my safety and “the Ukraine situation”. As I think about all of the things I have to pick up at the store, I smile and realize that my statement last Tuesday night holds true. History is and will remain more complex than science. Nothing about history can be understood with math, data, and/or eequations. It has to be experienced – seen, touched, heard, and felt in the heart. That is THE gate to understanding. Listening to Cale right now and boy is it nice. Until next time…be well and take care of each other.

Hockey, Ballet, & History vs. Science

Another incredible night at dinner with the Horna Kora (Upper Crust). Today was Milan’s birthday, and because it was so – he bought dinner…for all of us. I met Martin at his office, as we most usually do, and we walk through the Old Town with him acting as a “tour guide through history”. Boris, a graduate student, was with us as we wound through the back streets and glimpsed into the distant past. Here the remains of a fishing village, there the remnants of an old market, and everywhere the scattered evidence of a city deeply rooted in an ever-changing dynamic. Bratislava as an entity has survived the comings and goings of Celts, Romans, Avars, The Franks, Magyars, and The Ottomans…to name a few. I am particularly attuned to this on my solo walks, and have keened my eye at some of the less obvious places.

On our roamings through some back-alleys, with Boris and Martin indicating places that held Viennese architectural influences: a church I had seen on Kamenne Namestie (Stone Square)…”my namestie”, and though it looked suspiciously familiar. The style I had seen on my last trip to Vienna in 2019. Martin led us out of a parking lot and into a well-lit store; we followed him out of the front door and just like that, we were across the street from Zlaty Jelen (Golden Deer)! He had a devilish smile on his face as Boris and I both came to realize where we were.

Stepping down the tan tiled stairs into Jelen, I could hear the laughing and plates being moved. I walked into the room and the cheers went up!…it happens everytime I walk in. “Our favorite Immigrant” is here!…we can party!” They all look at me and ask, “well then, who do you cheer for in the big hockey game?” I was addled; I asked what hockey game do they refer to, since I was hardly following the Olympics. Holy shit!…they looked at me as if I had just landed from Mars. Apparently Slovkia is playing the US. “C’mon guys, you know who I am rooting for, does it have to be spoken?” The reply was a roaring and resounding “Ano!” (yes). “I will be cheering for Slovensko”, calming them and recieving hugs and handshakes. Danka and her husband Paul had arrived, along with our dear friend Olga…just in time to save me.

Paul is a very interesting man. A South African by birth, grew up in baking, and now works in “financial consulting” for European banks. I can see how he and Danka have that much in common. He was happy to have someone to speak English with. Our old friend Rado came to sit with us on the last chair at the table. Rado is a former director of the National Ballet. He came in our conversation just as Martin was urging me to listen to Slovak folk and classical music. I replyed that I have been listening to Cikker, Godar, and Rajter for a few years, even going so far to list my favorite works by them. Rado and Martin both pounded their fists on the table and yelled in approval…Paul was smiling and not quite sure what had happened. Martin turned to Danka, across from us at the table, and told her that they had to find a way to make me stay…in Slovak. I looked at Paul, and he told me what Martin said. I am beside myself with gratitude, and wondering at times how to return my obligation to them.

Paul, Martin, and I returned to a conversation started earlier about the complexities of history, especially in Central/Eastern Europe. Anton, a colleague of Martin’s at Comenius, is a Chemistry Professor…at 73! He laughed at us and remarked about the “futility of historical study”. I remarked that unlike science, history has many more variables and is therefore more complex. He laughed, raised his glass to Martin, and told him to keep me close. We agreed that science deals in objectivity revealed by math. History, as a study, doesn’t have that quality. It is not finite, but empirical, and therefore becomes subjective. I enjoy Tuesdays, and never thought that I would be graced to live here, with these people, in this time, and accepted as a peer.

