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Published: April 17th 2006
It may be mid-April, but that is fresh snow.
As the old saying goes, time flies. Well, for us it has flown and our 90 day Czech visas are about to expire. To receive a new 90 day visa all we have to do is leave the Czech Republic and then return. Many at IBTS simply take the train to Germany in the morning and return in the afternoon or evening. As we had never been there, we decided some time ago to go to Slovakia. Then a month to six weeks ago we met an American couple, the McNary's, and their two children who live in Kosice, Slovakia. When we told them that we intended to visit Slovakia, they graciously invited us to travel to Kosice and stay with them. Kosice is the second largest city in Slovakia and is located in the far eastern part of the country. It is not far from either the Ukrainian or the Hungarian borders.
The McNary's are going to be missionaries working among the Roma of Slovakia. At this time they are in their first two years there and are busy with language studies. Their 10 and 12 year old children are already fluent since they attend Slovak elementary/middle school. Obviously
There is good hiking in the summer.
they have the gift most young people have of learning languages quickly and well. The parents can carry on conversations needed for daily life but told us they are far from as fluent as the kids. All over Europe the Roma people are the outcasts and are blamed for anything that goes wrong. We have heard the most biased, racist statements concerning them and at the same time the same people making the comments insist, "I am not prejudiced." Oh well ................. The McNary's have already begun to develop a love of the Roma and their culture. They are so excited about being in Slovakia. They made us feel at home at once and we enjoyed each moment with them.
The trip from Prague to Kosice takes about nine and a half hours and passes through the beautiful Low and High Tatra mountains. The Tatra's are located in Northern Slovakia and Southern Poland. On our way to Kosice we could not see them as rain and snow fell the entire trip and we saw the biggest snowflakes we have ever seen. They were like small snowballs. On our way back to Prague the day was clear, and we had
wonderful views of the snow covered mountains. We have seen the Rockies in the western part of the USA and the Alps in Switzerland and Germany. These are probably not so high as any of those but they are as rugged and as lovely with snow from the top down most of the slopes here in April!
The entire trip by train was quite nice. The small villages with their homes and churches were varied and always lovely. The rivers and streams along the way kept our interest, especially since there have been so many floods in recent weeks. We were surprised once we got into Slovakia at how much less flood-like the waters appeared. There was no silt being carried in the streams and rivers. At that point an English speaking Slovak had joined us in the car. When he heard me remark on that, he explained that Slovakia has built a series of excellent power producing dams and lakes which also serve as flood control. He was highly critical of Hungary for backing out of a joint dam project which would (will?) someday protect Hungary as well as Slovakia. Budapest and other areas of Hungary are currently
Low clouds and high mountains.
experiencing the worst floods in memory. He said the proposed dam would have prevented this flooding. It seems to me that Hungary was ill served by the decision to back out of that particular project. These two countries have a troubled past and it seems it is time for them both to forget what happened years and years ago that separated them and get on with making life better for both groups of citizens. It was perfectly obvious that the dams were doing their work well in flood control and I expect the power generated by the water is making life better for people in the mountains. As in all mountain areas the economy looked to be less robust than in the Czech Republic. Homes were smaller and in less good repair and the roads were muddy and dreadful looking from the train. There were many new tunnels and train beds and roads being constructed so this will certainly improve in the future.
I thought it readily apparent that, in the not very distant past, the nutrition of the people was not good. This was evidenced by the number of very short elderly people I saw, both in Kosice and in the villages we passed in our journey. Likewise, it is apparent that the taller younger generation has had better nutrition. Let's hope this continues.
Interestingly we saw McDonalds, but no KFC, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell. So for those with an American fast food yearn it is McDonalds or nothing. But there are gyro stands. That is the good news. The food in the two restaurants we went to was very delicious, beautifully prepared and quite inexpensive compared to that in Prague. We had a really hot, really good "Mexican pizza" one night in a pizza place. Then I, Nancy, had a fantastic salmon with rice and about 7 or 8 small salad type side dishes which are called a 'sky' as they surround food served in regular restaurants. Billy, apparently homesick for Mexico, had a Mexican pancake which was full of varioius good veggies plus a nice 'sky' as well. I have noticed all my slacks are getting hard to zip and feel much less comfortable than they did when we got here. Apparently the food agrees with me both in Prague and other places we have traveled.
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