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Easy Bratislava / Bratislava Facile

Easy Bratislava (2nd edition) - Cover Page

This is the largest practical guide to Bratislava which has been published till now. Contains less pictures but more guiding text information for foreigners "who just arrived or are thinking about settling in Bratislava for a short- or long-term stay." The book was published in the second edition in 2006.

As was written by authors of the book - two Frenchwomen who had been living in the Slovak capital - Florence Nys and Christine Franz, "the content of this guide has been gathered from their expatriate experience in general and in Bratislava in particular..."

"The guide has 7 parts. The first part is directed more particularly to those who just arrived in Bratislava, and who need to get organized (get papers, find housing, buy a car, get a telephone...). The remaining parts contain information needed on a daily basis: services (language courses, dry-cleaners...), children (schools, activities, shopping...), health (Is there a doctor ho speaks English?), shopping (from the essential to the most frivolous), going out and leisure activities (Is there an Indian restaurant in Bratislava? Is it possible to play tennis in the winter?) and last but not least, living in Slovakia (What do I need to know about the countr, What can I see here?)."

Each chapter contains useful addresses. The book is published in two versions - English and French.

LIVING IN BRATISLAVA, AND IN SLOVAKIA...

"Culturally speaking, Slovakia is not difficult to adjust to," write authors in the chapter LIVING IN BRATISLAVA.... "Life in Bratislava would be quite easy, all in all, if the language wasn't so difficult!" The authors recommend to foreigners, to "take a few classes before arriving to Slovakia, just to learn how to pronounce and read written Slovak. That part is not so hard, and will prove very useful." A part of the book is some basic vocabulary to get reader off to a successful stay in Slovakia.

Me, as a Slovak, found interesting a subchapter Habits and Customs. Slovaks sometimes do not know what differentiate them from other nations. Foreigners, on the other hand, even after living awhile in Slovakia, still overestimate some Slovak habits and customs. Lets take a look at it:

SHOES AT THE DOOR (Beware of socks with holes!)

When you enter a Slovak home, in winter as well in summer, it is polite to remove your shoes. Sometimes your host will provide guest slippers, sometimes not.

My comment: A host usually tells you to not remove your shoes but he is glad if you accept a shoes at the door habit.

NAME DAYS

In Slovakia, there is a Slovak name designated for each day of the year. For a Slovak, this name day celebration is more important than a birthday. Most calendars sold here show the names; arm yourself with this information so you won't forget to celebrate your Slovak friends` name days.

My comment: A birthday is more important than a name day for Slovaks, usually.


Easter switch

THE LITTLE WHIPPS

On the Monday after Easter, with the arrival of better weather, it is customary to do spring-cleaning. This is also important day for young Slovak women. Custom has it that, in order to stay beautiful and fresh, the boys must beat them with specially decorated whips made out of bundles of branches and ribbons, and then douse them with water. Apparently it works well, because Slovak women are attractive.

My comment: Some Slovak women refuse this whipping and watering customs. (And they are still attractive.)

GASTRONOMY

The national Slovak dish is "halusky", which is best described as a kind of gnocchi with goat cheese. Generally, it is stick-to-your ribs fare, but it can be delicious if it is well prepared. Recommended in days when you intend to take long hikes in the Tatras!

My comment: Authors of English Internet pages devoted to Slovakia usually translate Halusky as dumplings - gnocchi looks like a better translation.

Cabbage (in every variety), potatoes, pork and chicken are the basic ingredients of Slovak cuisine.

Slovakia is a wine producing country. The entire Small Carpathian Mountain area (which includes villages such as Modra) is covered with vineyards. Some red and white wines are worth checking out. A must, however, is a sample of the famous Slovak "Tokay" which holds its own next to the better-known Tokays of neighboring Hungary.

And no discussion of Slovakia would be complete without mentioning "slivovica"; a dangerously strong drink made from plums.

GOOSE

From the end of September to the end of December, roast goose is the traditional Slovak dish. Yes, it can even be a finger-food. Do not miss it...

My comment: Yes, goose is important, but before goose are lokse - potato crepes. And crepes and goose are in September / October often accompanied with drinking known as burciak - this is a pre wine juice in the beginning of fermentation.

"Mgr."

In Slovakia, titles are very important, You will see this abbreviation on Slovak business cards or business mail. This does not mean "Monseigneur" or even "Manager", but "Magister", which is an academic degree awarded at University.

Christmas Market in Bratislava - Main Square.

CHRISTMAS

At the beginning of December, the main square of Bratislava /Hlavne namestie/ fills with little wooden stands. This is the traditional Central European Christmas market. Some stands sell traditional crafts, while others sell wonderful treats: mulled wine, crepes, sandwiches, and grilled sausages. It is the place where families or work colleagues meet for snack at lunch and even a cup of wine. Thermal underwear makes it pleasant place to spend a little time on a winter day or a romantic snowy evening!...Wooden stands disappear on Christmas Eve (24 December). Slovaks usually fast during Christmas Eve day and eat the traditional carp dinner with their family that night.

"-OVA"

You will quickly notice that all women's surname end in "-ova". For example, if the husband's surname is "Smith", the wife or daughter is "Smithova". In the past, "-ova" meant "woman of" (as in: "Smith's woman"). Although the ownership connotation has faded, the use of "-ova" continues today, signifying the persons is female.

My comment: Not all Slovaks like "-ova". Some Slovak feminists are among them.

By Vladimir Bibel

Order: Easy Bratislava (2nd edition) - The Practical Guide to Settling and Living in Bratislava.
Order: Bratislava Facile 2.
February 4, 2010   
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