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21 Books in English about Slovakia

21 books about Slovakia in English at Almost Bananas

Almost Bananas presents…(drumroll)…21 books in English set in Slovakia, including 10 books to giveaway (giveaway over, look out for next year’s)!

I’m so excited to finally tell you about this project I’ve been working on.

It started with me wondering if there was a book in English that I could give friends and family so that they could understand Slovakia a little more. There isn’t much in English about Slovakia, but after some digging I found these 21 books. If anybody knows of more, let me know and I’ll include them in a future list.

I had a few criteria. I wanted stories, real or fiction, thus excluding travel books, textbook type history, and poetry. And I wanted them to be set in Slovakia or the Slovak side of Czechoslovakia (with one exception).

If you want to understand more about Slovakia, give a gift, or just like to read, then this list is for you. (psst…Christmas is quickly approaching) Make sure to scroll down to the bottom in order to enter the giveaway!

Even though I have already lived here for over a decade, I learned so so much, both about Slovakia’s history and people. I admit that I’m not a history buff – reading dry history text puts me to sleep (literally, this was my trick in college if I had insomnia. Worked every time). But in the context of a story or a person’s experience, a country’s character and history come alive even if the actual storyline is fictional.

The following books are divided into the following genres:

Youth – WWII (Slovak Jews) – Memoirs – Fiction – Slovak Literature  Click to continue reading

Mt. Robson and Kinney Lake, Canada

Mt. Robson and Kinney Lake, Canada - Almost Bananas

Mt. Robson is a towering giant of a mountain, both in height and width. At a height of 3,954 m (12,972 ft), Mt. Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, and second in British Columbia. What makes it so impressive to look at, however, is the prominence, the distance from the peak to the surrounding area (the lowest encircling contour line, if you must know) – basically how high the mountain looks from the valley floor. With a prominence of 2,829 m (9,281 ft), the mountain is 7th in Canada and 21st in all of North America.

Mt. Robson Provincial Park has been around since 1913, which is something when you consider that hardly anybody lived in the valley. One of the few routes through the Rocky Mountains passes by Mt. Robson, however, and so it has long (relatively, as this is western Canada after all) been an object of admiration and awe.  Click to continue reading

A Slovak Party: lots and lots and lots of food

A Slovak Party with lots and lots of food

This last weekend my mother in law celebrated her 70th birthday. It was a big event, due to generous family sizes. We  set for 70 people, including children.

At a Slovak celebration, there must be about three times as much food planned as can actually be physically eaten, as my father found out at my own wedding. Before the ceremony, people gathered at the inlaws house for sandwiches, to sustain themselves through Mass. Afterwards, dinner was served and my father filled himself, thinking he had to last the rest of the night with that much food. Then the cakes and sweets came, and he made sure he didn’t miss out on those. A few hours later, to his surprise, came another meal. And, a few hours later, another. We only had three meals after the ceremony, the first brother to get married had the traditional five. Slovaks celebrate a wedding, however, till the late hours of the morning, usually finishing around 5 am. At our last family wedding, the great aunts and uncles, well into their 70’s, stayed until 3 am.  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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A Slovak Goulash Cook-off

A Slovak Goulash Cook-off

The air was thick with the smell of cooking stew, the buzz of a crowd’s conversations, and a tinge of wood smoke, as contending teams vied for the coveted ‘best goulash’ award.

The other weekend we attended a goulash cook-off in our village. Lined around the brick laid yard were cauldrons of various sizes and types, all containing variations on goulash. Even though the basic idea of goulash is the same, each competitor had his own style or twist on goulash.

Goulash is of Hungarian origin but, like many dishes of Slovakia’s southern neighbour, is immensely popular in Slovakia. Caramelized onions, meat, paprika, tomatoes, peppers, and marjoram are the crucial ingredients, with anything else being optional.  Click to continue reading

Winter Hike up McKirdy Mountain, Valemount, Canada

McKirdy Mt. Valemount BC Canada

I wasn’t expecting to get to Canada this year, but in February I made a quick unplanned visit to be together with my extended family. Given that it takes two days to travel one way from Slovakia to the middle of nowhere Canada, I didn’t have much time but was still hoping to get above treeline.

