There’s a table in the back corner of a cafe, lit by a spot light hanging from a peeling, plastered arch, and by the cool morning light reflecting off the warmly painted walls of the courtyard beyond. Standing in its center, you can see through a tunnel to your left the gnarled branches and yellowing leaves that fill one of the city’s main squares, to your right a tunnel to a busy street full of baroque buildings, gaudy shops and meandering foreigners. If you look up, you’ll see that the 18th century buildings visible at ground-level rise and messily give way to the twentieth century, sprouting steel pipes, rusting AC units, crumbling sky-walks, and a glass elevator chute. Above it all a hazy late-Fall sky covers a city that is, in many ways, similar to that courtyard where we stand. A patchwork of things long antiquated, recently outdated, and spotlessly new.
This hand-me-down crown of a 1,000 year power has had proletariat steel hammered into its gold—industrial bones which rust and flake even as today’s silicon circlet is wrapped about it all. Every era has made its mark for better or worse and, unlike other cities, there is no way to see just one idealized history.
This is where I sit. A courtyard cafe in the Slovak capitol of Bratislava. It is a city hard for outsiders to understand, and perhaps for its own people as well. In only a century it has flopped from capitol to backwater and back multiple times. With each instance finding itself in the hands of different peoples. Hungarians and Austrians, Czechoslovaks, Nazis, Soviets, and finally Slovaks.
I am back in Slovakia. I have so much to see here in the capitol of the country that hosted me and in the continent beyond.
My situation isn’t the same as it was, nor am I the same person, therefore the nature of this blog will be different than it was in 2017. I don’t know how exactly, so we’ll discover that together.
I’m volunteering at a hostel a few minutes walk from the Old Town center. I work part-time for room and board, and hope to spend the remainder of my time traveling, writing, taking photos, videos and reconnecting with the cultural-centered roots of my exchange. There’s no end date to this adventure, at least not a planned one. I hope to keep going until I feel that I want to stop. It could only be a few months, or I may end up living here.
That’s all up in the air, but I know for certain I have more places to see: Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Scotland… Frankly, Turkey, Japan, Brazil and others could easily make their way onto the list, as well. For the moment, I am I’m focused on Europe. As a history-nerd, an urbanist, and a romantic, this is where I feel the need to be. Here in Europe, I see an opportunity to grow my skills, my understanding of the world, and my understanding of myself.
Thanks for joining me,