Unbelievably, I've been in Slovakia for four months. For four months I've been drinking Slovak, eating Slovak and sleeping in Slovakia. Although I was at first scared enough to beat jelly at its own game, I wasn't to know how many English-speaking voices I would catch mingled into crowds.
Slovakia is that desperate cliché - an 'up-and-coming' country. Emerging onto the world scene, finding its way onto world news, Slovakia was featured on two BBC World Service programmes in one week. These two reports cited Bratislava as the capital of a country making scratches on the global slate. Yet, I have seen tourists, very often the English speaking voices I so easily distinguish in the crowds, arrive for the afternoon to be whisked around the Staré Mesto for an hour or so, then disappear to explore the more 'exciting' venues of Prague and Vienna.
They barely takemin the relaxed, yet positively alive, Hlavné Námestie, where it is possible to sit and stare, for hour upon hour, watching the world and his camera dash past. From here, they often scarcely see Michalska and the sharp gateway against the sky, imperiously watching its cobbles. Do they even take in the Most SNP from its own walkway, a world of graffiti and a view to rival that from the Hrad?
What can they possibly see of this somewhat eccentric building? Many only have time to click their cameras before being whisked onwards and elsewhere. They scarcely see Vinohrady, with its sprawling view of the city. From here, tourists can see all of Bratislava and more, and even though I realise they would spoil my escape holes, I am prepared to share what I have found.
Does no one else want to take the tram to Dubravka's vineyards, which bely the closeness of the city? Will so many people miss out on the steep streets behind the castle and the stroll from the centre to Šafárikovo Námestie, where some of the buildings could rival Vienna?
So many people are missing out on so much. However, the recent Presidential elections made national news in Britain. It is to be hoped that interest could be ignited by such reports and international recognition. I've lived here for four months and am shocked by how little I have seen. How could one hour be enough?
19. Jul 1999 at 0:00