Twenty Years ... and Counting

A Polish dissident once told me, “If it took 40 years to create this mentality, why shouldn’t it take 40 years to undo it?” Indeed, though we’ve now surpassed 20 years since the Berlin Wall was torn down, Central and Eastern Europe remain a work in progress. Everything that happens within these young democracies must be seen through the prism of what happened here during four decades of Communism, and how far the region has evolved since. Here, then, is a look at twenty years... and counting.


The Good Slovak Samaritan

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BRATISLAVA – I didn’t want to blog today. I need to write more of the Double-Secret Probationary Project I started this month. Oops, I’ve already said too much.

But then I witness a great act of stranger-to-stranger kindness, the sort of thing that is so rare in post-Communist, every-man-for-himself Central Europe, I notice when it happens.

One Friday Afternoon in Bratislava

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BRATISLAVA – I’ve been meaning to write. Really, I have.

Maybe my sluggishness is because it’s so tough to re-acclimate to colder, wetter weather.

Small-Game Hunting

Monday, November 8, 2010

HONG KONG – A big fat discount. That’s what I wanted on my last day in Hong Kong – a reasonably priced memento of my seven weeks here.

China: The Sixth Landmine

Thursday, October 14, 2010

HONG KONG – Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo – while the man languishes in prison – has inflicted humiliation of epic proportion upon the thin-skinned Communist leadership in Beijing.

The Roots of Hate

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

HEVES, Hungary—For ten years, Szabolc Szedlak toiled in a furniture store in Heves, Hungary, before deciding to chase the capitalist dream. He bought the store from his boss in 2005, but high taxes choked the life out of his business. It folded in June 2008. At the same time, his wife gave birth to their first child. With a second on the way, this spring he found a job as a maintenance man at a local kindergarten. Unable to afford their own place, the couple now lives with Szedlak’s parents. Szedlak has taken whatever work he can find, from painting houses to selling watermelons.

A Chinese Blogging Brigade

Thursday, September 30, 2010

HONG KONG – The Chinese government is mighty successful at muzzling its media, threatening them with everything from censorship to arrest.

Battle of Wills -- and Utensils

Friday, September 17, 2010

HONG KONG – One unheralded pleasure of Hong Kong is eating with chopsticks, every day. This is by choice: many restaurants have fork and knife at the ready, just in case klutzy Westerners drop in. Some even serve me fork and knife automatically, like they did earlier this week in the HKBU faculty restaurant. “Chopsticks, please,” I asked the waitress.

Mitteleuropa: Not Just a State of Mind

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

HAINBURG, Austria – Lounging by the pool in this medieval Austrian town, overlooked by 17th century castle ruins on a hilltop nearby, you can enjoy a schnitzel, a schnappsor an eiskaffee mit schlag. But listen closely, and virtually all you hear on the blankets of fellow sun-bathers is the Slovak language.

Seeing Things For Myself

Friday, August 13, 2010

PRAGUE – I’m no war correspondent. (Though, rubber bullets whizzing overhead, in a night-time street battle during Albania’s 1997 civil unrest, wasn’t exactly fluffy feature-writing.

Chasing Gabor

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bratislava, SLOVAKIA – To be fair, I didn’t give Gabor Vona much warning.

When Foreign Policy contacted me about writing a profile of Vona, an exciting new leader for the far right in Europe, my first goal was to humanize him a bit. That meant visiting his hometown and provincial corner of northeast Hungary. I only had thirty-six hours to do it, so I had to prioritize.

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