My mom and I did make it up, and I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. We frequently paused along the trail as we got into conversation, solving all the problems of the world.

We went up McKirdy Mountain, and while I have showed pictures and shared memories of my favourite place in the the world before, it was in the summer.

We hadn’t planned on stopping at Hermit Thrush Cabin, but when one of the lenses in my glasses fell out, we traipsed over to tape them back together. That red Tuck Tape has some seriously sticky qualities, and is oh-so-sexy for repairing glasses.  Click to continue reading

Cream of Lentil Soup with Prunes

Prunes are added to Christmas soups in Slovakia. They have a festive sweetness that melds well with the lentils and cream.

Cream of Lentil Soup with Prunes

As I mentioned in my post about how Slovaks celebrate Christmas, each area of Slovakia makes a different type of soup for Christmas. Some make a sauerkraut based soup, others split pea, and still others cream of lentil. What all the soups have in common is the festive addition of prunes.

When I first heard about prunes in soup, I was sceptical. Prunes? In Soup? Weird, I thought. But I’m game to try anything at least once, and so my first Christmas in Slovakia found me discovering a whole new way of eating a childhood food. Click to continue reading

Jarmok, Trnava, Slovakia

Jarmok, Trnava

Jarmok, pronounced yarmok, is a festival of the grape harvest season in Slovakia (at least, I think it is). While a few weeks ago we saw a dozinky, a celebration of the grain harvest, jarmok is a fair put on by the town. In Trnava, there are a number of sections: handmade crafts, everything for sale from clothes to kitchen gadgets, fair rides, food, medieval demonstrations, music.

meant to walk to the various parts of jarmok and take pictures for you all, but after wandering for 2.5 hrs at the handmade arts section, I had to run back home. I just enjoy marveling over objects of beauty, even though I don’t usually have money to buy them.

So, following are some of the pictures from the handmade section. I tried to choose photos of crafts unique to or common in Slovakia, with explanations. There was some lovely pottery, and you can see what I bought on my Instagram account.

Jarmok, Trnava
Trdelnik is a Slovak treat that waft sweet vapours through the fair; the smell alone is enough to ensure long line ups. Long strips of sweet dough are wrapped around a wooden cylinder and rotates as it bakes. It is then rolled in your choice of sugar and cinnamon, walnuts, and other toppings. Pulling on it causes the trdenik to unfurl and pieces are ripped off to eat.

Jarmok, Trnava
Just to make sure you always have a shot glass available, you can hang it around your neck.

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Janosikove Diery and Cicmany, Slovakia

Janosikove Diery

For the last installment of our trip, where we first went to the open air museum in Martin and then hiking in Rohace, we go now to Terchova and Cicmany.

Terchova is a small town in northern Slovakia known for being the hometown of the Robin Hood like legend, Juraj Janosik (pronounced Yuraye Yanoshik). Juraj, the Slavic equivalent of George, lived from 1688 to 1713. When he was 15 he fought with the Kuruc rebels against the Hapsburg reign but, after a battle lost by the Kuruc, he was recruited to join the Hapsburg ranks. As a prison guard, he helped a fellow Slovak escape and became the leader of a highwayman band.

Janosikove Diery

The men robbed rich merchants although apparently they were chivalrous robbers, not murders. Legend has it that they gave to the poor, like Robin Hood. A few years later he was captured and hung from the side on a hook to die.

Janosik became of symbol of fighting for the oppressed, a Slovak champion of freedom. He is celebrated in Slovak folklore, literature, and movies.

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Rohac, Slovakia

 

Rohac, Slovakia

Tucked up in the north of Slovakia are the lesser known Zapadne Tatry, the western Tatras, where people still live in quaint wooden houses. The western Tatras are less commercial then their taller neighbours, the Vysoky Tatry, which means less people on the trail.

We have some guests visiting from Canada and to show them a sample of Slovakia, we headed up north to hike Rohac (Rohach). The mountain is named similarly to the rohac beetle, a large beetle with two large pincers, as the mountain has two peaks.

5-Picture 162 web
The peak on the left is Ostry Rohac, with it’s two peaks. The peak on the right is Placliva, the crying one.

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