Sunday, December 18, 2005


The Christmas season is in full swing here in East Slovakia. We are lucky to have escaped the carnage of the "War on Christmas" being waged in the U.S., due to the fact that everyone here is affiliated with a Christmas loving religion. There is one very nice synagogue in Prešov, but it is only used as a museum of Slovak Jewry. If you don't know why it's tough to find a nice Hanukah display around these parts, you probably shouldn't have slept through so many history classes in high school.

The city has been decorated with tons of lights, and it's really nice at night. Here's some pics:

During December Slovakia has many Christmas markets, which are opened up in the town squares:

At the markets you can buy crafts for the kids, and many traditional homemade foods. There are also stands which sell hot wine, so people hang around chatting and enjoying themselves:

At school, we had the department Christmas party, which was fun. My boss Dr. Hrehovcik (with the glasses)(pronounced "ray-how-chik") gave a nice toast, and then we all enjoyed wine and snacks in the library:

One of the professors, Margarita, made these excellent pastries. I don't know what was in them, but they were the bomb.

The major difference between the Slovak and the U.S. Christmas is that Santa Claus doesn't bring the presents. Jesus does. I was a little confused, because I figured Jesus would have better things to do than give kids BB guns on his birthday, but that's the way it works here. Santa actually has a separate holiday on December 6th, St. Nicholas day, when kids put boots outside the house at night, which are filled with candy by Santa in the morning.

One commenter asked for a picture of my shower, so here it is as a Christmas present:

The bars above the tub aren't removable, and are about five inches too low, so whenever I take a shower I get a sore neck. Great water pressure, though.

I hope you all get what you want for the holidays. This is the only thing on my wish list:

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Slovenský Raj

School ended last week, so I had the chance to take in some nature around Prešov. One major local attraction, for good reason, is the national park called the "Slovenský Raj", the "Slovak Paradise". It's only a couple hours by bus, to the West, and is quite beautiful this time of year.

I took a few pictures, but others have done much better. Check out these links for info and some great pictures of the park.

I went to "The Raj" with my trusty travel companion/bodyguard Vi, who brought a large stick to fight off any Anti-American bears or other animals with teeth:

We first had to have lunch, so we stopped at the Lesnica restaurant by the trailhead.

Because this blog is really about food, I will tell you about my lunch. Although I was drawn to something called "The Rabbi's Knees" on the English version of the menu, I went with the garlic soup and halusky. It was tasty, although I still have garlic emanating from awkward places.

It had recently snowed, which made everything very winter-like. And icy. I only fell once, towards the end, although I landed on my phone. Bummer.

Here's a view up the trail. We basically went uphill for an hour and a half, and then turned around and came back.

At the beginning of the trail there were some houses, and this snowman was in a backyard. I suggested that we kick it, but was overruled:

There were some great views from higher up the trail, which my pictures do not do justice:

When we got to the top of the trail, we could see across the valley to where the High Tatras mountains are. It was an incredible view, because the snowy peaks blended with the clouds below it, creating a kind of sci-fi/fantasy view that would usually be complimented with a unicorn. This is my best attempt to get it on film:

After that, and breaking my phone with my ass, it was back to Prešov for some hot cocoa. You should have been there!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Interesting Tidbit

This line through the road, which runs in front of the best pizza place in Presov, La Cuckracha ("The Cockroach" in Spanish), marks the 49th Parallel. The 49th Parallel also forms the border between Canada and the United States, from Washington to Minnesota. No wonder it's so damn cold here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Dogs of Europe

When I went to Europe the first time, hundreds of years ago, I took 13 rolls of regular, pre-digital film. After coming home and developing them, I realized that I had almost three full rolls of dog pictures. Now that I am older and more in touch with my feelings, I have learned to accept this compulsion, hence all these pictures of dogs.

In order to make this more interesting, try to guess which dogs are Slovak, Spanish, Austrian and Hungarian. Also, one of these is not a dog. Look closely.

I will be back home among the wheat over the holiday break, if anyone is in the neighborhood. Pictures of the Presov Christmas Market to come!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I've wrestled with the question of whether I should post stories and photos of trips outside Slovakia on this site, as you, the reader, likely clicked on this to get info on the Slovak way of life. In the end, I decided that I don't care, and what else am I going to do with all of these pictures?

Vienna is sort of Slovakian, because it's only about a 45 minute drive from Bratislava. During the Cold War, Vienna was a buffer zone between the East and West, where all kinds of James Bondian stuff occurred. Now, it seems to be all about the Schnitzel. More about that in a minute.

Consider this your photo tour of Vienna. Right this way...

I went to Vienna at the end of October, I think. It seems like a long time ago. For you fans of euphemisms and innuendo, Vienna is commonly known in these parts by its German name "Wien".

I went with some people from the program, who are always a hoot. Standing next to me in this picture (assuming you know who "me" is) is Peter from Bratislava, who was allegedly an excellent pro water-polo player in Vienna a few years back. I see no reason to doubt him.

Viennese people on the whole seem friendly, which isn't obvious from this picture:

There were, however, some disturbing reminders of times that the Viennese forgot to be nice, such as this monument to the "Victims of National Socialism":

There was also this political poster, which basically says that non-German speakers shouldn't be welcomed in Austria.

But enough politics. What about the big buildings?

If there's one thing we've all seen a lot of in Europe, it is big cathedrals. And Vienna has about the biggest cathedral I have ever seen.
I didn't realize that it was tacky to take flash photography in a church, so here is a view of the inside. It was incredible, and incredibly big.

We soon came upon this big palace in the center of the city:

At this point I would like to admit that yes I am ignorant when it comes to remebering the names of important places. I want to remember, but when you see so much in a day it starts to blend together. I will try to improve.

In front of the palace there were some incredible sculptures. I refer to these two as "The Scared Man" and "Women Where's My Dinner?!"

Speaking of dinner, we had a very nice meal at a place called "Centimeter", where you can actually buy food, like sausage, by the meter. Here's us with a meter of beer:

Instead of ordering a meter of anything, I went with the local favorite, the Weinerschnitzel, which as you can see is named after Vienna. I always thought a Wienerschnitzel was a hot dog, because when I would visit relatives in New Mexico they had a fast food place named "Weinerschnitzel" which just served hot dogs. Very confusing:

In order to further the educational purpose of this blog, here is a wienerschnitzel recipe from Wolfgang Puck, which I'm sure is authentic.

Boy was I stuffed, but probably not as much as these people who ordered the restaurant's signature "Food in a Wheelbarrow":

Jane, our group's vegetarian, ordered this. It is tough to be a vegetarian in Central Europe:

Next we went to the giant open-air market, where the eating continued. It sells all kinds of interesting food, such as this assortment of olives:

We were guided around by these two nice Viennese people, friends of one of the group from school. The girl is holding a coconut drink, which comes in a carved coconut:

I had my first "Sacher Torte", the famous cake shown below. It was pretty good, not as sweet as I am used to. I unfortunately never got to try Vienna's other famous dessert, the "Mozart Balls".

Everyone was enjoying the market, especially this guy:

I also saw a couple ads for some shows, which I bet would have been rad:

After all this eating we took the subway to the former imperial winter palace. It was very impressive:

I really liked Vienna, it is a beautiful city. I even thought it was my favorite Central European city, but then I went to Budapest. That's for another day.

I recently found out that I get over two months off from school, which doesn't begin again until the end of February. I'm thinking of just getting on a train and going somewhere picturesque, so that I can take more pictures for you all to see. Any suggestions?