Our little dinner club has become a highpoint for me; my weeks are usually very quiet, and study-oriented. It looks like I will be heading for Albania on good footing. If my visa is at least begun, then I will have some news while in Albania… I am excited about this prospect. As for now, we are going through an up and down trip with weather. Some days run together, windy and cold. Then, with no rhyme or reason, we have a day, or two that are sunny and top out at 13-14C (55-57C). It will be nice to be in the warmth of the Balkans, even though I’m not really a “beach guy”. That’s all for now. I wish you all well, and thank you for reading. I would love to hear any comments, ideas, or suggestions; so don’t be bashful – let me know what you think.

An Americansky In Bratislavsky

Well kids, it seems like Tuesdays are getting a bit more exciting. Today Prof. Homza sent an SMS (we don’t say “text” here) telling me that there was another rally planned across from the Slovak Parliament on the West side of the Castle. I was welcomed to meet him there and after we would go to Vlado’s to meet the group for dinner. Of course I was all in. The police had the castle entry closed on the South side, so I followed a mass of people all the way around to the West side. The entire square was packed! It was vey breezy up there so the Slovak flags were full-on fluttering and the crowd was cheering loudly with each speaker. I wasn’t content with standing on the edge, so I waded into the thick of the middle. It was electric! I was standing next to a couple that asked (in Slovak) if I understood the speaker very well. The sound wasn’t perfect, but I couold make out a few words, and applauded with the rest. When I told the couple that my Slovak was weak (“maly Slovensky”), the lady asked, “Anglicky?”. I nodded and she asked in English where I was from. I cast my eyes down and said “the US”. Her eyes lit up and she told her husband. After explaining why I was there, they gave me big hugs and started telling people around us that I was from the US and that I supported Slovakia.

The US and Slovakia have a forthcoming agreement to plop a military base down in Slovakia. There are already service members here maintaining aircraft that the last administration bought from the US. Obviously, the Slovaks don’t want it here. I agree, it would be another dick-move; another one of the nearly 750 that they have in the world. So here I am, just showing up to see what is going on, showing a little solidarity with my newfound country-men..and women; I am hugged to death by everyone with 20 feet. These big dudes come up and slap me on the back and yell to anyone within earshot, “hey, our American Cousin is here with us also!” I was embarrassed and proud at the same time. We turned and booed at the Parliament building behind us, which had members looking out of windows at the rally. I was stunned at the gratitude; one of the big dudes tried to give me a pivo (beer) and I declined, he still slapped me on the back and gave me a big hug as I was leaving. There was no way I was going to find Martin in this mass of pissed-off Slovaks, so I decided to head back down to the Old Town and rumble around. I was headed down Palisady, off Castle Hill and coming up the walk were Martin and Vlado. We hugged and talked for a few moments. I would rummage around down below and meet them at the restaurant by 6.

Down In Stare Mesto (Old Town)
Same as photo above…wider shot

I wandered into a section I hadn’t been in before. I passed a doorway that had Roman numerals above it….MDXXX. That would be 1530! The church on the right was built in 1524 and finished in 1533. It is just beyond my grasp to see the past that this area has witnessed. I started out for the restaurant and found it to be a bit early, but running into Vlado’s wife Zuzka was a blessing. She opened up and I poured myself a Kofola draft and sat down. Soon after, Martin and Vlado appeared and we were talking about the rally for a mere minute or two and this group of ladies and gentlemen came through the door…peace and quiet was over. I didn’t recognize a couple of the women that came in and Martin always being gracious, introduced me…in his usual fashion: as our newest immigrant son. I started talking to one women, Dana (that’s Dah-na…like our Donna) and here’s where this Tuesday comes apart at the seams.

Danka (The endearment…’cause I can), asked me if I would be willing to be interviewed…on tv! She is a…you’ll love this…Deputy Finance Minister. Yeah, it’s like that. We sat down and she was just overwhelmed by my humble story and guaranteed to get the visa process started and asked if I would be interested in doing some sort of “liaison work”. I think my humility was beginning to get her mad, she said”do you know what this means for us?” I continued to tell her how thankful I was for the oppurtunity to be here and that I feel so incredibly comfortable with this place. Asode from the language, which she pledged to help me with (she speaks 5…4 fluently and 1 accurately). I explained that I was retired and couldn’t earn an income without having to pay it back. Undaunted, she assured me that “we could figure something out”. She now has my cell number (and I hers) and she is going to text me tomorrow with some instructions on who to see for the visa. Her husband, a South African by birth, is coming back on Friday and she has invited me over on Saturday. She is headed to Beijing, and then Moscow next week, so she wants to get things rolling before I head to Albania. She also knows Peter in Albania..Martin’s boyhood friend – ambassador. I am beyond gobsmacked at this venture. I have to turn around at some point and cease “walking backward” into my adventure here. I appreciate all of youo who are following and still welcome any and all comments. Next time, a bit more history, and a little less of this magic carpet ride. I wish you all well.

