I am suprized how much we’ve discussed politics here in Europe. Not American politics so much as what has become of the nations as they try to join the EU & after the split from Russia or neighboring countries. In Slovakia the people are harder & colder. But it isn’t rude it is almost uncertainty. They have no true identity yet. They have no sense of pure nationality & you can tell they’ve had years of rule that shaped them. Now that they are “free” they are struggling to become independent of the nations that surround them. Their buildings (as far as Roland has said) are influenced by Vienna, yet their nightlife is a bad mimic of a cosmopolitan city like Prague. You can sense the lack of prosperity, how desperate some can feel. The buildings of many in the city are covered in graffiti, and not the beautiful intricate graffiti but as if a 13 yr. old brat got his hands on a can of spraypaint. The old town we visit today & I expect to see a different Bratislava.
I at least learned a little about myself today. I mentioned to Roland we should only stay one day, after only 10 min. on the bus from the airport to the hostel. I thought about that. Why was I so quick to judge? How would I feel if someone came to St. Louis & judged us by North County? Or Portland & their stupid suburbs? I realized my prejudices would hold me back unless I defied them. SO we are staying til Monday morning before heading to Budapest. Last night we went to an authentic ‘Slovak Pub’ & I had dumplings & meat in a pretty untasty sauce, yet it was VERY filling. We drank an unslovak beer (on accident- we thought it was “authentic Slovak beer”) & smokes as students came from different nationalities. Not many talked to us & I felt a twinge of age, seeing these kids drink & laugh w/ friends. 2 Slovak gents (about our age I’d guess) came & sat with us. One spoke very little English & I could tell he was rather bored, yet the other lived awhile in Wisconsin & we had lots to talk about. He described how it felt for Slovaks in this time of transition, how the nation is redefining themselves. He laughed about hockey & futbol & baseball. He was kind; soft-spoken but somewhat off-put. I am not sure many Americans make their way here, we seem an anomaly.
Tonight we are in a dorm hostel. 600 koranas cheaper, but last night was in this beautiful private room where I am writing now. We are staying in a home of a brother & sister & their older dog Charlie. There are white lace curtains, TV & a small shower. A view of the castle can be seen from the street & the neighborhood is green & hilly. The house seems old but well made. The sister is kind but doesn’t speak English, just German & Roland’s German isn’t as strong as he thinks, but we derive many words similarly so I was able to understand some things.
A big thing I’ve noticed is that the radio’s all seem to listen to Soft Rock. I hear songs big in the 80’s “I’m holding out for a hero”. It’s weird. & American TV is on the TV, along with porn. PORN! We are so puritan in America! God Damn it I WANT PORN FOR ALL!
Sunday Morn 9:30 AM
Bratislava. It was a unique and interesting start to our epic 2006 European World Cup Tour. We picked it because it was the cheapest flight out of Dublin to the mainland. We had spent two nights in Dublin, so my first European experiences happened there, but Bratislava was the first experience in Eastern Europe, which is a whole other animal.
I do remember the bus ride, and the feeling like we were severely out of place. It could be that it was only May and the height of the tourist season had yet to begin, it could be that Bratislava wasn’t really a “tourist destination” per say, it could be a hyper-sensitive Tricia that constantly wondered why people didn’t instantly love her. Regardless, I was tempted to jump ship and head to the relative safety of Budapest and what I conceived of as a “legitimate” city. This trip was a ground breaking moment for me, I had never been in a place where everyone spoke another language. Even in Dublin, they spoke English (even if I occasionally had to wade through a particularly thick brogue). I hadn’t seen Communist Era Housing before and the concrete block buildings, all uniform, lining the train tracks seemed uninviting and even menacing. The sides of the buildings were decorated in graffiti that lacked any imagination, and now that I think of it, probably had more to do with territory than expression of self. It wasn’t pretty and I was scared that we were stuck here, that we were staying in a room of an apartment with strangers and that literally no one we had met yet spoke English. Roland remained calm (at least in my memory) while I easily teared up and asked too many questions.
The fact is, Bratislava was a great experience. After writing this we went to our hostel and had a great conversation with the hostel workers about how pissed off the Bratislavians were about the movie Hostel. It took place in Bratislava but they filmed it in Prague. This is a double slap in the face, because they gave Bratislava the reputation of being a torture-porn mecca but with non of the movie profits that come with making a film. (Plus it was filmed in Bratislava’s arch nemesis city Prague) Apparently, the hostel was getting tons of reservations for the summer however, which made the hostel worker very excited, so I guess it all worked out in the end.
We packed up our stuff and took off for Old Town Bratislava and it was absolutely gorgeous. We enjoyed walking around the castle in the heart of Old Town, meandering around cobblestone drives that seemed just big enough for a bicycle but people were driving on. We found a small café, where we sat drinking beers with a great view of the castle as sunset neared. We sat next to an older couple, I can’t remember where in Europe they were from, but they spoke English and when they left us, Roland and I talked about being like them when we were older.
There is something so tender and magical when I open this particular journal. There are so many blank pages, as I returned to Portland after our trip and forgot my journal. Which I did. There are empty pages because I stopped journaling as I returned to school and writing became research papers and reports. There are empty pages, which make the ones I wrote on more startling, more visceral. This journal is about changes, and that final shift before the changes were enacted. This journey changed me, physically and emotionally. It is especially poignant as I started my first day at my new job yesterday. It feels as if the last 6 months of writing this blog is similar to this journal. As if I needed to have this outlet, this journaling, this pouring of myself on paper in order to take the next step.
As my friend Erica From America painted for me: