Sunday, March 24, 2013

Driving me crazy

How to drive in Slovakia, (after extensive research and experience) 
- When driving, drive fast enough to catch the car in front before over-taking at any available or non-available opportunity even if you are about to stop in the next village or town.
- Over-taking on bends is allowed. 
- Whilst turning corners or parking you must only use one hand on the steering wheel to do so. What you do with your other hand is your business.
- Never acknowledge or give way to other road users including pedestrians on crossings.
- Beware of pedestrians as they might suddenly want to cross the road on crossings instead of waiting for you to pass.
- Over-taking of police cars is allowed.
- If you 'bump' your car or anyone else's in a car park it is not your fault.
- Always make sure you park at angle in a parking space, preferably over two parking spaces. This gives more room to open your car door as no one can park next to you.
- Over-taking of three to four cars is allowed and gives extra marks for outstanding handling.
- The law is to have your lights on all the time. If your headlights fail use your fog lights. Don't worry about fixing your headlights even if your fog lights blind other road users.
- Speed limit signs are just road decoration, ignore unless the traffic news on the radio is warning of police with speed cameras on your journey.
- Over-taking traffic in a traffic jam is allowed.
- Never put your handbrake on whilst parked. Leave in gear and if an Englishman gets in, have a little laugh as he forgets when trying to drive off in it and the car lurches forward and stalls.
- Do not pull over if your mobile phone rings, keep going and answer it, especially if you are over-taking a police car on a bend and approaching a pedestrian crossing with your fog lights on.

Good luck!


Whilst waiting over night at the airport on my return to Havran last week it was again noticeable that I was only person without a computer, touchphone or whatever to play with. I don't miss all this but I had missed that David Bowie had re-incarnated. And that got me thinking of an old story of when we met one elderly couple in Slovakia who were convinced Mr Bowie was a distant cousin of their's.
With a smile on our faces and an occasional cough to hide any laughter we suggested we could find out if there could possibly be any element of truth in this. And after all David Bowie might like to know as well.
After some extensive research we did surprisingly come back with some music link. Alas it was not DB but an exiled obscure 1970's progressive rock guitarist who was also called David. 
Only muted celebration followed from the elderly Slovak couple when told this news. Nevermind, we were still asked if we were to bump into the said guitarist (or DB for that matter) please drop by Mr and Mrs Strapko. They would be happy to welcome you with a piece of homemade cake and a small tipple of homemade brandy, oh and Mrs Strapko's wheelchair wheel isn't turning very well and might need replacing. And Mr Strapko may need a new hearing aid, and the car isn't running too well, and..blah blah.
Whenever we pass that village now Ziggy Stardust "ground control to Major Tom" rings out in a poorly impersonated version of John Sessions "Stella Street" accent.   

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Orange is not our favourite colour at the moment. 
After all the pumpkin we are happy to have moved onto greener vegetables and after a few recent issues with a well known mobile operator we both agree that orange is not our favourite colour right now.
Finally now that the snow melts and magically forms mud we have the opportunity to clear away more orange from our cottage. The orange debris is then scattered to improve the road surface which has suffered after another long hard winter coverage. Fortunately we don't mind driving over this orange.
In Slovakia people quite like their bright colour renders on their houses. There is a farmhouse within view which is painted loud mint green. It is not uncommon to see red splashed render houses, or yellow, we've even seen a frightening purple one. We don't get it, there's enough bright colour in the world already without having to put a 'coloured icing' on your house. Especially orange.  

Friday, March 1, 2013


After witnessing what grass finally looks like this week now the snow is finally giving up it sure feels like Spring has arrived. 
No more creative falls on ice which I have splendidly demonstrated this winter. 
Melting snow provides the newly formed streams that flow constantly down our eroding road. The slushiness last week was more difficult to navigate in the car than any frozen ice previous to that!
And there is no more pumpkin, the last splodge taken to compost heaven. Relief to eat something different. 
But then the old outside freezer decides to pack in. Having survived the whole winter of coldness it decides to give in just as the days become warmer! Panic, as our over stock of frozen vegetables and plums need to be re-housed. Suddenly we need the snow to stay and not melt around the huge cooking pot we have now standing outside in the most northerly shaded and snow-filled area! 


A trip out of Havran to somewhere much more populated! Off to the nearest mainline rail station. Near emptiness, doors squeak open then slam shut, echoing. A few wandering strangers, no rush here to board any trains. There's not many. 
A closed off buffet area, it probably is open but doesn't want to show it is. Kiosk with fading unopened crisp packets and tupperware containers full of unappertising treats on display in it's window.  
Huge wasted space in the enormity of the station's roof, a fantastically genuine communist gem, maybe a couple of degrees warmer than outside but with the feeling of being much colder. Dominating, and opposing whilst looking like a permanent washed out black and white photograph. Untouched for the last few decades. Probably the same woman has always been the toilet cleaner/collector of loose change in all those years.
Cheerful chimes to announce information suddenly brighten the atmosphere for a few seconds stopping shadowy figures in their tracks. 
I notice the cactus display roped off on the station concourse, a cactus display?
Big purple hair lady wanders past, face like thunder, off to work on her scheduled run. I'm approached by another woman hoping to pass conversation with me. With my ignorance I pretend not to understand when really I am kidding myself that I really don't understand that much of what she says.
By the time the train I need to catch has rumbled along the snowy lines to the platform, I'm ready to get out of this cold. I can't wait to sit down and hope for a pleasant journey in the newly  upholstered carriage. That is until I realize that I am probably the only passenger on the train going the full length of the journey on these cushion-less seats. Obviously these were made for shorter than 7.5 hour trips. 
Nevermind, I have a window seat and can wave to each station master as they religiously stand to attention outside on the platform of each station we pass, even in the depths of this snowy winter.

Further Note; I was expecting delays, even cancellations on the journey back last week after the last snowfall of this winter, no such problem as we raced back home. Despite any reservations with the aging service it got me from A to B and back to A, a 15 hour round trip, 2 minutes late.