Exciting news, winter wonderland, carnival festivities and other bits
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.
Winter – good or bad?
I am one of those annoying people who likes winter, a proper winter anyway. To me, the ideal temperature is about -10C (14F), with plenty of snow and blue skies. I admit that I do not have to shovel a driveway or sit in a cold car every morning, which may have something to do with it. But I love the light, the brightness that snow brings, and the possibilities for fun outside, whether sledding, building forts, or just the muffled silence.
Contrast this with fog, -2C (28F), and bitter winds. I will admit that the ice building on the trees as the fog freezes is pretty, but it’s not exactly inviting to go outside. Humid cold just goes straight to the bones. And I so miss the sun after weeks of long grey and brown cloudy winter days.
A sample of fog freezing onto trees. Dangerous stuff.
Fortunately we’ve had a pretty great winter – enough snow to go sledding where we live is a big win. A couple weeks of -10C (14F) mornings, sun, and a (thin) layer of snow were good enough for me to declare it a pretty great winter, especially compared to the last few years.
Expectations for ‘enough snow to go sledding’ are low.
We had one morning of fluffy snow, which melted a few days later when it warmed up to 8C (46.4F). Knowing warm days were coming, I went to and snapped these all on one walk, meeting a friend who was out enjoying the same. Unfortunately, after the snow all melted, it got cold again but sans snow.
Most people don’t like the snow here, partly because of driving. Highways get plowed right away, with main roads somewhat behind, but the side streets – well, you might be waiting a long time for a snowplow. They just wait until the snow is packed down enough and then they don’t need to plow it anyway.
From the end of the Christmas season (January 6) until Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) is party time, including formal balls, costume parties for children, ‘burying the bass’ (saying goodbye to music), deep fried sweets, and parading the streets dressed up. In Slovak this time is called Fašiangy (fa-shi-an-ghee), and I wrote more about it here, including its history.
Ringing bells and causing a ruckus in the streets. And so then people give them money.
We went to one formal ball this season with some friends. Something that I particularly noticed, after being in Canada this summer, is that young men here still know how to partner dance. While in Canada this summer I went to a couple dances and the number of men under 50 who could dance was frankly abysmal. The ones who could were jealously guarded by girlfriends. My brother, who is a great dancer, is always in high demand. Seriously men, learn how to waltz or two-step (to say nothing of swing or tango) and you’ll be a popular guy with the ladies.
Young men waltzing. How novel.
A highlight for our family is the Starosvetská Fašiangová Zábava, a folk-themed family dance. The kids dance, run around mostly unsupervised, and stay up till midnight. Adults chat, eat, dance, eat again, drink, and dance some more.
It seems so symbolic, the boy absorbing the sound wall of his heritage.
The cimbal band. A cimbalom is the Slovak style of hammered dulcimer (the little table).
Midnight snack. I know, this doesn’t look great. But I thought it was wonderful that they served beef tongue too.
These girls spent most of the night watching their skirts twirl.
After the band packed up and most of the people had left, the last folk music diehards stayed on, the younger ones still playing music and dancing. The musical talent and knowledge (the number of songs they know) is truly inspiring.
The only problem was that this year the two dances were on consecutive days and I may have stayed up till the not-so-wee hours of the morning two nights in a row, which was not conducive to productivity for the next few days.
It may or may not be 3:30am…
You can see many more dance photos on the Almost Bananas Facebook page and videos on Youtube.
Other odds and ends
On January first, some people still go and light candles at the cemetery. I happened to go for a walk after dark and the fog and candles made for a mysterious atmosphere.
The castle in my town has so many moods, depending on the weather. I still find it slightly surreal to have such a picturesque castle looking over us. If it sometimes feels like I’m in a fairytale, maybe it’s because I am – all the outside castle shots in this fairytale that aired on Christmas Eve look somewhat familiar.
Many sledders come from the nearby city to go sledding and, while it’s picturesque, I’ll tell you a secret –
there’s actually a better hill for sledding here.
I’ll leave you with last one fun tidbit. I had to go into the city for a day with the twins and we went in this old style elevator. I remember the first time I went in one when I first came to Slovakia. I wasn’t sure it was safe – I think I could see daylight through a crack. The thing with these elevators is that the doors to different floors have to be closed for it to work. So if someone left a door cracked open when they exited, then tough luck if you were on the ground floor with bags of groceries and 18 flights to climb, as one student told me.
Mar 03, 2017 @ 05:58:37
How fantastic……the children will remember when older.
We are melting with so much heat in Qld Australia…so Homesick !!
Mar 03, 2017 @ 22:02:32
I’m glad you enjoyed it!
I can’t say I miss melting in the heat. Is it humid there or dry (sorry, my knowledge of Australia is pretty limited).
I have a post in my head on being homesick and hope to get it out soonish. I hear ya!
Mar 03, 2017 @ 18:09:39
What town are you in.
Mar 05, 2017 @ 00:24:33
Smolenice, about 50km from Bratislava.
Mar 04, 2017 @ 17:47:58
Fantastic photos! I have always enjoyed your postings but with recent genealogical searches, I learned that my father’s mother was born in Richvald, Slovakia. We are traveling to Prague and Krakow in late spring but not certain if we will be able to come to Slovakia or not. (Plans were set before my discovery.) Such an interesting culture and beautiful countryside, I hope we are able to squeeze it into our travels!
Sorry not with you on the winters, though. It is 70, sunny and a light breeze in Florida, loving it.
Mar 05, 2017 @ 00:23:52
Wow, that’s so interesting! How neat that you’ve been such a faithful reader all this time and you never knew! Krakow isn’t too far from Richvald…
Ok, I’ll give you, 70 is about the perfect temperature for comfort.
Mar 09, 2017 @ 03:56:57
Thinking we may be able to at least do a day trip to Richvald. Funny, I had always been told that my grandparents came from somewhere near Prague, that’s why that portion of the trip was planned. Turns out my grandfather was born in Hungary! So no ancestors from “Prague area” at all. Still, it’s a beautiful city. Part of my husband’s heritage is Polish, so that is why we are visiting Krakow. Guess I should have started my research a little earlier!
Mar 09, 2017 @ 10:48:05
Prague is an amazing city! How nice if you could make it into Richvald. Unfortunately it is a little far for me with kids, otherwise I would love to meet up! I can’t wait to see photos and thoughts on the blog 🙂
Mar 09, 2017 @ 21:09:32
We are really looking forward to this trip. We’re starting off in South Africa (which is not part of the “heritage tour”), and then on to Prague, Krakow, Amsterdam and Ireland. Turns out I have ancestors from the Netherlands and Ireland as well. My heritage has an interesting mix! Quess we’ll just have to come back again, since we won’t have an opportunity to visit Hungary either. Perhaps we can get together then!
Mar 10, 2017 @ 00:32:35
Wow, that’s quite the trip! Yes, come back 🙂