Slov-ockey

9 Mar

song of the week *click*

Bratislava, Slovakia. Say it. What is the first thing you think of? Close your eyes and say it again. Bratislava, Slovakia. I think of a steel-minded, hard working people governed by a corrupt network of nepotists. And what crosses your mind? Bad techno music and a love for hockey? A place where warm weather consists of not skating in the middle of the pond? Bears? I’ll tell you what I discovered:

Slovakia has, arguably, the nicest people I have come across in my travels. I flew in to Bratislava late on a Thursday evening and arrived at my hostel (Hostel Vegas) just before 11p. A large dude with a sly grin, who appeared to be in party mode, flanked the check-in desk. I handed my passport over to the woman behind the counter and he caught a glimpse of my last name. “Milanoski, you have some Slovak in you?” I told him my name was Polish, which is Slavic by association. He asked me how long and where I was staying, and told him of my elaborate 3 hostels in 3 nights plan, one of which was in Vienna. “You don’t want to stay there, too expensive, just cancel and stay here. Now put your bag in the room, we’re going for some beers.” Fine by me. I cancelled my two other hostel reservations, signed up for the weekend at Hostel Vegas and prepared for a night out in Bratislava with Lukas, some Brazilians, and 5 girls from Prague (4 American, 1 Turkish) I was sharing the room with.

The place we went, Rio, was the kind of bar you see in the new Vampire movies with marginally talented actors. You’ll see when you go through my pictures (link below). Very cool atmosphere, and very bad techno. The Slovak people love their free time, and give everything to the night. In contrast, at an English pub there is normally the reserved souls wishing for the old days of aristocracy or in America the guys in the corner watching sports hawking which hooters girl they’ll take a stab at. None of that was evident, ad quite the contrary. Conversations between strangers became chic, and by the end of the night I must have told my story to three or four different groups. I even met a Euro-Pro basketball player named Steve.

The only times I expect to be in America are when I walk out of different venues. Every time I see a movie, I expect to be in a parking lot walking towards my car. When I leave a bar or pub, I am thinking about where I parked my bicycle. Imagine the sensation of expecting Purdue’s Chauncey Hill area and instead seeing a square with a lit castle in the background. The landscape is sobering, and the walk to the hostel transforms from a head-down stumble to a stroll of wonderment.

Friday night I went to an HC Slovan hockey game. The rink had a capacity of about 3000, and was mostly empty. Tickets cost 3 Euros, and were worth every cent. The crowd is very much into the game, and the rabid fan section had a full complement of flags, drums and noisemakers of all sorts. The old-school organ hockey music played and the beers were emptied and refilled. Going to a low-key sporting event in another country might be the best way to gain an insight on the culture. I felt like I was hidden away into their cupboard watching them eat Christmas dinner.

I learned something valuable on the excursion to Vienna. When travelling alone, and you have a plan, don’t invite others that you may be sharing a room with. They only slow you down. While I enjoyed the company of the 4 ladies I was rooming with, I would have been much more content alone and wandering the city of Vienna. Mark it zero, Dude. Lesson Learned.

The rest of the trip is displayed well in the photos; so I’ll leave some of your imagination free to think of my wanderings, maybe place yourself there next to me.

Arriving back in London, I arranged to meet one of my flatmates, Dean, at the cinema to see The Hurt Locker. I think the Academy finally made a good decision, and the movie doesn’t disappoint. From beginning to end, it provides a very accurate depiction of military life (I’m speaking in general, having not been to Iraq). Of course, the director also did Point Break, a quintessential heist/surf film, which never gets as much credit as it deserves (Pat Swayze at his finest).

In other news, one of my good friends Willie just had a baby boy. Most newborns have the appearance of a loaf of cold cuts or a space alien, but Jake has a face with some character. The occurrence of my friends having children is increasing and I often wonder what fatherhood will be like. It seems so distant, but no rush on my part. I guess finding a girl who can stand me for more than a few months would be a start. I’ll just keep telling myself I’m too selective for the time being. Congrats to Willie, and Matt, both who have new sons within the past couple months.

Bratislava Pictures *click*

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