Around Slovakia

Early snow pleases skiers and stuns drivers

Slovaks are contemplating the pros and cons of winter's early arrival.
photo: Jana Liptáková

ST. MARTIN always arrives on a white horse's back, an old proverb says. That was the case this year in Slovakia: on November 11, St. Martin's feast day, freezing temperatures and falling snow launched an early ski season in the High Tatras, and shocked drivers in the western part of the country.
Hundreds of people went to the High Tatras on November 10, drawn by the earliest start to the ski season in the country's history. The season started with 50 centimetres of snow, which came from the sky as well as snow machines, the Pravda daily wrote.
"Even on Monday (November 5), I did not believe there would be such excellent skiing on Saturday," said the head of the 1. Tatranská ski resort operator, Ján Gavalier. "But by Monday afternoon, temperatures had already fallen below zero and we turned on our snow machines overnight."
Twenty minutes before the ski lift was supposed to start running at the Interski slope, about 20
The Slovak Polar Bears Club opened its season on November 11 with a swim in near-zero temperatures in the western Slovak town of Nemečky.
photo: ČTK

people were already waiting in line. The season started at 8:30.
Last year, the ski season at Štrbské Pleso started one day later, on November 11.
1. Tatranská is still making snow with the help of 13 snow machines on other slopes at Štrbské Pleso. It was working on the Esíčko slope last week, and Solisko was next in line.
Last year's ski season started on November 11 and ended on May 8, but major warming in November and December stopped skiing from November 28 until December 15. The whole ski season lasted 161 days.
The High Tatras enjoyed its longest ski season during the winter of 2002-2003, when it lasted 175 days from November 16 to May 8.
The snow was less welcome on the roads in the western part of the country. In the Nitra Region, the snow caused problems with public transit buses in particular. Cars also had problems negotiating the hilly terrain.
On the notorious road between Nitra and Zlaté Moravce, cars had to wait in an hour-long traffic jam. The Trnava Region also reported more than the average number of accidents.

Second conjoined twin, Michal, dies

MICHAL Müller, the second of the conjoined twins who doctors separated in mid-September, outlived his brother Marek by only 36 days.
Michal died on November 9, succumbing to post-surgery complications, the Pravda daily wrote.
The condition of the second twin, which had been serious for the last few weeks, became complicated on November 9, said Vladimír Cingel, the head surgeon of the Children's Hospital in Bratislava. The boy died at around 18:00 the same day, hospital director Daniel Žitňan told Pravda.
At a press conference on November 8, doctors said Michal's chances of survival had decreased to a minimum because his small intestine was not working, leaving him unable to digest food.
Doctors had to operate on the boy and repair his leaking intestine five times. During the last surgery, they found out that his body had used up all its healing power and the wounds were not healing any more. His heart, kidneys and liver worked well enough, but he could not breathe without help from machines.
Conjoined twins Marek and Michal Müller were born on April 11. They were joined at the chest and shared a liver and gall bladder.
In mid-September, a team of surgeons successfully separated the twin brothers in the second such operation ever performed in the country. The operation was necessary because the baby boys had difficulty breathing and their lungs could not develop properly.
However, as doctors expected, complications arose after the 20-hour surgery. Marek contracted a serious infection, and in spite of intensive medical treatment and life support, he suffered multiple organ failure and brain damage and his nervous system broke down. He died on October 4.
Michal's prognosis was better from the beginning, but after the surgery he suffered digestive problems.
In 2000, Slovak doctors successfully separated two baby girls, who were joined at the pelvis. The twins are now doing well.

