Ah, Slovakia. So many reasons to love you.

For a girl from a very Texas-centric family, I have a rather out-of-nowhere, abiding love for Slovakia.

Before you get confused, let me tell you what (it’s Nov. 29, 2015) Slovakia is not:

  1. part of Czechoslovakia – no one is part of Czechoslovakia because it doesn’t exist anymore
  2. Slovenia
  3. in the middle of a civil war (you think I’m joking, but I’ve heard it…recently)
  4. in southern Europe (again, Slovakia is not Slovenia and…by the way…)
  5. Serbia
  6. related in any way, shape, or form to the Bosnian war

Okay, that should just about do it.

Let me tell you what Slovakia is:

  1. beautiful – still slow to adapt, which means Slovakia has pure, natural, and traditional beauty (mountains, cities, rivers, etc.)
  2. friendly – try just one word of Slovak and they’ll love you, my favorites are the same in every language…Ďakujem (thank you) and Prosím (please), but most people speak or understand English
  3. open – smiling goes a long way and Slovaks are THRILLED to teach or show you new things
  4. accessible – so easy to get to via a quick drive from Vienna
  5. connected – WiFi is fairly common in most hotels, restaurants, and public spaces – they figured it out quickly – WiFi it up and have people Tweeting and FBing about how great it is 😉
  6. a fantastic vacation spot – ski vacation, bachelorette or stag party, or just a getaway weekend, do it here

Slovakia is one of those fabulous places about which no one really knows. In my latest trip, I learned more. Why? I asked. Locals. I impressed them with my absolutely deplorable Slovak and they talked and shared.

There is almost an inferiority complex with Slovakia. It’s bizarre to me because Slovaks are SO amazing and the country is SO fantastic. Don’t they know how great they are? 

Perhaps, it’s because it is a country that can be seen as, historically-speaking, tending to get the short end of the stick. For example, the Czech Republic got super shiny Prague and the Slovak Republic got Bratislava.

Dude.

To: Slovakia

From: Texas girl

Subject: Winner, winner, chicken dinner

You got freaking Bratislava. #Winning.

Now, tips for your quick trip:

  1. From Vienna Airport into Bratislava, it can be expensive. But, it need not. Try this service: http://www.taxinaschwechat.sk
    info@taxinaschwechat.sk
    +421907700900
  2. Bratislava always has amazing things going on. For pity’s sake, I toured Slovak bunkers at night while Czechoslovakian folk music was playing. (Flask of Slivovitz helps on that one, not gonna lie). A friend recommended this website: Bratislava English
  3. One time, please be in Bratislava when it is Advent season. The Christmas market and spirit…it will get you.
  4. Oddly enough, I really enjoyed a place called Original Slovak Restaurant. I know, I know…but, try it.
  5. Just off the square, there is a fantastic shop with a small museum, Obchod v múzeu (Obchod v múzeu FB).  The charming owners (they understand English) knocked my socks off. They are truly committed (so I am) to showcasing goods that make Slovakia unique and wonderful. This is one of the shops selling exclusively “Made in Slovakia” products. Give them your money, please. Every present I brought home was made in Slovakia because I made a point of it.
  6. The Danubiana Museum. It felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, and then I saw the Danube and this gorgeous structure. It is breathtaking. Be sure to be there around sunset. One of the BEST things about the Danubiana is its promotion of truly gifted Slovak artists. I was humbled by their artistry.
  7. Take 30 minutes to pop into the Bibiana, International House of Art for Children. The things this place does to encourage, nurture, and educate children is beyond commendable. I found it by happenstance a few years ago and was thrilled to see it thriving. I have no connection to it, just admiration for anyone using art to inspire children.
  8. You must eat Bryndzové Halušky with a Zlaty Bazant followed by a shot of Slivovitz. Then, you must take a nap.

The Presidency of the European Union rests with Slovakia from July – December of 2016. This is an exciting chance for Slovakia to show the EU and us all just how amazing Slovakia (and Slovaks) are. Check that info out here: http://2016sk.eu/  Maybe not today, not the greatest headline.

Go to Slovakia and see for yourself! It is a wonderful place to visit, explore, relax, re-create and recreate, and enjoy yourself.

Remembering a great lady – Bibiana Marie Longauer

I don’t believe anyone should be forgotten.

In this age of google searching, blog posting, tattoo-brandishing, and even hash tag creating…it pains my heart to think someone I admire would be forgotten because she is not alive to warrant a hash tag.

In Luzern lived a lady, Bibiana Longauer.

She was an amazing lady – one of those people changing the corner she lived in.

Or so I hear.

I never met her. She was quite ill by the time her name was first said in my presence. Since that time, years ago, there is a small part of me that feels I know the woman whose pig collection now lives in my flat. I aspire to be like her and to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of others.

Let me break down this woman’s timeline (as well as I can). She was born in 1946 somewhere near or in Bratislava on June 7th. I like to know on which day of the week someone was born and little BML was born on a Friday. She died on July 21, 2010. That was a Wednesday.

She carried with her a doctorate in pharmacology. In 1970 or so, she and her then husband carried their little one to Luzern. She dedicated her life to empowering women, helping the helpless, and making her community better and stronger. Literally. She used her life to make other people healthier and stronger: (what was) revolutionary methadone treatment, political involvement on behalf of struggling mothers and young women, encouragement of homeopathy in a meat & potato culture, and preaching fitness. The woman introduced Stevia to try to cut back on Aspartame use, she opened the door before opening hours and kept it open after closing time, “not an option” was better said “let’s try something else.”

The woman was a light bringer.

As I noted, she loved pigs, modern art alongside furniture draped in classic, rich fabrics. People say she was generous, but kept both eyes and an extra third one on finances. Her friendship rainbow embraced a multitude of socio-economic and educational backgrounds. Was her service a job or a ministry? No one feels quite certain, but most think it was 30%-70% in favor of her faith. They say she loved music, sunshine, fresh flowers. I could go on and on about what she did well because I collect the stories like pieces of a patchwork quilt. She wasn’t perfect, no one is. But her life makes a lovely quilt.

By a strange circumstance, during one of her last days of work at the Pharmacy, Dr. Longauer helped one of my American friends who was living in Luzern at the time. We found the receipt and he told me the story in December of 2011. I love stories about BML and I wish I knew more.

Every week, I go to her grave. I usually sing the Bruder Klaus prayer or one verse of Ave Maria, I light a candle in the memory box, and I place a fresh flower…music, light, flower. Three of her favorite things.

None should be forgotten. Just because time moves on, we should remember everyone. AND it’s important to tell the loved ones. “I remember her.” It makes a person feel better when others remember his lost loved one. He feels less alone in his loss.

Remember someone today and write to his or her family or to your friends on Facebook or create a hashtag. I don’t care. Just remember.

Especially the good ones like #BML of Bratislava and Luzern.