Almost two weeks arriving Slovakia.I decided to travel to the Eastern part before anything settling down.
Many of my friends are wondering why I would choose Slovakia rather than other popular choices.
I always give them ambiguous answers like "why not?"
Bratislava is a capital city with medium scale and for quite sure,I love this kind of capital,like I love Ljubljana in Slovenia. Things are going on everyday without bothering people's life.It's a perfect dropping point for me to start a life in Europe.
Other minor reasons are that the food here is amazing to me,there's never a budget for drinking because they got cheap and good booze,people are handsome and gorgeous,it's a challenge to live here since the language is one of the hardest in the world,etc..
If possible,I'd like to stay here for a couple of years.
In all,their vibes here are very welcoming to me.
I left my luggage in the hostel where I stayed in BA(Bratislava) and send positive answers to the real estate for the flat I'd like to take.Then travel to see more parts of Slovak lives and take the last vacation in Slovakia.
First stop,I chose Košice,the second biggest city in the east.
To say it's the second biggest,comparing with the scale of BA,which is already pretty stone-throwing,this is more like a town where I'm from in Taiwan.
And the pics are the central part of Košice. Bell tower,cathedral,the shops along the boulevard.
When I arrived Košice,it's already 6 in the afternoon and to be honest,this is not like a city in Saturday afternoon.
"Dobrý deň!" I said to the bartender in the hostel.
"Dobrý!" Michal replied.
"Do you have any bed for tonight?One person."
"Yes,of course.How many nights?"
I asked the deal I read on Hostelworld. It's only 39 euros if I stay 3 nights in a row.
"Wait,I'll ask my boss."
Michal,from a town in North-east of Slovakia. I'll mention this guy is not only because he's the only staff in the hostel at the moment,but he was amazed with my Slovak.
This is a hostel I would rather call Tavern. Downstairs,there's a bar and here,upstairs,is beds and shower room. Very simple decoration and arrangement.
Probably people would choose another hostel just seeing the pics they offer on Hostelworld but I personally love this kind of style. Laid back environment.
There's one more reason to choose here,you don't need to walk in the damn cold dark night after having drinks.
Walk in the evening on the streets of Košice,still,only a few people on the streets.
I guess it wasn't the time for people to hang out.That night in the bar,I heard there were young people hanging out on the main streets.
Talking about hang out,there's one thing I should mention if you'd like to hang out with Slovak.
Drinking is a thing here.It's really common and usual if you meet with each other with at least one beer.
There's another rule for the first met,the host would offer you a shot.There's no fixed menu but a few things to choose from,either Slivovica or Borovička.They're all at least 52%.
With the shots,not only the host would feel content because s/he serves the guest well,but also the guests would feel welcoming vibe.
Or,if you want to put in "Oh,they just love shots.",that'd be another saying.
"Prepáč，Ako sa voláte?(Excuse me,what's your name?)"
The girl who sat in the bar seemed to know Michal. Talk very casual and seemed to know how to order regular meals.
"Som Yen.Teší ma.(I'm Yen.Nice to meet you.)"
She was smiling with surprise. Talking to Michal and then he told me.
"oh,your Slovak is very good."
"Just for greeting.Nothing special."
"And she's my sister."
"May I join the Slovak lesson right here?"
Hugh,the roommate tonight,was also joining us. His Slovak is way better than me.
"How many months did you learn Slovak?"
"Umm..About 4 months."
Have to say Hugh got the talents in learning languages,but he put that in another way,saying he works in language school,and it's a must to listen and talk.
Then,another roommate,Jacob,and a friend of Martina's were also joining us.
After a couple of drinks,the abilities of languages are soaring insensibly.At the end,Martina just spoke Slovak and I'll tell Michal my guess of what she said.And it turns out I got 80 % right.
I'll drink more to celebrate the soar.
This is how the nights in hostels looks like.
People gather here without planning.It doesn't matter what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. Now we're all here enjoying the shit and vibe. That's the most important thing to think about.
Of course,after all these,we all have to deal with lonesome to travel separately the next day.
I got no plan for the day and town but there seems something waiting for me outside.
Roommates were packing and leaving,waving goodbye to the town;I sat in the dorm,empty myself by looking up in the sky from the window.
