Slovak Miscellaneous

Slovak Train Ride: a peak beyond the tourist brochure

Train in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

Last weekend, my husband was so kind as to take the kids out on Saturday so that I could work on the ebook of Slovak soups and stews. Sunday morning I went to join them via the train, which I don’t use that often.

Taking the train is much more comfortable than taking the bus. As I rode on the train, it struck me how much the two different trains I rode reflect recent changes in Slovakia.  Click to continue reading

Exciting news, winter wonderland, carnival festivities and other bits

Male Karpaty in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

Every week I plan to write here on the blog, and most weeks time goes by faster than I can catch it. Things have been busy here because, as I announced on Facebook…I’m writing an ebook!

It will be an ecookbook about Slovak soups and stews, full of bowls of comfort and notes about life in Slovakia. We’ve been eating a lot of soups and stews lately. As a cook, I don’t mind because they are easy to throw together. And my kids haven’t complained yet.

I’ve set the launch date as March 13…soon!

If are on Facebook, follow my Almost Bananas Facebook page and click ‘all posts’ under notifications. I’ll be sharing bits of the book as it is coming together and asking for your input. Here’s a Facebook video of me behind the scenes, complete with twin “helpers”. If you aren’t on Facebook,  you can see the video here.

To catch up on 2017, I’ve got mostly a pile of photos to share.  Click to continue reading

What I learned reading about Slovak Jews

What I learned reading about Slovak Jews - Almost BananasFor the last month I’ve been busy reading 21 books in English about Slovakia – read the reviews and enter the giveaway here – and six of those books were about Jews during WWII.

Of course we learned about the horrors of WWII in school, of racism and concentration camps. Nazi soldiers often come up in ethical discussions as The Ultimate Evil That Has Existed, i.e. “If you were faced with Nazi soldiers, would x action still be unacceptable?”

But growing up in Canada, the idea of war was so far away. We keep every Remembrance Day, maybe heard stories from grandparents or read a historical fiction novel. It seems closer in Slovakia, to some degree, just because fighting was on this soil. People still go metal detecting in the hills behind our home, looking for war artefacts. It seems strange that those quiet hills, perhaps even some of the same trees, saw such violence and action. When in the Low Tatras, a memorial to partisans killed high up in the mountain seemed so startling.

Call me naive, but I had this idea that the Nazis were the bad guys, Jew and other targeted groups were the victims, and everybody else was just kind of didn’t know what was going on.  Click to continue reading

An Antiques Bazaar, A Goulash Cook-off, and Honey Drinks

Antiques Bazaar in Slovakia - Almost Bananas

Nearby where I live is Červený Kameň, a preserved castle/museum that regularly hosts cultural events like medieval festivals and, in this instance, antique bazaars.

Well, to call it an antique bazaar might be stretching it a bit. There are swords and furniture and old books. There was also plenty of what my British friend calls ‘tat’, which urban dictionary tells me refers “to the kind of junk sold by crafty Cockneys to unsuspecting tourists in central London.” But then again, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

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Cherry Blossoms in the Morning Sun (and other photos of spring)

Cherry Blossoms in Morning Sun in Slovakia - Almost Bananas

Spring is my favourite season in western Slovakia. The sun starts showing itself again, new signs of plant life begin to appear. Bear garlic, the European version of ramps, carpets the forest. And the trees burst into bloom.

March was a month of chicken pox here, and we limped into Easter. On Palm Sunday, instead of palms we use branches of pussy willows at the church.

Pussy Willows - Almost Bananas

Easter Sunday lunch is, of course, rezne (schnitzel) – deep fried breaded cutlets. My oldest daughter loves to cook, here she helps her dad. Hammered pork (sometimes chicken) is dipped first in finely ground flour, then beaten eggs, and then breadcrumbs before being deep fried.

