Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Apropos of Nothing

I am a bit of a collector/connoisseur of spam e-mail, and received a real humdinger today.

It was from "Dorothy", and had the following subject line: Erections are still possible Curt.

Who's Curt?

As for Slovakia news, Spring has sprung!


Out of curiosity, does anyone ever look at the links?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Banksa B

Last weekend I headed to the town of Banská Bystrica in Central Slovakia, in the Hron River Valley which is high in the mountains , according to the city website. Here is a picture of mountains to emphasize this point:

I made this grueling three and a half hour journey to attend the birthday gathering of a member of the program, Michael S. Here's him:

The party was superb. Little toasts were served:

There was also an incredible spread of crackers, cheese, olives, some vegetables and a mangled pineapple. I ate about 14 deviled eggs, because I assumed it would be quite some time until my next helping:

The whole gang was there, and now they are here:

Also in attendance was this young lady, an incredible opera singer and in my opinion the future queen of the United States:

To culturally enhance the gathering my closest friends from Gaul attended, and were nice enough to either enjoy or pretend to enjoy the hor's douvres, thereby granting them the coveted French seal of cuisine approval:

I would be lying if I said I didn't have fun, and exaggerating if I said it was the greatest party I've ever been to. Some of us chipped in and got Michael this gift, which according to the lady at the shop bestows good fortune upon its owner:

It was a hoot and a half, but soon we were all off to bed to prepare for a big day of sightseeing in Banska B.


Now in the light of day we were able to get a good look at Michael's surroundings, thanks to the light. We immediately noticed the ski jump in his backyard:

Not only that, but this house down the street clearly qualifies for most funky in the E.U. Did this person paint a large, 3-D cigarette on the front of their house? Yes they did:

A bit down the road we came to the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising:

If you are too busy to read the above link, I will summarize. The Nazis (from Germany) took over Czechoslovakia, and some people in Banska B thought they were jerks. Some of them got guns and were like "get out of my face", and then many of them were shot by Nazis, thereby proving that the Nazis were jerks. For more information please click on the above link.

Enough history! Do you like Massive Attack? Enough to go see them in Bratislava?

Finally we entered the beautiful square of Banska B, which I have to admit is perhaps even more beautiful than my beloved P-town.

One of the first things we saw in the square was this, which sparked a furious debate on the following topic: Do birds have penises?

After typing the query "Do birds have penises" into Google, I had my answer.

Banska B was one of the most fiercely pro-communist cities in Slovakia, so I was told, and this monument might be evidence of that. Fill in your own splenetic remark, and win a prize!:

Next it was off to the really nice cemetery behind the church, which was being visited by a steady stream of locals. Here's some pics:

I was delighted to see that the local Banska B'ites liked N.W.A. so much that they felt the need to declare it on the wall of their cemetery. I personally prefer Eazy-E, but don't tell Ice Cube I said that. He'd be pissed:

Side note: In Europe they have lots of Capri Sun, such as this German version I found in the snow:

Do we still have Capri Sun in the U.S.? Do you remember Shasta? This person does.

After walking around for almost twenty minutes, not including about ten minutes of just kinda standing there, I was famished. So we headed off to eat at the local Red Lobster:

Much to my chagrin, this was not the Red Lobster we know, love and have occasionally received trichinosis at, but a local version. This meant that I would not be receiving any of the world-famous and insanely delicious Red Lobster Cheese Garlic Biscuits, although I guess I could make them myself. Instead I ordered the giant halusky with pork, which went down like a dream, to mix metaphors:

After all this walking and eating, we were bushed and eventually hit the hay.


The next morning we were treated to an extremely excellent and American breakfast of chocolate chip covered pancakes, courtesy of two very kind folks, Michael D.R. and Susan D.R. (AKA Suzy Q). Wait, I forgot to tell you about the 4 hour game of Uno I was involved in. I don't want to get off track, here are the pancakes:

The D.R.'s home, which they are renting for the year, is very nice, and furnished with great stuff like these Russian nesting dolls and an antique reel-to-reel which must be worth a fortune:

A great weekend was had by all, and I am still full.

It looks like this coming weekend will be the date of the much anticipated "Hamburger Party" which I have been promising the locals for months. I know where to get the meat, the buns, the grill and the charcoal, and I have been hoarding BBQ sauce under my bed. Will it all come together in the end? Tune in next week and see! If you care!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Presov Restaurant Reviews

For your benefit this last week I spent an inordinate amount of time in local restaurants, instead of staying home and eating my now regular meal of bread, string cheese and perhaps an apple. Consider this the Zagat's of Presov, at least until the actual Presov Zagat's is released.