Martin, Abraham &….Svatopluk

Martin and I on Castle Hill under Svatopluk @ Bratislava Castle

Today I had the unexpected pleasure of a walk from Comenius University (Univerzita Komenskeho) through the Old Town and up to “Castle Hill”. My dear friend Martin Homza texted me earlier to meet at his office at the University and we would continue my “education of Slovak history”. As most likely mentioned before, Martin is Head of the History Department at Comenius University here in Bratislava. His expertise lies in Early Antiquity to the 12/1300’s in not only Slovak history, but the beginnings of Central/Eastern European history. I am extremely fortunate (and grateful) to have become his friend.

As we walked through the Old Town, Martin laid out how Bratislava grew from a small outpost in Pre-Roman times to a power-house at the crossroads of Central Europe. Rome’s Empire actually halted on the right bank (South bank) of the Danube out of fear. The Romans were not confident about dealing with the Slavic tribes for quite some time. By the fall of Rome in 476, the Slavs were overrun by the Avars from the East. It is about this time that Bratislava has come into its own as one of the premier positions on the Danube. The amber trade that originated in the Baltic Sea region was shipped South through Bratislava, at this time (1st-5th century) it is known as “Limes Romanum”…fortified border of Rome. As far back as 3500 BC this hill has held sway over the history of the area. With Martin’s narration, what I thought I knew just melted away. Across from the Castle to the East is St. Martin’s Cathedral. At the top of the spire is a gold crown, that was actually shining today in the evening sunset. The crown represents the “coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary”…between 1563 and 1830. The cathedral was consecrated in 1452. Every king of Hungary was installed here for 267 years.

To couple all this together, we walked through a section of the Old Town (Stary Mesto) that was built for the gentry to live in during these many coronations and events, as the church was a significant power during the Middle Ages. I was gawking like a teenager at a rock show. As we talked about how this came about, and its enduring history (right up to WWI), I felt even closer to understanding the history behind what my ancestors had to live through. Continuing on down Ulica Palisady (Palisade Street), Martin announced that we were going to visit our friend Vlado, at our usual Tuesday night gathering spot. I was surprised and gladdened that we could continue on with our visit one on one. Usually our Tuesdays are very short in his office, discussing a fine point or two, before heading to meet the group at Vlado’s restaurant. I am still going to refrain from naming it, as indoor dining is not allowed during the lock-down here. I have referred to our meetings in prior posts and it is always the highlight of my week. Having just been there two nights ago and now to go again is certainly a treat. Tuesday nights, we meet in the larger room of this space; a 400+ year-old wine cellar. The people that come for drinks and dinner are a veritable who’s who of the Slovak modern gentry….lawyers, judges, surgeons, journalists, tv producers, artists, and those with the most interesting backgrounds.

Vlado met us the gate, as we have to “sneak in”. It was just the three of us for a bit and it was very pleasant to sit and talk to both men. Vlado is a retired chemistry professor that always wanted to be a restaurant owner, and he specializes in wild game…our meals are never boring.

