27 August 2009

Trying for Safety/Learning the Hard Way

This article in today's Frugal Traveler about travel medicine is so timely and so helpful.  Yesterday I stopped in REI and picked up one of these so that I (and hiking partners) could avoid getting caught again the way I (we) did in Subcarpathia. 

25 August 2009

Contemporary Rusyn Musical Theatre

Thanks to finding out a friend is from Šarišské Jastrabie, it motivated me to finally upload this video, which is something I mentioned a while ago:

I think the story is loosely a Snow White sort of thing, the little dwarves (?) are really cute and some of these kids already have great strong voices.


So let us consider this to be the first of many posts describing the potential pleasures of armchair travels, with a video of Cologne, Germany in the highly lovely tilt-shift style:

The Joys of Sansserif Type

So let us consider this to be the first of many posts describing the simple joys and adventures that can be found in and around my hometown.  Today, as I was leaving Office Max, I saw I was parked near this beauty:
and I got in and out of the car twice as I saw the details that tickled my fancy, especially the Quadrifoglio labeling:
Very sexy.

14 August 2009

Some Things I'll Miss and Some Things I've Learned

So, a sort of conclusionary post -- though this blog will continue, albiet with more of a southwestern PA/East Coast vibe, which is kind of good, because of course adventures can happen closer to home.  And this post will probably be updated over the next few days and weeks.

But let me start this way: the music I love listening to is Kandráč, Mačošková, et. al.  I was listening to it a bit on the plane and granted, I was mega PMSing, but really I couldn't listen to it without crying and yet I couldn't not listen to it as I was hurtling 400mph in the opposite direction of the music.
  1.  I'll be back, just hang in there, I definitely will be.
  2. Posts in the near future will be chronologically mixed up, which is the result of me having a stable connection for the first time since the last time I was in the US.  I still have some video to post from early June (!).
Leaving was too bittersweet.  I couldn't wait to see my parents (and the rest of my family who I've yet to see), but really, I absolutely don't want to leave, though I already have.  As if it was planned, I didn't even get a last look at the Tatras because the day was as overcast as my mood.  Vienna, which has always been a good place for me to transition between east and west, was lovely as always, even though it was a too-short visit. 

So.  Some things (among many) I'll miss:
  1. .5l (1 pint) of beer for less than €1.  €3.80 for a beer in Vienna was a bit of sticker shock, for inferior beer.  And not to bitch even more, but lots of American beer is so noticeably hoppy with such little nuance that it's disappointing.  Yes, I know I'm spoiled and snobby, but I'm also willing to discuss and back up my opinions.
  2. These bacon rolls to the left.  Fluffy dough, with bacon and cheese.  They were a bit overcooked when I took this pic, but perfect when I bought my last for the train trip today and subsequent breakfast.  Hypernova may be overpriced but this made it all so worth it.
  3. Public transportation and being able to walk to places.  Driving in suburban traffic is not fun.  And there's just so many people everywhere.  Where did they all come from?
  4. My crew.  In Prešov and Ružomberok.  This is the main thing.  I can live without the bacon rolls, but my crews were too excellent -- and it's always the people who make the place most special.

Some things I've learned to try to always have with me, especially on hikes:
  1. knife/multitool: for many things, namely cutting pork products and vegetables, but you never know anyway.
  2. fire starting mechanism: for creating cooked pork products in the wilderness, where the pork fat tastes even better than it does in 'civilization'.
  3. change of clothing: because it may start pouring and no one likes being soggy, though better yet, don't forget your really good, easily packable rain jacket in America -- bring it with you!
  4. small first aid kit: because you may cut yourself on irresponsibly abandoned beer bottles far away from the nearest village.
  5. wet wipes: more refreshing and less alchoholy than Purell and similar products.
  6. tissues in those plastic travel packs: good for blowing the nose and also good when there's blood everywhere.
  7. hand lotion: it's just nice to have when you want it.
  8. toothbrush and a clean t-shirt: you never know where you're going to sleep.

Two things I needed to buy within 24 hours of being back, thus proving that my routine has been modified a bit over the last year:
  1. slippers: not easy to find in the middle of August, but I can't do shoes in the house anymore.
  2. a drying rack: some of my new €urotrash wardrobe can't handle the dryer.  Plus air drying is so much nicer anyway, even though it necessitates ironing.  We'll see how long I can hold out.
Immediately, I realized that the biggest challenge is going to be to keep on a reasonable diet -- not diet in terms of losing weight, but diet in terms of eating well/right.  Because whereas before I didn't live within a 30 mile radius of a McDonald's, now fast food is everywhere, with hydrogenated oils beckoning me in an overwhelming cacophony.  And I want it, badly.  Tacos, for example. 