Sme website struck by hackers

THE WEBSITE of Slovakia's Sme daily newspaper was the target of an extensive attack by hackers on November 9 and 10.
The website was inaccessible for two hours each day, the daily reported on November 12.
An unknown hacker used thousands of infected computers to launch an attack on the site, trying to crash it by overwhelming its connection requests. Most of the hits on the website came from forged network addresses in Romania and Lithuania.
The head of the daily's IT department, Michal Mihálik, said he does not expect the culprits will be caught.
The first attack started at 19:00 on November 9 and lasted until about 21:30 that night, editor-in-chief Tomáš Bella told the SITA newswire.
At first the hackers only attacked one server, and immediately after the daily responded, the attacks ceased.
Everything started again the next day at 11:30, when the attack also hit other servers owned by the Petit Press publishing house, which runs Sme, The Slovak Spectator and other publications.
"It was even bigger than the one on November 9," Bella told SITA. "We have blocked more than 1,500 computers around the world that were involved in the attacks, and we are gradually blocking others."
Access to the site from abroad had to be blocked temporarily as well.
Bella said he thinks the hackers used compromised home computers for the attacks.
"Your PC can be infected by a certain programme, which waits for an order and then starts attacking a server," he said.
He suggested the attacks could have been launched by a hacker who wanted to prove he could shut down such a large Slovak website.
"Some websites have been killed by hackers within a few hours," Bella told SITA. "Some companies even went bankrupt when they faced hacker attacks that lasted for weeks and could not fight them off any longer, because managing a defense is very expensive. If somebody is really determined, there is no way to defend against this."
IT expert Michal Holeš told SITA that such attacks happen every day.
"However, in Slovakia this is the first attack of this size," he said.
The server usually handles between 300 and 400 hits a second on weekdays, and is theoretically able to cope with 10 times more, Mihálik told Sme.
"On Saturday between 11:30 and 16:30, when the attack was at its most intense, there were between 100,000 and 150,000 hits per second," he said.
During the most aggressive attacks, the daily moved its news service to a free blog site provided by Google.

Forest company meets game meat needs

THE LESY Topoľčianky state-owned forestry company is making the most out of the game meat that comes from its forests.
It reconstructed its meat processing plant for Sk11 million (€333,500), and it is now selling all the meat it produces for the highest prices possible, the Sme daily wrote.
In the past, gamekeepers sold animals from the forests for less than their actual value, because the old plant did not have enough capacity to process all of the game from its forests. The plant was not able to compete with two private processors.
"It was not advantageous for us (to run the plant) from an economic point of view," the head of the forest company's service centre, Miloš Kunský, told the daily. "Now we have found out that it is possible to deal with

A chess game between Prešov Mayor Pavol Hagyari (right) and Dutch honorary consul Matúš Murajda ended in a draw on November 7. As a prize, Hagyari had wagered his personal parking spot and a dinner at a fancy restaurant. Murajda, who is an executive of the Germor Fashion clothing designer, had bet 70 winter uniforms and 40 reflective vests for the town's police force. After the draw, they exchanged the prizes.
photo: ČTK

game meat. Now we are processing game from all over Slovakia."
Some local shops are starting to find a market for game meat. Shoppers see it as a delicacy and they are willing to pay more for it than for "normal" meat.
Most game meat comes from people who pay to hunt in the forest, when hunters only keep trophies from the kill, such as antlers. The meat is then processed in the plant and the skin goes to a carcass disposal plant, as there are no plants that process it.
During the hunting season, which lasts from mid-September to mid-October, the plant processes 100 tonnes of game. The most common animal is deer, followed by fallow deer, roe deer and wild pigs.
On occasion, the plant also gets a bear or a European bison. The last bison arrived in the summer, when a seven-year-old animal from the local menagerie was shot because of its injuries. During the first week of November the plant processed a bear that hunters brought from Liptovský Hrádok.
The plant produces 50 tonnes of meat from every 100 tonnes of game.
"We do not have any problems selling this amount on the local market - through wholesale chains, hotels and our own shop," Kunský said.
Some local chains used to buy game from farms in New Zealand, but not any more. Meat from farms does not have the same taste as wild game, he said. Excess game is exported to Austria, Slovenia and Germany.
Slovaks like game meat because it is considered to be healthy, even though it's more expensive. Deer sirloin is the most expensive, costing Sk770 per kilogram. Deer thighs go for Sk380 per kilo. Wild sheep ribs are the cheapest, costing Sk60 per kilo.

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