Dinner along the Danube

A Courtyard in Bratislava

Bratislava, Slovakia is the only world capital that borders two other countries.  (Isn’t Wikipedia a wonderful thing!)  And last evening I had the chance to enjoy some of the best of this city with my friends and colleagues from the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO).

After my all-night flight on election night, I arrived in Vienna around 9 a.m. local time and caught a bus from the airport that took me the 45 minutes to Bratislavia.  The countryside between the airport and the city was very rural, broken only by the occasional wind farm and two delightful small historic towns (one of which still maintained its historic city wall surrounding the town).  Since the hotel where I’m staying didn’t take guests until 2 p.m. and I needed to do something to stay awake, I ate a bit of breakfast and then strolled the streets of Old Town Bratislava.

And I’m here to say that the historic core was hopping.  I was on the streets at lunch time and those streets were swarming with people eating lunch, tourists snapping photographs, and many more people simply out doing their jobs.  I learned at dinner last evening that the return of private property to individuals following the fall of the Soviet Empire has meant that most of the restoration in this district has taken place through private investment.  There are some beautiful state-owned buildings and a number of historic churches (see photo), but the vast majority are homes or shops.

A Church in Bratislava

I was able to check in and caught a couple of hours of sleep – just enough to get refreshed without missing dinner!  And I’m glad I made it.  Meeting up with about 15 colleagues from around the world, we were led by our hostess, Michaela, back through Old Town – which was beautifully lighted for the evening – eventually ending up with a walk along the Danube.  The restaurant where we had our opening dinner was the first project of the National Trust for Slovakia some 14 years ago, where they rescued a historic toll keepers house from demolition.  The walls of the restaurant were covered with old photographs of the bridges across the Danube.  We enjoyed our shot of brandy, some good Slovakian wine, and a tasty dinner topped by a sesame seed pastry for dessert.  I sat with the head of the Slovakian cultural agency for heritage, the head of the Gilderland Trust (Holland), our INTO Secretariat staff member Catherine Leonard, and several other colleagues for a delightful evening’s conversation.

And I’m still adjusting to the time change.  I think it is about 5 a.m. now in Slovkia.  I’m not 100% sure because I stopped wearing a watch about a year ago and my blackberry (which is now my version of a pocket watch) doesn’t automatically update itself to the local time.  I’m always calculating what 6 hours ahead actually means.  I’m sure I’ll do great until about 2 p.m. this afternoon…when I’ll be ready for that nap again.  So expect More to Come… posts at the weirdest hours over the next few days.

More to come…

DJB

From My First Walk Around Old Town Bratislava

Bratislava Old Town

I just had an hour or so to become introduced to Old Town Bratislava in Slovakia, where I’m attending the executive committee meeting of the International National Trust Organisation.

Here’s a teaser photograph from the historic city.

More to come…

DJB

What a Strange, Wonderful Election Day It Has Been

Greetings from Bratislava, Slovakia!  Not your normal post-election day dateline for the More to Come…blog.  Let me tell you how I ended up hearing about the presidential election results while flying over the Atlantic.

I woke up at home on November 4th and after the normal morning chores, I headed down to the library to vote.  Well, I wasn’t really surprised to find  that the line ran around the edges of BOTH parking lots and extended almost to the street.  Historic election indeed!  It was great, even if I did stand in line for 2 hours and 10 minutes before casting my vote.  But it felt good to be part of something so special and it felt REALLY good to vote with a positive feeling about a candidate (instead of the usual voting to play defense).  The local high school had some kids out selling coffee and pastries to help with relief efforts in Africa.  They did well, but they could have done gangbusters if they’d had chairs to rent or would have been able to give a back massage on one of those special chairs.  My back was hurting and my dogs were barking after 2 hours – but it was worth it.

So off to work for the rest of the morning.  My colleague Dolores and I had lunch on the 4th at Kramerbooks – the highly independent (and highly liberal) bookstore and restaurant at Dupont Circle.   We both started laughing when we saw the specials of the day.  Here’s how they read:

Halloween & Election Year Specials – Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Obama Family Chili – $12 – no charge if you make under $5/year – Perfect for a Socialist Underground Gathering

The Biden Pot Pie – $14 – Homey, Comfortable, Predictable – Worth a Two Hour Train Ride

McCain’s Ribs – $160 – $16 after tax rebate – “Squeezed with Lemons, because that makes it taste better.”  Maybe that’s why he kept grimacing at those debates.

Palin’s Alaskan Fisherwoman’s Saucy Salmon – Fresh Atlantic Salmon filet – just to piss her off.  A sort of culinary experience of unrelated events.

I decided on this historic day that I had to try the Obama Family Chili, and it didn’t disappoint.  Just the right amount of spices and lots of good toppings!

So by mid-afternoon I wrapped up things at the office and headed for the airport.  I was off for Slovakia for the meeting of the executive committee of the International National Trusts Organisation (or INTO).  Unfortunately, it was timed so that I would be in the air during the election coverage.  I saw 7 p.m. pass and knew the Virginia polls had closed.  Then 7:30 and 8:00 and then 9:00…and I knew that more and more polls were closing and that the race was being called – and I didn’t have a clue.  But thankfully, somewhere over the dark Atlantic, a flight attendant came through and told those of us who kept asking that Obama had won.  A quiet cheer arose around me.

 

I sat there in the dark and thought about what this means for America.  There’s so much to contemplate, so much to imagine.  But I kept thinking about how my mom was the PTA President during the time our local elementary school in Tennessee was integrated.  It was one of the most frustrating years of her life, and we heard about it at home.  She said the children weren’t the problem…it was the parents who fought integration.   Well, 40 years later, those children have grown up and guess what?  While we may not have imagined it possible at the time, those children – along with our children AND our parents – have just elected our first African American President. 

 

So, I’ll end where I began.  Here I sit in a restaurant in Bratislava, waiting to get my hotel room to catch a nap before dinner, and thinking about what a strange, wonderful election day this has been.

 

More to come…

DJB