When I moved to Slovakia, there was only one main airline that flew there from the UK. The country and capital was a well kept but delightful secret. Slovakia, or as the Heathrow airport flight departure screens once called it 'Bratislavia' is a small country in the heart of Europe, sixty minutes away from Vienna. We rented a flat at 110 Sq for a fixed price of 1,000 euro a month. The apartment was classic. High ceilings, French doors, wooden floors and very beautiful. We now pay a lot more per month for a flat that is 75 Sq and frankly not the same standard and it was like going from a Rolls Royce to a Skoda but we expected this before came to Moscow. The point I am making is, Bratislava was and still is, cheap. You could get drunk at a pub in town for 10.00 GBP drinking very good Slovak beer or Czech beer. Drinking in Moscow by comparison is a sobering reality check, if you forgive the pun. I am sure prices have gone up but will not be at the mad level of Moscow. Life there was and still is sweet.
Bratislava is a small city, more like a provincial town. It has many bars, restaurants and an attractive town square. The summers are hot and the winters cold. In the summer it feels more like the Riviera than a former socialist country, with restaurant tables on the cobble streets and full of people laughing, drinking an eating outside. The people are friendly and the country is very well situated by road to everything else. In six hours you can drive to Venice, you can jump in the car and drive to Budapest, Croatia, France, Austria and many other places. Like Russia, the rest of the country outside the capital is rather under developed and ultimately financially forgotten by the central command. The ghosts of the past still haunt it today. Most over thirties in Slovakia, speak Russian as they had to learn it at school.
Slovak women are very beautiful often looking like modals, without being at all tarty and I would recommend any young single man to go there for you will not be disappointed. Many Slovaks of older generations, have a long memory and do not really like Russia or Russians as the Russian tanks arrived in August 1968 and took over their country. Slovaks feel bitter and have not forgotten this. It was strange for me to move to Russia, the country that once pulled the strings of Slovakia (Czechoslovakia). Many people died trying to escape Slovakia (Czechoslovakia) by swimming across the Danube river, they were shot as they swam or drowned trying to escape to freedom. Its unhappy history, along with countless other former socialist orbits will never be fully erased. I was once told by a Russian that Slovakia was 'nothing' and 'a small country'. This made me angry and I found it arrogant, it made it harder for me to warm to Russia as my new home.
Slovakia is not like Hungary or Poland in culture or style but they do share a history. Slovaks understand Polish and Polish understand the Slovak langauge. Nobody understands Hungarian, its a funny musical langauge that sounds like a musical flute on LSD. There has been and still is, some conflict between Slovaks and Hungarians. Slovaks are not nationalistic like Russians but they are proud of their folk law and culture. Many Slovak women gave birth to babies via marriage to Russian soldiers or via an enforced 'fertilization'. Slovak women, have a unique look that is not like Russian women. Russian women look Russian and Slovak women look Slovak. Slovak cooking is typically, heavy and very filling. Halusky, (see link) the national dish, is very tasty but only eat once a year or you will get very fat.
By the time I left Slovakia, EasyJet, was flying daily to Bratislava and the stag parties began arriving and wrecking the town at weekends, behaving much the same way as they do back home in England. It seemed to me, that Bratislava was losing its innocence and charm and that the Brits were invading and raping it of its Disneyland charm. However, I still love Slovakia and miss it greatly. Bratislava is also fairly pollution free and in the summer a warm breeze blows the scent of the Danube river over the city and the air is sweet and warm. The contrast between Bratislava and Moscow could not be more different if it tried.
Its no longer a secret and has sadly grown up. Bratislava, is still well worth a visit and only two hours fifty minutes away by plane from Moscow. The quality of life in Bratislava is exceptional and nothing compared to life in Moscow. It goes without saying that adjustment has been a bitter pill to swallow.
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