Okay. I’m a week into my trip as I am writing this, and I realize that I’d be reminisce to not mention a new, but authentically—perhaps quintessentially,—Slovak experience I’ve had since returning to the country.
Now, that’s not something I’ve experienced a lot in my life, if I’m being honest. I am a pretty laid back person. I like tea, board games, early bedtimes and personal space. Back home, if I spent an evening out with my friends, we were probably at a trivia night or playing cards in the attic of a game store.
However, my short time here has brought me to see nightlife in a new light.
The reason for that is two-fold. Firstly, and cursorily, I’m living in a party hostel. I’ve been forced to see a lot more partying than I ever wished to and, reflecting on it, I’m as certain that it isn’t really my thing as I am aware that it isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
More importantly, though, my evenings spent with Slovaks have shown me the benefits of quelling the homebody inside me. In particular, I want to talk about how I spent Halloween.
I asked my friend Milan if we could do something for the holiday (lacking a costume, I ended up in street clothes with a lightning bolt drawn on my forehead,) and so he and I went with a few people from his English-language theater troupe to a cocktail bar called Bukowski.
Just as the name references a famous literary figure, so do all the drinks. They serve a number of shot-sized cocktails under names like the Austen, Marquez, and Joyce; as well as Slovak and Czech authors like Kráľ and Jesenská.
It has the pensive mood of a cafe, especially when slow. The lights and music are low. The crowd is nicely dressed. Outside the warm interior, there’s a circular courtyard which opens onto the sky—at least, It does when it is not cluttered with umbrellas shielding the patrons from a drizzly evening.
I sat down and observed for a while, watching Milan and his friends interact in the way only theater people can; reciting lines from plays long past and attacking each other’s English pronunciation.
I didn’t say much at first, even when they were speaking in English. They made such a tight knit group, not exclusive, just intimidatingly familiar already.
There was sincere Milan, of course, a tour guide incarnate and my Slovak best friend.
Matka, who had a spunkiness and classiness that reminded me of an upstart heroine from a film in the 40s.
William, with a quiet disposition but a large presence that hinted at just how much he could change on stage.
Nassi, the lead in the next production and a woman effusing in comfort, capability and sarcasm.
This was the table I sat at, and I was beggining to open up and chat as they decided to step outside for a smoke. As we got up from the table, Matka asked a man sitting at the bar next to us what he was doing. I’d seen him with a tablet, but not thought too much about it.
The rest of us followed Matka into conversation with him. That’s how we met Jeff. He is from San Francisco, an artist for video game developers, and, at that moment, another fellow traveler. He’d been sketching us for as long as we’d been sitting there.
We were all thrilled to see the drawings, even if some of us were in costume.
There is no way in the world that photos would have better captured the scene than Jeff’s work.
He stayed with us the rest of the night. He sat at our table and, after Nassi and William had to go, we left Bukowski for the bar where their troupe (ActofKAA) goes after performances. They were about to close, but got a few Kofolas (Slovak communist cola) and played foosball. We ordered a final round of shots before the bar closed, a drink called Fínsky dych (Finnish breath) that involved a whole ritual to be properly drank.
We finished the night by grabbing Kebab from a nearby hole-in-the-wall shop. Turkish doner kebab is the quintessential European drunk food. It’s quick, cheap, and filling. In many ways it is to Europe what Mexican food is to the US.
I know the night was tame by many people’s definitions, but it was entirely pleasant for me. It was an intimate group with good conversation and enough alcohol to relax but not lose yourself. I’ll definitely be spending more evenings out like that.
Oh, and just so you how lame I am, we were back by 10:30pm. I got a full 8 hours sleep.