31 July 2009

The Prague Spring and Grilled Pork Products

Two of my favorite topics, actually.

A bit outside of Užhorod, in a triangulation between the center, Nevitske Castle and the Slovak border, in a valley along a stream, is a villa which official history has seemingly forgotten, if official history ever knew that it existed:
Dubček slept here.

While official history (as I link to Wikipedia, hah!) has the Warsaw Five (USSR, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and East Germany) meeting in Dresden and the Czechoslovaks and Soviets meeting in Čierna nad Tisou to deal with the Prague Spring, both of which did happen, there was also a meeting of the Warsaw Five plus Dubček at this villa outside of Užhorod.  Despite all of the heavy business they had to deal with (the human face of socialism, for example), they also had an indoor pool, outdoor billiards tables, and stocked trout stream in an idyllic spot so that they could at least be comfortable while everyone (except our hero Dubček, of course) plotted to invade and occupy Czechoslovakia.

To the left here is the indoor swimming pool building.  It's hard to describe how the stocked trout stream worked, and I don't have any good pictures.  But basically, the stream was diverted into a series of concrete-walled pools, where the trout was stocked by the caretakers so that Brezhnev was practically guaranteed to catch a trout.

We were there with the son of the original caretaker.  Apparently the place was bought a few years ago, and renovations were begun, and then it switched hands, but now it lies mostly in decay, where it will become part of the ruins of modern history.

After visiting this amazing place, we went a bit farther down the same stream, where we had one of the most insanely delicious opekačkas I've experienced here.  Is Subcarpathia poorer than, for example, Eastern Slovakia or the US?  Yes.  But do we all have our own vineyards?  Homemade bacon? No!  So where is the quality of life a bit better? If you answered Subcarpathia, you're right.

Immediately upon us finalizing our plans to go there, I began salivating for Subcarpathian champagne.  Picture it - Subcarpathia, summer of 1997: My aunt and I were visiting Užhorod and we met some strangers who insisted on taking us on a picnic somewhere in the hills.  It was back in the day when drinking the water there was definitely not a very good idea, and all they had for us to drink was vodka and the local champagne.  What was my aunt to do, when obviously I needed to drink something on a hot summer day?  Of course, on the drive back to Užhorod I was passed out, but that was actually good because I wasn't consciously aware of sitting in a probably unsafe Lada, breathing in fumes and with all of the windows rolled up in the sweltering heat.  But the champagne had made an impression.

Putting the meat on the skewers -- yes, that guy has on a Chuck Close t-shirt, 
and that woman was Belorussian and gorgeous with such great energy.

This was the tip of the iceberg.  It grew.

Fast forward to 2009: We started to grill, and we were given two kinds of local homemade wine to sample.  Then, as we sat down to eat, the homemade champagne came out.  Ohhhhhh sooooo good.  The whole evening, which had been unplanned, was a veritable bacchanal of fresh homemade wine and amazing homemade foods.  To je život!

No comments: