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
In November the sun disappears, and it only appears occasionally until April. November and December were pretty much fogged in. While such weather doesn’t do much for cheerfulness, it lends itself well to moody photos.
The forest in the hills of the Male Karpaty behind me are mainly beech and oak, their bare grey trunks reaching to the sky ending in a skeleton branch canopy, a leaf yet clinging here and there.
December is full of Christmas/Advent Markets. (Read more about Christmas traditions in Slovakia) The first market is in Bratislava, which takes over a number of squares, full of stands selling handmade good and victuals. There used to be more crafts, but now the stands seem to predominantly sell food and drink.
The barrel boasts “Best Mead in the World” and is made in the town I live in. Mead is pretty amazing, if you ask me, very sweet and thick, a little goes a long way. Although, to be honest, my favourite mead was one made by a local beekeeper and not quite as sweet.
Lokše are potato flatbreads, very thin and mostly potatoes. It’s common fare at markets, and can be eaten savoury or sweet. This stand had a list of possible fillings: goose liver and fried onion; duck cracklings; cabbage filling with smoked meat; chicken liver; lard and garlic; lard; vegetarian with goat cheese and chives; poppyseeds and plum jam; nutella and walnuts. Slovak food is, as you can see, rather on the rich side. I think the liver is usually spread on lokše as a pate and cracklings (the bits left over when rendering lard) are ground into a paste.
More food. Common foods are klobasa (sausages), ciganska (thin cuts of chicken or pork slathered with mustard and fried onions, served in a fat airy bun), and langoš (soft deep fried dough, often served with mayo, ketchup, or garlic). Don’t come to a Vianočne trhy on a diet.
Various kinds of cheese submerged in oil with dried herbs, spices, and peppers.
Check out the massive wooden ladles and slotted spoons.
I managed to stop by the Bratislava Christmas Market towards the end, and it was absolutely packed with people. Many people go for the atmosphere, to chat with friends after work over hot food and warm mead or mulled wine. There are far fewer people during the day.
I have a soft spot for buskers (and I’d love to try one day). There were only two or three who braved playing in the cold. The opulence in the window seemed to contrast with what I imagine his daily life to be like.
The Trnava Christmas Market is considerably smaller. One square, less people, but still twinkling lights, hot food, and good friends.
The nativity scene is pretty big – maybe half life size?
I happened to come when Vrbovske Vrby was playing, a group that plays traditional Slovak shepherd instruments. They had such great energy and fun music. The man below played a variety of instruments, if you look carefully the instrument pictured has an animal horn on the end. He also played what looked like a stick in a ceramic pot with a hole and a wooden oboe-sounding instrument.
Here are two videos of them playing – the stage unfortunately had a large screen that flickers terribly. There are gajdy (Slovak bagpipes), koncovka (flute without fingerholes), and good cheer.
This man was enthusiastically joining in on the songs close to the stage with his harmonica, from his wheelchair. He is an amputee, I’ve seen him around the square here before hanging out with others down on their luck. I just loved how he much he enjoyed joining in, finding the right key and playing away, even though just from the sidelines.
January saw a very little snowfall. It always surprises me how going just a little up into the hills changes the landscape. When I started walking at the bottom there was only wet fog, but as I gained elevation it started to look more like winter. Can you spot the people?
The trees here are just so…tall.
When everything is covered in white ice, it means freezing fog, which I think is the coldest winter weather. And I’ve been in -40. Ok, well, your hands don’t instantly get frostbite in freezing fog, but wet cold seeps into your bones and there’s nothing bracing about it, just the feeling that reptiles are mislabelled as cold-blooded animals, cause your blood is definitely cold.
Freezing fog AND wind. Now you can be an ice-blooded animal. This is at the top of Zaruby, the tallest hill of the Male Karpaty of Slovakia. Here is Zaruby in spring.
This poor fellow was standing at the top in ferocious wind that billowed into his clothes, puffing everything out.
February was Fasiangy, and we’ll pretend that March is spring (because it still feels like winter).
Whew, that was a catch-up. Congrats if you made it all the way here.
What photos or tidbits do you enjoy the most?