I can report mild culture shock and yet at the same time, an eerie comfort with my surroundings.  Eerie because it's comfort mixed with uncomfort, and culture shock mixed with expectations. Keeping up with my Slovak is a priority and at the same time having everything in English all of a sudden is strange, too.

Let's see how long this all lasts, shall we?

11 August 2009

Evening in Vienna

So I've blogged before about visiting Vienna in the evening before returning back to the US -- I think it's a good idea, because it helps me transition and reacclimatize myself to big city life.

On the train, I talked with a French guy who was at a Red Bull festival somewhere near Užhorod -- crazy!  He talked about looking for his tribe -- which is exactly what so many people are trying to do these days, and I feel I've found mine -- because I was born into it.  He also had good tips for surviving in cities at night and had slept 2 nights somewhere in the park near the Košice train station.  Unbelievable if you know the territory -- one night police stopped him, but they let him be after he flashed his French passport.

I must visit the Secession building whenever I am in Vienna.
Ok, so call me what you will, but I am about to describe something that is subsidized (public-private) for the greater common good.  City bikes in Vienna (I've also seen this in Paris and know it exists elsewhere) where for 1euro you can rent a bike for an hour -- and they're hella hipster fixies that are quite hardy.  So I rode from Mariahilferstraße down to the Secession building and then returned the bike at Museumsquartier, had a beer there and walked back to my hotel.  Excellent -- cf. here for more me renting a bike and enjoying it immensely.
Lively nightlife at Museumsquartier -- excellent atmosphere.
What, this is a McDonalds?  Still, thanks but no thanks.
Instead, I had a bratwurst.  With the delicious bread that comes from this part of the world which I won't have until I return.

And all of this happened for less than 10euros -- so if you're on a budget, you can still do all of this, even with the insanely priced beer here.

Pichne (Пихні) Festival

I've been wanting to post this for 2 weeks, but the connection has always timed out until now.

This festival was really cool -- because it was in a real Rusyn village.  And because (some of you won't believe I'm saying this) it was done with the help (via they mayor and Ministry of Culture) of the Rusyn-Ukrainians.  Today in Slovakia, that's almost a mark of quality (ala Good Housekeeping) because it denotes a certain hardcoreness.  But when the functionary from Prešov had to read from a script in Ukrainian, it just proved even more how not Ukrainian we are -- especially when everyone else spoke purely in Rusyn, which was too beautiful to have to listen to all day.  

In the video, starting at about 4:55 is a girl who I swear has the possibility of being the next big star -- she was powerful live.

Towards the end you'll see a semipro kid's group from Užhorod. They did Rusyn and Ukrainian stuff - which was popular and they were very good, but you could really see the difference between the local Rusyn culture (+ some, very little East Slovak) and the Subcarpathian, and definitely a huge difference between local culture and red-booted Ukie culture.

After the cultural program, we had some dinner, went for a walk, and went back to the festival where they were trying in vain to have a zabava (not enough electricity for the band's amps, unfortunately) and over some beers we heard the frustration of some folks about the RusynhyphenUkrainian-ness of the festival and village activities.  These people know who they are (even by negative definition, that is, not Ukrainian), so can we all work on getting over politics? 

03 August 2009

Kmeťov Vodopád

What this walk lacked in vertical, we made up for in distance and speed.  Along the path from Podbanské, we were treated with fresh wild blueberries almost the whole way -- which was excellent until I spotted this sign:
Whoops! They tasted even better when they were verboten.
After a few kilometers, the famous peak Kriváň, a symbol of Slovakia, becomes visible.  Look for it on the tail of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent Slovak euro coins:
Kriváň, on the right, hiding behind the clouds.

Finally, we got to the waterfall, the tallest in the High Tatras:

where the water was cool and tasty, and the forest was a verdant green.  This was a nice change from large parts of the walk, where the forest has been destroyed by some kind of bug that's killed much of the pine forest.

This walk was really more strenuous than it appeared.  The next day I was a bit sore, which could be the result of my shoes nearing the end of their usefulness -- but even though it's a level walk in a beautiful valley with wild blueberries along Kôprovský potok, it requires more effort and strength than it appears.  Forewarned is forearmed!