The town,as usual,is very quite and sound.
I walked up to information center to see if there's something going on today as Sunday.
"You can go to the exhibition today in Hilton. It's tea,coffee,and chocolate exhibition." The reception girl recommended me to go.
I still remember the thrill I had when traveling to Poland from Germany.
The life expense is so low comparing that in Germany. I was so relieved when seeing the price like this.
As last year the euro rate was high,this year it drops at least 25% for NTD holders. Such a relieve to spend money.
The people who attended the exhibition were the employers or staff who runs business in coffee shop or something related.
Standing behind the crowd,reading the context on ppt and trying to get some useful words by google translator.
"Excuse me,may I have a smell of it?"
I asked the guy in front of me for passing the cocoa fruit to me.
"Do you know what it is?"
"It's cocoa.For chocolate."
That's how I met Miro and a young entrepreneur,Gabriel.
After brief introduction,Gabriel said to me that he's an owner of Cider factory.
"Me and my brother are confusing about why there's nobody drinking Cider in Slovakia,not even girls."
"So we started this last year."
The entrepreneurs I know so far,they all have the same spirit,the drive of doing things. They just go for it,without worrying about fail.
"What about your education?"
Gabi(for short)and Rado are still at the ages of uni.
"Well,we have to 'drop' school because we want this(business) more than education."
Walking down the exhibition and talking with Gabi,I'm think about the ideas of their business and the difference of mine and theirs.
And this is the moment I noticed the only stand with Chinese words.
Jana,the performer of tea art,works in tea house in Košice.
For drinking tea,not as much as the people in Western Asia,it becomes a part of life for Slovak. A part of tea they have here is from Eastern Asia,I also saw they have that from Taiwan.
"Do you speak Chinese?"
It's not me asking Jana,instead,it's Jana asking this in Chinese.
"Yes,I can.You speak in perfect accent." I replied in Chinese too.
"If I got something wrong during the performance,please feel free to tell me."
"You got more than I do,don't worry!"
When time's close,Jana started to introduce the importance of tea to us to the people at the stand,then,the show started.
Watching Jana chose the perfect tools for picking leaves and pouring tea,I felt amazed at how she performed. This made me remember the meeting I had with German friend,who we met in Tehran,Iran. His skills of making tea were very surprising.
"You don't know how to?" He asked with doubt.
It's like I have crush with Iranian cultures but I found out that not so many Iranians have the knowledge as much as me.
"You totally nail the show."
"Thanks,I have master who taught me all these."
After the performance,I told Jana that we don't usually drink the first pot.
"And why is that?"
"Because of the remaining chemical pesticide.Although the first one tastes more flavors,we still pour it out."
"Looks like you met new friends." Gabi said.
"Yeah,the girl at the stand could speak perfect Chinese."
"What a small world,right?"
"When are you going back to Bratislava?"
"Because I'd like to invite you to our factory to have a visit."
"Wow,that's nice! I'm definitely interested."
"So I'll ask your number and I'll call before we're about going."
Back to the hostel.
"How was your day?" Michal asked with delightful welcome.
I told him everything happened today and he replied with the classic smile on his face.
At first,I got some suggestions beforehand that people out of BA would be less friendly and more limited in English.
As turned out,it's not all true.
Tonight's roommate,Kat from UK.
I couldn't quite remember what we were talking about but at the end,we ended up the night with Chatroulette with my NB.
For those who knows nothing about Chatroulette,it's a random online chat website,you could choose what kind of topic you'd like to chat,with someone in the world who's also interested in.
Anyway,we signed it up and started to chat with someone we don't know without choosing any topic.
We borrowed some random liquor bottles from Michal and showed them what kind of liquor we tried already.They just burst into surprise and asked how we could act so normal after all those.
Indeed,we were lying 'cause the visit tomorrow.
I asked Kat if she'd like to go with me.
"Hey Gabi!I'd like to take my roommate with me,is that OK?"
So the plan is going to the factory with Kat and Gabi would give us a ride.
In the factory.
Gabi and Rado are brothers. Gabi was in business department and Rado was in biology one.
Rado found himself interested in brewery so they started working together to run a business,selling Cider.
