May 19, 2012: Our Eastern European journey continues.
We took the train into the capital of Slovakia today, to a city called Bratislava. I will admit to you this, kind reader, I had not the vaguest idea that Slovakia was a country in and of itself. Apparently, it was once one half of Czechoskovakia, until the country split apart, and now the Czech Republic and Slovakia despise one another but remain neighbors. Neighbors sometimes do that. Despise one another, that is.
One third of our travelling core, Shelton, has been adamant that we visit this city, as his family is from this country. I had my doubts, please know that. And as our train slows to the crawl that denotes our impending arrival, I glance out of the windows to the countryside we're about to visit and as I do so, my doubts turn into concerns.
The outskirts of the city are scattered, literally littered, with hubbles. We step off the train and the concern mounts and then builds. Graffiti plasters walls and benches and signs and stairwells. The locals are not only missing teeth, but limbs and clothes, as well. That might be an exaggeration, but you see what I'm getting at.
Alas, we are men, and men push on. I stare firmly into a young rapscallion's eyes as he gives us the business. He is smaller than me, and younger, maybe 12, so I feel confident I could take him. Maybe. He has a mohawk and lightning bolts shaved into the sides of his head. He stares back at me angrily and takes a drag on his fag. Man, that made him look tough. I broke his stare and carried on, careful of not turning my back to the tiny anarchist.
Brad found a panhandler blathering and gibbering about and he tells us to check out a hotel nearby called 'Mercure'. We take his advice, for what reason I do not know, and walk a few blocks from the train station to find the hotel situated off to the side of some old, unused train tracks. Lots of things appear to be old and unused here.
Shelton's bag is breaking apart at one of the seems and he is hindered by that, the bag slapping against his legs make him limp slightly, so he's bringing up the rear of our American contingent. We stride somewhat sheepishly into the antiquated city of Bratislava and as we do, I scan some building's windows for watching eyes, or sniper barrels, or maybe some naked people doing Bratislavan things. I think of how cool it would be to see all of those in one window at the same time. Like a sniper sex-watch-party or something.
But I have to admit, my mounted, building concerns over this Eastern European city were all for not, and the hotel provided comfort to this sheltered man. It was immaculate. Easily comparable to a W hotel back in the states. It really was an enigma. We rejoiced, followed the concierge's advice, and proceeded in being very American the rest of the day and into the night.
And as the night wore on, it became clear that this city of Bratislava had the most stunningly beautiful women we've encountered so far. Nicest? No. But shockingly ridiculously good looking? Yes. And they all dress themselves in highlighter bright garments.
After three days of speaking with Europeans, we've come to realize that the language barrier is most likely the biggest of barriers. Besides an actual, physical barrier. That would be tougher to communicate through. A concrete wall would be tough, for surely. But at a certain point, much like an electric-collared dog, we will simply get the point, but that point is not yet, for we still have many more invisible fences to run into.
Quite literally, we were the only Americans at the local hotspot Discotech that night. Our American music was jammed by the DJ and there we were. If anyone out there reading this post knows me in the slightest, you will know that I am a dancer. I don't know where or when I became a dancer, but I am. And so our American music played and away I danced. High-kicks, spins, twirlies, thrusts, lots of thrusts, and of course, the deep, knee-bend stretches.
Let us leave that topic and speak now to the male Slovakian. The men of Bratislava are a raucous bunch, the lot of them. The majority of these beasts resemble Zangief from the popular video game 'Street Fighter 2.' For those unfamiliars with that comparison, this 'Zangief' is a monster of a man with short, buzzed hair, heavy-set serious eyes, a forehead like a shovel, and a five'o clock shadow the day he was born. Bratislavan Zangiefs mean business, in the most primal of ways. They grab women all over the place, exhibiting no respect for her personal space or boundaries. I blended right in. Stop it now.
But, in my beefiest of days, I literally looked just like these men, save for the knockoff Affliction shirts and tattooed biceps.
Oh, Brad explained to Shelton what a hemmorhoid was today.
Fourteen years of Spanish education and Shelton's advice to us is 'danke' in German.
A quick note on Brad: if he's good at anything, and this I'm fairly certain, he might be spectacular at, it is offending locals. And inversely, if I'm good at anything, it's smoothing over Brad's messes. Eighteen years of friendship has that effect sometimes.
Shelton is agitated that neither Brad nor myself would like to visit a concentration camp. I don't understand his passion in this instance, as he's neither Jewish nor German, and has been telling us that 'those who don't know the past are doomed to repeat it.' I disagree with him here, as I don't have a clue as to how to build a concentration camp.
Our Slovakian conquest ended and it's fair to say, we got the Key to the City! The key is to not look into a drunken Zangiefs eyes and you'll be fine in the City.
The next stop on our journey will be Vienna, Austria, and we will stay there for two nights.
Untill then...don't judge too early, for you might just miss out on your Bratislava.