We all spend a lot of time on the outside looking in. Little by little, Englishmaninslovakia is getting to know what it’s like to be on the inside of Slovakia looking out. And for a foreigner, that’s no easy task. For our 100th post I’m giving the floor to someone who has managed to get that insider perspective far better than me. Michael Guyer spent almost five years living in Slovakia between 2000 and 2006. Much like me, he is someone from another country who, by the strange twist of circumstance, came to Slovakia, fell in love with it and ended up staying for a long time. And despite now living back in the US (for now), his love affair with the country is by no means over.
I often get the impression Slovaks themselves are the people who most need encouraging that their diminutive nation on the edge of Europe is in fact a hauntingly beautiful one. Sometimes, I think, it does indeed take someone from another land to come in and say hey – there are many things about your country many people from around the world would love the chance to experience.
In any case, Michael, who holds the slivovica from Myjava region, open fire and folk songs, the smell of burning wood in autumn and a hot coffee in a warm coffee in the dead of winter as some of his favourite Slovak experiences, wrote this poem about Slovakia – and has kindly shared it with Englishmaninslovakia.
So, for the visitors to Slovakia yet-to-be and for those who live here but perhaps need some reminding about Slovakia’s positives, and, well, for anyone else too:
Slovakia, you are beautiful.
Slovakia, you have given me more than I have given you.
Slovakia, it has been seven years since I have seen and it is killing me.
Slovakia, I remember my first glimpse of Trenčin’s square and castle.
Slovakia, why does the sun always shine on Čachtice?
Why does the sky weep over Košariská?
Slovakia, I hear you calling me…
But I am sinking fast.
Slovakia, do you really need the European Union?
I am nostalgic for koruna.
Slovakia, you must keep your folk traditions alive.
Slovakia, I miss singing with comrades in Myjava and Krajné,
Opekanie and school in nature.
Slovakia – January 19, 2002 – Nitra.
Slovakia, you do not need America or Russia.
You have beaten them both by keeping your integrity.
Slovakia, do not send your money to Greece.
Pay your teachers more instead!
Slovakia, your soul is your own and no one else’s.
Do they not wish to be as honest as you?
Slovakia, you are Europe’s heart.
My heart beats for you.
The streets of your villages bleed history.
Slovakia, although your hockey is great you have much more to be proud of.
Slovakia, I hope your politicians act in your best interest,
If not, vote for me!
Slovakia, do you listen to Pearl Jam?
I want to hear your jazz.
Burning notes rising from your city’s bowels.
Slovakia, I stare at the table, at my hands, into my coffee.
Thoughts of you cloud my mind.
A blessing or a curse?
Slovakia, can I invite you for a coffee and talk of revolution?
Where will we meet to sing Bob Dylan?
Protest songs and a Topvar!
Slovakia, fuck those who fatten their wallets at your expense.
Neocolonialism with a human face?
Slovakia, you are more democratic than America.
Slovakia, I miss your bread and beer.
I learned my Slovak numbers at a bar in Stará Turá.
Slovakia, you must keep Slovak the national language.
Your national anthem brings tears to my eyes.
Slovakia, did Tiso have to hang?
It is never as clear as black and white…
And hindsight makes geniuses of us all.
Slovakia, I do not mean to get political but it needs to be said.
Slovakia, when I drink domáca slivovica I can taste you.
Myjavska je najlepšia!
Ja som ešte stále Myjavec.
Slovakia, the winds of change have greeted you as both friend and foe…
And you have survived them all.
Slovakia, I respect your discipline and perseverance over the centuries.
Slovakia, I miss Vianočný trh on Hlavné Námestie, Bratislava
Varené vino and medovina warming a cold December day.
Can you see my ghost in Prašna Bašta?
Slovakia, where has Hotel Kyjev gone?
Slovakia, I remember my first glimpse of Vysoké Tatry.
Fresh žinčica in a rustic salaš in Orava.
Nature’s silence and summer breeze through mountain meadow.
I can see Kriváň in the distance.
Slovakia, do not allow ignorant tourists to disrespect you.
Toss them in the Dunaj, I say!
Slovakia, do not allow globalisation to invade and corrupt you.
Slovakia, do not forget the stories of your elders.
Your history must instruct your future.
Slovakia, I am sure I was born in the wrong era.
Was I born in the wrong country?
Slovakia, I know you are busy but can you write my future?
Slovakia, am I wrong to feel this way about you?
Slovakia, my wife will cry when she reads this, I know.
She is a proud Slovak.
Slovakia, I hope my son takes pride in reading this someday.
I hope he embraces his Slovak heritage.
Slovakia, I hope you and I meet again soon.
I await your invitation.