It happened to have projects from the government for supporting young people to start their own business so they gathered some fund and applied the projects.
So now,there are several restaurants and bars selling their apple cider in BA and Košice,they're trying to sell in some other cities and towns.
They didn't hire anyone to work for them because the factory is still fresh and they don't have enough fund to support the cost.So they do everything by their own hands.
So,except for the brewery tanks,he made the bottle cleaner,bottle filler,even the sterilization tank.
If imported from other countries,they'll have to pay around 8,000 euros,and Rado,for saving,he himself spent a few days to figure out the way to make it and less than 1,000 euros to create similar one. By testing,this tank just works fine,even better than the one from abroad.
Making me embarrassed as I'm an mechanical engineer.
"You know,it's try and error. I tried a couple of times to work everything here out."
We all agreed this is exactly why machines are interesting to us. You just gather some parts and it doesn't how it looks like,the functions matters and you'll feel like achievement in life.
Gabi led us to the office full of logos and signs.
They designed all the stickers and logos on the bottles.
"When life hands you apple,drink Cider."
They're currently have discussion with the farmers in Austria,hoping they could have apples from different areas and try out the best flavor.Also,pushing the idea of drinking cider in Slovakia.
Truly,there are many kinds of liquors and wines,but not so many soft drinks like cider here.Making many non-drinker Slovak feel being out of vibe and I think that's why they always serve tea in bars.
To be honest,I'm not really familiar with cider.One is because I'd choose beer over cider when in bars.One is that there are not so many choices in Taiwan for cider and I happened to dislike the flavors.
Their cider is not as sweet as other cider I tried before but the sourness is higher and more bubble.
Gabi also let us try semi-finished cider which is unfiltered,more alcohol taste and sweetness.
"We have another type of Cider,which is called 'Hoppy Cider'."
We're not going write down the details about how to but I could tell there's hop flavor inside and I found myself more into this one!
Seeing Gabi and Rado were doing arrangement and repair in the factory,I seemed to see similar ones when I was in uni and the certain friends I would like to call "pre-entrepreneurs".
We were in the same class in business department and we just let our minds go,thinking crazy ideas about what kind of products are more welcomed by customers.At the end,we just did those because of the projects for class.
For us,it was a project in class. For those who would spend all his/her time and efforts to make it work,it was life.
From the Opré brothers,I could only see the greed in confidence and expectation,instead of money.
When I recall the time we were only chasing low cost and simplified production,rather than caring more about the endurance and usefulness.
We were looking for a way how to make quick money in our hands,not a way to make business stay on market for long time.And this,is making our society pay for what we did before.
It's not a sin to chase wealth.But this kind of chase without regarding outcomes is like loaning our happiness from banks and make the future selves suffer.
It's not going to stop if we step out and call it a draw.
I believe it's not only happening in Taiwan and Slovakia.After all,it's yet a century from the last world war and it's not their fault of the last two generations creating the "wealthism".
Generations will evolve and we're just happened to be on the transforming point and unfortunately,we're all forced to face the fact.
I see Opré in some restaurants in BA after the visit.Every time I see it,I could imagine the accomplishment when seeing the golden drips coming out from the tanks,stepping to the promising future.
From them,it's not wealth.
It's life.For their own.
Before we came back to downtown,Opré brothers drove us to Lunix deviat.
This is a place where people in Košice hate so much just because the government made a decision to concentrate all the Romas to this place to deduce the crime rate.
After years,different governments started to tear down the apartment here,forcing the Romas here facing the accommodation problems.
If you search "Lunix 9",you'll realize what kind of environment the Romas living in right at the second. Dirty and without any power and water running around the area and nobody is going to fix the problems.
For the bad impressions from European,the wandering culture,and unequal rights of education,they could only stay here.Although it's not a problem yet for the residents in Košice,there's no better way to solve the difficulties.
According to Michal,there are some bold travelers would take the challenge to visit Lunix 9 and the consequence is being stolen.
Rado drove us to the center of the community and everyone around us was staring at us.
It's impossible to imagine the lives could be. There are garbage everywhere and kids are picking up something useful from that.Adults are hanging around instead of going for work.