I’m leaving Bratislava and traveling to Zagreb next week. My first visit was in 2013, during a fast-paced summer trip, so memories are vague. This time, I’ll stay for a while to soak up more Croatian culture. During the holiday season, Zagreb is known for its popular Christmas Market, so it’s a great time to visit. Enjoying the lights and music while sipping hot mulled wine on a chilly evening is the best!
EU Energy Crisis
I read an article in Politico with Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Eduard Heger, expressing his concern about “soaring electricity costs“. So far, I haven’t experienced firsthand evidence of an “EU energy and gas shortage crisis“. Ukraine aside, media sources make it sound extreme and doomsday dire – but I haven’t seen that. This year, autumn was mild, and winter is just beginning, so time will tell. In 2023, Slovakia is scheduled to “cap energy prices to help ease the impact of soaring bills”.
Here and in Vienna, I’ve talked to travelers from the UK and EU who are concerned about the oil and gas situation, especially with winter closing in on Europe. Many European countries heat large buildings with fossil-fuel-burning boilers. The European Commission is considering energy-saving options, like possibly phasing out those boilers and replacing them with geothermal heat pumps.
Bratislava has less auto and bicycle congestion than other European cities I’ve visited. Trams and trolleys are reliable and my favorite means of getting around the city. Restaurants are expensive everywhere, but basic food costs in Central Europe seem reasonable, at least when compared to the US.
Slovak Mayoral Elections
Matúš Vallo was elected to another term as Mayor of Bratislava, following a “sweeping victory in the municipal elections on October 29”. I have noticed political billboards around the city, but didn’t realize the elections were taking place in October.
“For the first time, municipal and regional elections were held on the same day in Slovakia. In the regional elections, six of Slovakia’s eight regions will see no change in the governor post. Most regional capitals will also continue under the same mayors for another term.” Matúš Vallo has been the mayor of the Slovak capital since December 2018. Before serving as mayor, he was a co-founder of the architectural studio Vallo Sadovsky Architects.
The symphony was another evening of exceptional music performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Lúčnica Choir. The program featured dramatic musical scores from popular Slovak films, including fabulous solos! By the reaction of the audience, it was clear they were treasured stories. Film is a good way to learn about a country’s values, history, and culture.
Rastislav Štúr conducted the Philharmonic, and Elena Matušová is choirmaster of the Lúčnica Choir. An emcee introduced the music performed, and she spoke very fast Slovakian, no English. There was humor involved in her introductions, since the audience laughed quite a bit in response to her presentation. The printed programs were in Slovakian as well, so I was glad to have done a bit of research before the concert. Composer Ľubica Čekovská and director / screenwriter Mariana Čengel Solčanská made guest appearances and spoke briefly about their highly successful films – Dubček and The Legend of Flying Cyprian.
Links to the films are included below. While researching them, I discovered bold music, compelling storylines, and captivating characters, composers, and directors. Most of the trailers and videos are in Slovakian, but some have English subtitles.
- The Earth Sings (Zem Spieva) 1933 František Škvor composer, Karol Plicka director – documentary of peasant life in an isolated Carpathian Mountain village
- Jánošík 1963 Tibor Andrašovan composer, Paľo Bielik director – adventures of highwayman and folk hero, Juraj Jánošík, the protagonist of many Slovak folktales and songs
- The Last Witch (Posledná Bosorka) 1957 Vladimír Bahna director, Šimon Jurovský composer – during the 18th century, a young girl is unjustly accused of witchcraft but is saved her from being burned at the stake
- The Shop on Mainstreet (Obchod na Korze) 1965 Ján Kadár director and screenwriter, Elmar Klos composer – a depiction of life during the 1940s Fascist Slovak State, the film has won many awards, including 1965 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 1966 Best Foreign Language Film New York Film Critics Circle Award, and 1965 Special Mention Cannes Film Festival
- Nevesta hôľ (Bride of the Mountains) 1971 Martin Ťapák director, Svetozár Stračina composer – Slovak wedding traditions, life, and romance in the Tantra Mountains before WWII
- Pacho, Thief of Hybe (Pacho, Hybský Zbojník) 1975 Martin Ťapák director – story of Slovakia’s famous outlaw, Juraj Jánošík, and ethnic, political, and cultural differences between Czech and Slavic communities
- The Legend of Flying Cyprian (Legenda o Létajícím Cypriánovi) 2010 Mariana Čengel Solčanská director and screenwriter – story of a mysterious scholar monk and “master of a thousand crafts” who builds a flying machine and flies to God
- Dubček 2018 Laco Halama director, Ľubica Čekovská composer – chronicle of Czech communist politician, Alexander Dubček, during the 1968 Prague Spring. Dubček was expelled from the Communist Party in 1970 for his liberal, pro-democracy positions.
- The Struggle Will End Tomorrow (Boj Sa Skončí Zajtra) 1950 Miroslav Cikán director, Eugen Suchoň composer – story of the “great worker strike” during construction of the Červená Skala Margecany Railway section, and the “tough life of the working class during the 1930s economic crisis“.
- Luck Will Come on Sunday (Šťastie Príde v Nedeľu) 1958 Ján Lacko director, Milan Novák composer – satirical comedy about an honest clerk, Jožek Púčík, falsely accused of embezzling money
- The Dragon’s Return (Drak Sa Vecia) 1967 Eduard Grečner director, Ilja Zeljenka composer – a yarn about Martin Lepiš, the dragon of the title and a local potter banished from his village for acts he didn’t commit
- The Copper Tower (Medená Veža) 1970 Martin Hollý director, Zdeněk Liška composer – adventure and romance in the Stratena Valley, of the High Tatra Mountains
- The Feather Fairy (Perinbaba) 1985 Juraj Jakubisko director, Petr Hapka composer – story about a feather fairy, Perinbaba, who lives in the sky and controls the Earth’s weather. This piece featured a soloist who played the pan flute (panpipes), an instrument sometimes associated with Slovakian folktales.
- Plavčík a Vratko (Lifeguard and Vratko) 1981 Martin Ťapák director – folk story of two babies born the same day – a son to a poor coal miner and a royal daughter to a rich king
- Krajinka (The Landscape) 2000 Martin Šulík director – a series of unrelated short stories moving chronologically through Slovakia’s twentieth-century history as “seen from the perspective of life in small towns and villages”
- Cesta do Nemožna (The Impossible Voyage) 2019 Noro Držiak director, Vladimír Martinka composer – life story of Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880–1919) – politician, astronomer, diplomat, adventurer, aviator
- The Garden (Záhrada) 1995 Martin Šulík director – comical story of a man named Jakub whose life falls into a dead end
Concerts in Bratislava have been a special part of this trip!