Fiezda Restaurant

Fiezda is located directly across the street from school, and is akin to "The Max" from "Saved by the Bell". Opinions on the Fiezda vary, with proposals to go there for lunch eliciting everything from shouts of joy and high-fiving all the way to whimpering and shrieks of terror. I personally think it is O.K., but I generally eat bread and string cheese (see above), so I guess my opinion is perhaps compromised.

Food: The menu at Fiezda changes regularly, I think, or it is also possible that I forget what is on the menu and am constantly surprised. It leans toward standard Slovak fare, with three different preparations of Vyprazany Syr, as seen here:

If I had a gun to my head and had to recommend something, I would go with the chicken thingy which comes with a pile of coleslaw. I never liked coleslaw, and I don't now, but I tend to eat this particular coleslaw and not feel particularly unhappy about it for some reason.

I wouldn't recommend the fish, even though I have never had it at Fiezda. Someone told me that Slovakia is as far away from the sea as you can get in Europe. I don't have the facts on this, but I tend to believe it, especially after an unfortunate incident I had eating fish at the school cafeteria, the details of which should be available in the forthcoming edition of The European Journal of Gastroenterology.

Rating: "Abandon (some) hope, ye who enter here"

Beverages: Fiezda offers a range of coffees, beers and soft drinks. Many people come here just to drink, which makes quite a bit of sense. Here you can also find the most popular Slovak drink, in regular and citrus flavors, Kofola:

Kofola is hugely popular with the kids, who prefer it to Coke and Pepsi, which many Slovaks find to be too sweet. I often have debates about Kofola with my students, which I think tastes like a combination of corn syrup, paprika and battery acid that has been vomited upon. I hesitate to criticize the Kofola for fear of my safety, but it just isn't for me. However, if you've got to drink it go with the citrus, and get it from the tap.

Rating: 9/2 (out of 3)

Ambiance: The Fiezda is separated into the smoking and non-smoking rooms. When I eat alone I go to the non-smoking room, where I am generally by myself and am free to eat and contemplate things such as why my ATM card refuses to work in peace. If I am with another person, however, that person is inevitably European, so it is off to the smoking room.

When I read the greatly bearded C. Everett Koop's 1984 statement that smoking "is a voluntary act: one does not have to smoke if one does not want to," I immediately knew that he had never eaten at Fiezda in the smoking room. I'm trying to say that it is very smokey, albeit in a clever roundabout way. I have failed. Here is a picture:

I've actually grown used to the smoke, and have learned to live with my new emphysema. The smoking room is actually made cool by the fact that it holds the "babyfoot" table, which is foosball to you American folks:

I don't know why, but I've always had trouble calling it babyfoot like the Europeans. I think this is due to a joke I heard in grad school about a baby's arm, but I'm not sure, I'm not a psychologist.

Rating: Malignant!

Value: Not even all that cheap, with some hot fried cheese running you about 2.50. I view my trips to Fiezda as a bit of a luxury, but you can score some "American potatoes" for a buck.

Rating: 8 (out of whatever)

Service: I like one of the waiters, who dresses like Mr. Belevedere's long lost son, but the waitress is somewhat surly. Then again, most waitresses here are somewhat surly, so I guess I shouldn't complain.

Rating: Just give me the fried cheese

If this restaurant were an animal, it would be: A hamster, with a social disease.

La Cucaracha

Widely considered to be the best pizza place in town, it has two convenient locations on the main street and is named after a cockroach. Here are some pictures of the front door:

Food: The food here is generally good, although I've only had the pizza. There are some eye-catching menu items such as Argentinean something-or-other(my translation), but the pizza is the reason to go.
Like many Slovak pizza places, the Cuc offers a number of non-traditional toppings such as vajcia (egg), hrášok (peas) and morský koktejl (something about a shark). They also go pretty heavy on the corn, which I have grown to appreciate. But avoid "The Diablo", it is a real fireball.

Rating: Mouth-Pleasing

Ambiance: Depends on the Cucaracha you choose. One is upstairs in a smoke filled room with a number of pool tables and is lit like the timeout room at Abu Ghraib. The other is downstairs in what looks like a well-lit fallout shelter with wooden benches. Can't go wrong either way.