This past Tuesday I went by myself, as Martin was busy with “university business”. It was starting to rain/snow/sleet when I left my apartment, so I put on my Stetson and walked the 20 minutes to “The Cellar”. Unbelievably, I almost got lost. Since I was much earlier, the street was incredibly busy and I was unsure about where I was; taking an alternate course didn’t help matters either. As it turned out, I was in the right area and recognized the entrance to our place. The cellar was in full tilt as I came through the door with the big Stetson on my noggin. They all turned, as if rehearsed, raised their glasses and said, “the immigrant is here, we can party!”. What a warm welcome. There was one chair left at the long table. It took me at least 5 minutes to get to my place at the table. Custom dictates that you greet each and everyone before sitting down. There were a few that I hadn’t met in previous dinners. Big hugs from “my guys..Cyril, Milan, Mirko, Slavo” and two-cheek kisses for the ladies. I sit down to a big mug of Kofola and again we hoist glasses and cheer “our dear immigrant Slovensko…who came back home!”. Too much fun! We carried on through appetizers; Elk and Wild Sheep pate’, and then dinner – Wild Boar with mushrooms and the lightest blini (like crepes) I have ever had. Vlado is a culinary artiste! The cellar started thinning out around 9:30 and I had already had confabs with a cutting edge artist, a translator/interpreter for the European Parliment, and an accordian-playing judge..no kidding! Milan kicked ass. He played Tom Jones, U2, AND Lady Gaga!…I love that guy! He also pledged any help he can give me for my residency visa. I left with my buddy Mirko, and we snuck out into the heavy snowfall. Thank goodness I wore my Stetson. The snowflakes were the size of umbrellas. On my way up, I stopped and spent 1 Euro for a tram ticket knowing full well that the weather was going to change. I usually don’t mind the 20 minute walk; not that night. As luck would have it, my tram was just pulling up to the stop. I jumped on and rode to “my square”. Kamenne Namestie (Stone Square) is a few minutes to my apartment, and it has everything I need in one place.

Tonight’s appetizers

Tonight, it was the complete opposite. Vlado was waiting for us and was just opening. Martin and took a table in the “small room”, and continued the conversation about what I had seen and how I was going to process it in the big scheme of things. Wine for martin, a big mug of Kofola for me, and this plate of appetizers (pictured above). Very quiet as Vlado joined us and we talked until almost 9 before we realized the time. Vlado claimed “the cellar” to be my home and that I am welcome anytime as we exchanged numbers. I am so warmed by the hospitality and kindness by everyone I come in contact with.

The main shopping street with Bratislava Castle in backdrop

I left walking on air. I am very comfortable here. My walk home is framed by these ancient landmarks, and it easy to find my way. We all walk freely here; crime is nearly nonexistent and I am never looking over my shoulder constantly…I think I’ll stay in Europe for some time to come. In 3 weeks I head to Albania and beside the fact that it will be a new culture, I will be heading even deeper into history. More on that in the future. This is an early update. I planned to post on Sunday coming. It has been such a fun, interesting two/three days…I thought I would share it. Prosim…(please) be well and take care of each other. Also, don’t be bashful about commenting; your comments allow me to know what I’m doing right or wrong, and helps me to include content that everyone is interested in. Namste

In The Den Of Antiquity

In Professor Homza’s office…”The Den of Antiquity”…..

Another Sunday, another quiet week behind me. I have been pushing to understand the Slovakia of old. I spent this past weekend (Fri. night, Saturday, and most of today) watching Martin Homza’s videos on Youtube. Having gone from the fall of the Roman Empire in the 1st session, to the aftermath of Charlemagne in the 8th/early 9th century; I have been able to suss out a stronger picture of how we (the Slavs) have come about our existence here in East-Central Europe. Now?…I’ve got a little Marley percolatin’ on the speaker and spending a few moments on an update.

I was able to speak to both of my kids, and it is always good to hear their voices. I am given joy by hearing how they are doing… I enjoy talking to anyone, so don’t be shy…give me a ring. Just keep in mind that I’m 7 hours ahead of you in the Midwest. I must share that last week I was shaken by the passing of not 1, or 2, but 3 dear friends. My good friends that I met during my last trip here to Slovakia, 2 of which have been taken by COVID. They absolutely refused to get a vaccination, and succumbed…Kors – my Swiss friend while on a congratulatory trip to Thailand. He had just retired and took his whole family away for a celebration of his retirement and as a Christmas gift. Albrecht – my German friend left us after his 2nd bout with the virus. I was back on a better footing, but was shaken a few days later to know that the wife of my old friend David has passed on as a result of cancer. She was a sweet and dear woman. I just saw her before I left and she seemed fine. I will always remember her fondly. To all who are losing those that we love, I wish for peace in your hearts, and a firm conviction that there are no guarantees in this life. We must let those we love know it; not only by word, but action.