Making schnitzel - Almost Bananas

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Winter Markets, Fog, and Misc. (Winter 2015/16 photos)

Winter in the Small Carpathians of Slovakia

Now that spring has finally come, at least to my town, I’m finally posting photos from the winter. I blame it on my family genes, always late for everything.

November begins with one of my favourite traditions, visiting the graveyards and honouring the dead. I can’t even come close to capturing the atmosphere. I’ve written about it before: Nov. 1, All Saints Day

All Saints Day in Slovakia

All Saints Day in Slovakia

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The Best of 2015

Best of 2015 on Almost Bananas

2015 was the second year of having this little blog space. Almost Bananas transitioned from mostly about food with a little bit of Slovakia thrown in, to focusing more on Slovakia with some weird healthy food thrown in.

I’ve really enjoyed the connections that the blog has brought. Each time somebody leaves a comment or writes me an email, I feel honoured that it was important enough for them to take the time to do so. Thank you to all of you who read, comment, and write emails – you’re why I’m here!

This year, I’ve also started writing at two other places. Holistic Squid is where you will find more healthy food posts by me, including liver drinks and sourdough recipes. The Slovak Spectator is a Slovak newspaper in English and, thus far, I have an opinion piece once a month on matters related to Slovakia.

Also read: The Best of 2014.

First up, the top ten posts written this year with the most views:  Click to continue reading

June 2015 Photos

I’m starting a new series with photos from the month that didn’t warrant a whole post but that I wanted to share anyway. I’ve shared some on Instagram but my new phone requires more work to put up a big camera photo, and therefore I get them up less.

This month I actually have photos since the end of April, so there are some spring ones in there as well.

Gaming, Austria
Sunrise on the former monastery in Gaming, Austria.

Mystery Flower
Despite looking like lilacs, these lilac coloured flowers were growing singly in my sister in law’s lawn. I have no idea what they are, but I saved them from the lawnmower.

Spring Leaves

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Children’s Civil Defence Education

Children's Civil Defence

For a couple days my second daughter was excitingly looking forward to “CO” (tse-oh) and finally on the morning of  I asked my husband what “CO” meant. CO stands for civilna ochrana, literally civil defence, although it really means emergency preparedness.

This year, CO was in memory of Peter Opalek, a policeman from the neighbouring town. Last year he was shot while doing routine car stops along the road. It was a shock to all of Slovakia, as shootings are rare occurrences here.

The emergency preparedness training for children in Smolenice started in 2007 at one of the local kindergartens. For two years Mr. Opalek went to his nephew’s kindergarten to talk to the children about being a policeman. In 2009, they decided to include other emergency services and organized an event for neighbouring schools.

Mr. Opalek volunteered every single year to come show the children what policemen do, until his untimely death at 34 years of age.

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November 17: The Velvet Revolution

Velvet Revolution

In Slovakia, the 17th of November commemorates the Velvet Revolution, the protests that eventually brought down the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. This year, 2014, celebrates 25 years.

In a very brief nutshell, after WWII it was stipulated in the constitution of Czechoslovakia that the Communist Party had to be the leading party in the government. Funny thing is, they still had elections. Everything was set up formally, with screens and ballot boxes. There was, however, only one option to vote. When my mother in law went to vote behind the screen, the officiator said, “Lady, where are you going?”

For 40 years the Communist Party governed with varying degrees of severity. In 1988 was the first mass demonstration in Bratislava against the Communist Regime since 1969 in Czechoslovakia called the Candle Demonstration.

On Nov. 16, 1989, encouraged by the success of Poland, Hungry, and East Germany, students in Bratislava organized a peaceful demonstration to commemorate Jan Opletal, a Czech student killed by the Nazis, and sent a delegation to the Slovak Minister of Education to discuss their issues. Though viewed as problematic by the Party, it ended peacefully.

On Nov. 17, students in Prague gathered to commemorate the death of students by the Nazis, and while they had permission to gather they did not disperse afterwards as ordered, but began to march towards the centre of the city about 15,000 strong. The police blocked off all the exits and began to beat them.

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