Rating: Sophie's Choice

Service: I don't remember anything particularly negative, and the Cucaracha stands out by giving those of us whose Slovak is a bit non-existant the ability to order online for home delivery. This is much appreciated. And that is also the rating, "much appreciated". This ratings conceit is becoming a bit much.

If this restaurant were an animal, it would be: A cockroach on PCP, making pizzas.

The Irish Pub

In the interest of full disclosure, I know in passing the three sisters who jointly run this fine establishment. Therefore I am somewhat biased, but you probably wouldn't trust my opinions anyway, so whatever.

The I.P. is quite a swanky establishment, and is one of only two places in town that offer Guinness. It's also where the dregs of the English-speaking world, like me, often meet, so it's a good place to run into a native speaker.

Here are some pictures of the I.P., along with pictures of the heads of the French people whom I generally go there with:

Food: I have been to the Irish Pub about five times, and have always had the same thing, so I will tell you about the aforementioned thing. It is called "The Paddy" and is essentially a piece of corn on the cob and some ribs. I think this is the only place to get ribs in town, and it reminds me of the Lenexa BBQ Battle, so I get the ribs for sentimental reasons.

The ribs are good, but they have a bit of a problem (always something). The ribs are not so much seasoned as caked in salt, to the point that I honestly get slightly chapped lips after eating them. I once even got a headache after eating the ribs, which I attributed to dehydration from the salt (and not the beers). Why do I keep eating them? Well, I like salt, although I don't like it nearly as much as Slovaks, who must win the Hypertension competition at the Cardiac Arrest Olympics quadrennially. Can you believe I just used the word quadrennially? I actually had to look it up.

They also have chicken wings, which you can order by the piece a la Hooters (not that I have ever eaten there)(but I did work there)(in the back)(not a euphemism). They look tasty, and I may give them a whirl on my next trip.

Rating: Salt Lick!

Value: One of the priciest places in town, but on the whole it's worth it, with food prepared with fancy artistic garnishes of parsley and whatnot. Good for that special night out with that special person who especially likes salt.

Rating: Cough it up

Ambiance: Nice wood paneling, a warm fireplace, and a long bar covered with Guinness mementos. If you drink enough you can make yourself believe you are at an Irish bar in any other European country, besides Ireland.

Rating: I don't know, I can't really quantify this

Service: The three sisters are always working the place in shifts, and are very friendly to us foreigners. I think part of the reason is that my friend J.C. (no relation), who I often meet at the I.P., is extremely close to the family, and is even the godfather of one of their kids. Nothing gets you good service like knowing the guy who gets good service, so good service is gotten by me. I'm tired of the ratings.

If this restaurant were an animal, it would be: Delicious

Cafe Gramola

I've never been in, I just liked the sign.

At this point in the post I would like to proposition you. Me and one of the great French filmakers of our time, the Vi, are working on making a movie, and we want you to be in it! All you need is a crappy digital camera that has a video function, and someoene to hold it for you. If you're interested in being rich, famous, and ridiculed daily on VH1 please e-mail me at Later Taters!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


So I went to Budapest in like November, put these pictures on the site out of order and then never got the time or energy to write about my trip. I don't feel like it now, either, so I'll just write a few words for each photo and that will be that.

I took pictures of Italian people getting their picture taken:

This is the parliament Building. The parliament building is the best:

This is the inner courtyard of the hostel I stayed in. Wow!

This is my bed in the hostel.

This is an example of the Hungarian language, one of the hardest to learn in the world. Nasty!

This is a Canadian guy we hung out with. Can you believe it?

This is a Phil Collins poster. Do you know that A-Ha is one of the biggest bands in this region("Take on Me"), and that they have a greatest hits album with 18 songs? What the dilly?

These are pictures of the heavily guarded American Embassy. You never know when someone might attack the Embassy with paprika, Hungary is a dangerous place. At least it doesn't make us seem paranoid:

Another picture of the parliament. Gyönyörű!

Brown dog:

Hungarian VIP:

Bridge between Buda and Pest:

The town where we crossed the Slovak-Hungarian Border:

The flag of a certain country. You guess:

The parliament building, for the seventh time:

Now I'm exhausted. I'm working on some more local restaurant reviews, as that seems to be the only thing my two regular readers are interested in. And besides, it gives me a good reason to go to the other three places in town.