On that note, I am grateful to have a chance to be here. It has been my life dream to study history in a hands-on manner. My trip to Albania will add to it even further. I will go, with with Albrecht, Kors, and Cindy in my heart. As for us the living, we carry on, and accept what comes our way with an open mind and an open heart. This approach has been beneficial as I have been learning more about the world around me, and the past. I enjoy my sessions in Prof. Homza’s office…The Den of Antiquity…I am drawn away to a space in time that I could have possibly been too. It seems different, yet familiar in an odd kind of way. Also, I am realizing what I have missed in my education regarding “Western Civ”. We are not shown how complex and inter-connected that the early ages of Western Europe were to this geopolitical sphere ( here in Central Europe). The history of the US is birthed from Western Europe, yet very little time is given to the impact on that culture and polity. I will advance some of these ideas as we go along.

I am working on my own paper: “The Circularity of History”, and will draw from some of my own hypotheses affiliated with this notion… as for this moment – a cold and windy night in Bratislava; I’m going to relax and skank to some Marley with a nice cup of tea and honey.

Until we meet again, be well and look after each other

Seeking…but not finding

Looking West down my street, “Ulica Grosslingova”

I posted a hasty and ill-formed post last week, and I feel the need to sort out some of that earlier mess. I was enduring a bad head-cold and probably should have waited until my thinking was a bit more lucid before sending out an update. This is an attempt at a proper introduction and update; I hope it helps.

I arrived here in Bratislava on 7 December of 2021. The flight was 6 hours direct to Vienna and roughly 13 hours in terms of my “biological clock”. Coming East, across 7 time zones, I tried to “fool my body”…it didn’t work out very well. I am just now beginning to get on some sort of regular sleep pattern. It had worked in the past, but failed miserably this time. Upon arrival, I would go about my business as if I was still on US time. I was up until 4/5am and not able to sleep. I was waking at 12/1 o’clock in the afternoon, and despite my best efforts to get out and get exercise, the pattern continued. I am happy to say that it appears to have leveled off and I am finally going to sleep at around 11 and waking up at 6/6:30. My meditations and chants are becoming clearer, and leaving me more refreshed. I credit my best Buddy Greg with suggesting a listen to “Tan Man Shaant”. It is a wonderful YouTube video, about an hour long, and perfect for my “after-session”. Better days ahead!

My new chapter, if you will, has been made possible by my good friend (and landlord) Vlad Sveda. I stayed with him during my last trip in 2019, as an Airbnb guest and we hit it off. He was intrigued by my idea to retire here in Slovensko (it’s what we call Slovakia here), and we stayed in touch for 2 years after I left. He served as a sounding board, and then as an “idea man”. I am now ensconced in a lovely little 1-bedroom apartment here at Grosslingova 65. The other person responsible in easing my advance into this chapter is Prof. Martin Homza. Martin is head of the History Department here at Comenius University. We met on Academia.edu and he was very kind in the acknowledgement of my drive to learn further about Slovak history, and then to get it out to the world. He has been nothing short of eager and earnest in teaching me the finer points of early Slovak (actually called “Slovan”) history. We meet at his office in the university, discuss what he believes is a continuation of my “lesson” and then we walk through the Old Town (Stary Mesto) to the place where meet good friends for dinner and very lively conversation.

Currently, we are still under a lock down that includes restaurants, hotels, and other indoor spaces. My street is filed with small boutiques and kava (coffee) joints. It is usual to see people standing outside at a table in front of the door smoking and drinking small cups of kava. Also, there are people, masked, waiting to enter the boutiques after the previous customer is done. There is talk of an easing of these rules once Omicron passes, as of this writing it has yet to happen.

