Sunday, 10 August 2008

Super Slovakia

Jeez, it’s been a busy few weeks, with a wedding in Slovakia, Ngaire’s visit and my 30th birthday. It’s been really good, but I must admit that we’ve enjoyed a nice quiet weekend hanging
out in London.

One of the consequences of being so busy is that blogging has slipped down my list of things to do a bit. So I thought I should do a catch up, starting with the wedding.

Slovakia is kind of the Burkina Faso of Europe – if you don’t live in the region, you probably haven’t heard of it. It also has the misfortune of sounding almost the same as fellow European semi-obscurity, Slovenia. Which is all a shame, as it’s well worth visiting.

I was in the country for the marriage of Marty - a friend from uni - and Janka, his lovely Slovak bride. I landed in Bratislava, the capital, a pleasant city in the now familiar Eastern European mode – pretty Old Town with a main square and narrow streets, castle on the hill above the river, ugly Communist outskirts. The Communist architecture was brilliant – either outstandingly hideous or wonderfully bizarre. Or both. Fellow wedding guests Chris, Gareth, Daniel and I had a lot of fun exploring the place.

The national radio centre - Slovakia's answer to the Pyramids.

The lads do their best Communist impression.

"Just what I like in a woman - biceps strong enough to crush capitalism!"

Then it was off to Banska Bystrica in the centre of the country. To be honest, I thought it would be a bit of a backwater – after all, it’s not in the travellers’ Bible (Lonely Planet) – but it was gorgeous. Surrounded by forested hills, it has a recently repainted main square that is my favourite in Europe. The likes of those Prague and Brussels are more splendid, but have a zillion more tourists.

The nuptials were, of course, the highlight. Marty and Janka met in Germany, so it was a multinational affair, with people coming from Romania, America, London, Germany and New Zealand to be there. I doubt there’s ever been a reception featuring a haka, the groom carrying the bride through a giant heart cut out of a sheet (a German tradition), Slovak plate-smashing (the number of pieces of crockery left over after the couple sweep up is the number of kids they’ll have – about a dozen are in store for Marty and Janka) and everyone doing the Chicken Dance. It was most excellent.

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