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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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The Rest of the Country

Hipster Trnava

Trnava had piqued our interest for its designation as “Slovak Rome” because of its many churches; and having read that a food truck festival and flea market was happening there last weekend, this “special offer” made the Saturday plan to visit the neighbors come together.

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Saturday in Slovakia: Trenčín.

Last weekend our destination of choice for interesting sights (and great food, of course) was Trenčín, a moderate-sized town in the northwest of Slovakia and the northernmost Roman city in modern Slovakia.

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Modranské Vinobranie!

A weekend outing with the promise of pretty castles or pleasant scenery is to us what sleeping in or Sunday brunch is to others. Bonus points if there is a festival in a village we haven’t visited, for that brings with it the promise of good food and wine, as well. Last weekend the wine village of Modra, Slovakia offered all of it!

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Nitra, "The Mother of All Slovak Cities"

Saturday found us as empty nesters for the day, with Anna Grace off running and jumping at a T&F invitational in Munich. Ordinarily we would attend to cheer on the Knights, but the forecast for Bavaria called for rain, rain, and more rain, so we pointed the wagon toward sunny and warm Slovakia whilst cheering on the team via SMS. Call us fair weather parents.

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Weekend Roundup. Meat and Markets.

Saturday dawned sunny and bright, and thus Tony and I needed no further invitation to head out somewhere. One of my news feeds mentioned a festival somewhere nearby in Slovakia, and that was good enough for us.  It turned out that the town was celebrating the autumn kill, or something (we don’t speak Slovak!) Though everything on the grill smelled wonderful, eating barbecued animal parts at 1030 in the morning wasn’t for us.

 

Swine Dining in a Slovakian Dacha

Well no, not quite, because the Russian dacha culture is as unique as the Austrian’s Gemütlichkeit, but being in the foothills of the Little Carpathian Mountains, and with the snow falling, made us feel as if we were on a holiday. And after a week of highs and lows on both home fronts, this food holiday was just what I needed.
The occasion was a Pig Feast. No, not Pig Fest, but Pig Feast. We arrived a little before midday; by this time the other half of this lovely, lovely, piggie was being prepped for lunch.
We were not alone in our enthusiasm for swine dining.

The brave opted for fresh roast pork outside.

 

We, not so much. At a reserved table and delivered by white-gloved waitstaff, the first course: an aspic of roast pork and onions with homemade vinegar. Oh. My. Growing up, this dish was very casually prepared in a square pan, with wedges cut like brownies. This was much prettier.

The main? Roast pork with potatoes and sauerkraut, of course. We have never been served a meal by white-gloved wait staff, and nor have we ever, ever had roast anything that tasted as good as this roast. Ever. After lunch we wandered a bit outdoors to walk off our meal, catching snowflakes on our tongues, smelling the pine trees, and otherwise savoring the experience.

Because meat grinders and red wine pair well.

 

 

The rosy glow was from the gusty wintry weather, and not at all from the glasses of Frankovka Modra we enjoyed with lunch.

We explored the little village below the dacha before heading home, too. An unremarkable rural and slightly shabby Central European village with the requisite town gate, and three churches.

 

By good fortune we missed a turn heading home and spotted a small store selling Majolika pottery. I am not a big fan of the patterned pottery, and the kindly shopkeeper spoke only Slovak and Russian, so we resorted to the other universal language of “Euros and Pointing” so that I could bring this gorgeous tall water pitcher home instead.

Is that not a beautiful color combination?

To end, a bunker along the way home that I had not spotted on previous border crossings. And just when I thought my day could not get any better.

The Dracula Countess of Slovakia

Sprinkled across Slovakia are over 3.000 castles and ruins, but this one, tucked in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains is especially fascinating. Legend holds that the lady of the manor, Countess Elizabeth Bathory had a special beauty regime: she liked to bathe in the blood of village virgins, believing it to be her secret to youth. With the help of her assistants, and even a sadistic dwarf as one version holds, she lured young maidens up to the castle where they met their fate. Some say over 600 young girls were sacrificed; others, a mere 100. Whatever versions of the story you might believe all seemed real as two intrepid friends and I trekked the kilometer or so up the narrow and unimproved path to the ruins. “Whose idea was this?” 

2014 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Elizabeth of Bathory, and the little Slovakian hamlet of Cachtice, where the castle resides, has begun restoring portions of the ruins and preparing for tourism, with a brand-spanking new entry point (€2.50 to walk the ruins, but the WC, perched on the cliff, is free). This won’t be on the Carpathian Mountains Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus any time soon, though, so come prepared with hiking shoes and a bottle of water.

A dark band of clouds cast shadows over the ruins during our visit. Could that have been any more appropriate?

From the neighboring village of Visnove there is a second path to the ruins, for the more adventurous hikers.

The Czech Republic in the background.

 The tower where Elizabeth of Bathory was condemned to lifelong imprisonment.

From the makeshift souvenir table we could not resist purchasing “Bathoryckina Krv,” the full-bodied wine, and ruby-red, of course. 
The hamlet of Cachtice is small, and in the square stands a wood carving of Elizabeth of Bathory, complete with a screaming maiden at her feet. In the background is St. Ladislav, where it is believed her remains are buried, though no one has ever found them. We sat for a quick lunch in the square and watched plenty of visitors pose with the Bloody Countess. A little creepy, a little quirky.

Good weather, good friends, good road trip.”Whose idea was this?”

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