I will leave here on 5 March to fly to Albania to spend 3 months there, as it is out of the EU. Travel in the EU/Schengen dictate that I spend 90 days in/90 days out in a 180 day period. I must do this until I get my residency visa here in Slovakia. The visa process has been very slow, as the Slovaks are completely flummoxed by my request to retire here. There are no set rules that apply to foreigners seeking to do so. Fortunately, Vlad has a Russian friend – Ildar …I love that name!…who is going to help me in this process. He is going to introduce me to a lady who has a specialized business regarding the visa processes. Not only that; Prof. Homza has a best friend from childhood that is Ambassador to Albania. He has asked that I make no more travel plans in Albania until I speak to his friend. He is also hopeful that this friend can swing some muscle to aid in my fortune. I have said many times, that I am “walking backward” into this phase of my life through good luck and some sort of divine intervention. I have, so far, met many people who have been incredibly kind and generous that it defies belief. I am grateful and humbled. I simply ask everyday for you all to be cared for and guided by the good light. In the end, I ask for myself; to continue to seek in the light. I have been taught, through my Buddhist practice that it is more important to “seek” than to “find”. It is “the journey, not the destination”. So far, it has manifested itself many times and in many ways; I pray that it continues.

I will post again soon, with more photos. I want you all to see what I am seeing, and to hear what I am hearing. Until then, please be well, and take of each other.  🙏

Bratislava…my 1st month an a half

It’s now 20 January and I have been here in Bratislava for a bit more than a month and a 1/2. Since I arrived on the 7th of December, things have very quiet for me. I have been able to “sneak in” to an underground restaurant, and share a fun-filled evening with my new friends. I meet my good friend Martin at his university office. We talk Slovak history, and then walk to the restaurant. I am going to leave out names and places for the time being, as there are no indoor gatherings allowed. My landlord and good friend has been instrumental in helping me to get set up here, as well as my friend Martin. I awoke on Christmas morning and decided to go to mass at the nearby “Blue Church”

It is called : Kostol Svatej Alzbety…The Church of St. Elizabeth. It is a very short walk from my apartment. I showed my vaccination card and sat in silence while the service went on around me. I rose when everyone rose, and knelt just the same. It was quite an experience. More on the history behind the church later on.

My place is at the the East side of the Old Town…”Stary Mesto”, and I am an easy 10/15 minute walk from the the Stary Namestie …Old Square, itself. My main shopping area is also a few minute walk away and that is in the Kamenne Namestie , or Stone Square…obchody, shopping area.

As of now, I have plans to go to Albania for March/April/May. EU rules dictate that I leave for 90 days. 90 days in/90 days out in a 180 day period. Until I secure my residency visa, this will be the standard practice. Albania is not in the EU, it is incredibly cheap and I have a place on the Adriatic…across from the boot-heel of Italy. As it turns out, the Slovak Ambassador is childhood friends with my dear friend Martin. It might help in securing my visa.

There is a great deal more, but since I am suffering from a severe head at the moment, I am going to write more in the coming weelend.

I hope you are well and fit.

I send my love

Slovakia in the circularity of history

I am finally able to begin writing my paper on Slovakia; a country the world knows little about, and should. A young democracy (25+ years-old), with a great potential to contribute on the world stage. The Slovaks have a torch to carry that is not unlike most young nations in a world that becomes more complex and exacting with each year’s passing. My paper will unveil my idea of the circularity of history, the movement of people into the Carpathian Basin, their settlement, and the struggle to retain an identity as a culture, despite the forces of history and ideas working against the best interest of the burgeoning Slovak ideal. My idea is this; history is a circle, not a line, and it moves through time, constantly performing the same motifs in its orchestrations, some instruments playing louder than others, yet the song remains the same.

This paper will be posted to Academia.edu in the coming months. I am nearing completion of a prologue to limn out my purpose, methodology, and most importantly my influences. I am a novice historiographer and would like to excite my reader with a small slice of my passion for history, and more importantly, the manner in which Slovakia and the Slovaks have been role-players in the history of Central Europe. My bags are packed (metaphorically speaking) and I will begin yet another journey through a brief macro-history and then on to the present-day Slovaks and their destiny, to stand with the nations of the world.