BRATISLAVA – After a second sampling of Chinese culture, I’ve returned to Slovakia with a fancy for drinking tea. Straight. No honey or sugar. No lemon or milk. Just the tea, thanks.
In fact, that’s the way I order it from Slovak waiters and waitresses: “Len a čaj.” Only the tea. Most nod and bring me two packets of sugar anyway.
BRATISLAVA – Sometimes, even a Slovak pissoir inspires me.
The old, no-frills Tesco building downtown was recently renovated into a hip shopping mall, with bright lights, sleek displays and basement supermarket with a hu-u-u-uge liquor section. (Not that I'm implying anything about my Slovak neighbors.)
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.
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.
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.
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.