In 1918, the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Following World War II, Czechoslovakia became a Communist nation within Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989, and Czechoslovakia was once again a free nation. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on January 1st, 1993. Slovakia has experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy, but is progressing rapidly.
Located in central Europe just below Poland, Slovakia has a population of about 5 ½ million people. It is about twice the size of New Hampshire. The economy is strongly supported by the natural resources of the region, including coal, iron, copper, and manganese. In the past, neighboring countries have used Slovakia mainly for producing raw materials for manufacturing. This means the factories producing most of the pollution are located here, and the low-cost raw materials are sent to other countries which in turn produce high-tech items for greater profit. Efforts are being made to turn Slovakia into a manufacturing country, so it can share in the profits of technology manufacturing.
We flew into Vienna, Austria and picked up our rental cars (2 new Volvos) and drove the 150 miles to Bratislava, Slovakia.
Here, we are at the border getting ready to enter Slovakia.
A view of Bratislava, Slovakia, from the Novy most Bridge tower.
The Danube river is in the foreground. (It’s not blue!)
Our hotel is the first building on the right.
The Novy most Bridge over the GREEN Danube River. The photo before this one
was taken from the circular dining area at the top of the bridge tower.
No swimming is allowed in the river because of unexploded bombs from World War II.
The Main Square in Bratislava. Our band performed here one day.
In the main square, each town had a measuring rod for the unit of measurement, the “arm”.
Of course, every town’s stick was different. Here, Jerry (our guitarist),
compares his arm’s length to that of the marks on the rod.
Hey, a piano bar with local beer. I’ve found my retirement job!
These guys were lined up for beer at 6:00 am.
Gets the day off to a good start!
I guess they have the water coming out of the little boys to
discourage people from drinking out of the fountain.
The “Manhole Man” statue in the shopping area.
One of the highlights of the week was working with the Slovakian military dance troupe. These men and women performed after us at each concert, and were GREAT!!!
A superb small orchestra of traditional instruments accompanied them in a very carefully planned sequence of song and dance.
It was also a pleasure and honor to get to know many of the Slovakian military men (the women are all civilians).
Slovakian Dance Troupe.
One of the Slovakian Dance Troupe musicians.
The men of the Slovakian Dance Troupe were featured on this very energetic dance.
I’m, uhhh… spreading international good will. That’s all. Really!!!
Bratislava has a rich history of music and the arts.
Mozart performed here at the ripe old age of 6, and Liszt performed here at age 9.
(I waited a little longer to dazzle the town with my Rock&Roll licks!)
The Slovakian Opera House.
Looking for a place to eat lunch?
Rest in Peace. No thanks!
We performed at a Slovakian Air Base open house in Kuchyna, and I met
these Slovakian soldiers with their fuel truck.
The Slovakian military uses these really cool off-road vehicles.
I want one!
Inside the off-road vehicle shown in the previous picture.
The Slovakian Dance Troupe joined us for a couple of songs during the concert at Kuchyna.
It was quite a sight seeing the traditional dancers perform to “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
A small church in a small town north of Bratislava.
Driving through southwest Slovakia. It looks like parts of West Virginia.
We were lucky enough to have a Volvo S-60 rental car.
Very nice, especially at 125 mph!!!
Approaching Solosnica, a quaint little town north of Bratislava.
My dream home (see the next photo down) is located in that group of trees to the left.
I found my retirement home in southwest Slovakia.
What a view!
Solosnica. One of the many villages in southwest Slovakia we passed through.
One evening, our host took us on a walk around a popular lake in the area. This restaurant was nestled
back in the woods and was appropriately named – “Buffet of the Mosquitos”.
A better view of the “Buffet of the Mosquitoes”.
Driving through southwest Slovakia on our way to Trencin.
It reminded me so much of West Virginia.
More of southwest Slovakia. What a beautiful country!
Trencin, Slovakia. Castle high on the hill above town.
A view of the castle from the other side of the river.
It’s an imposing sight even from a distance.
I saw this sign above a store in the town of Trencin, but was afraid to ask.
I think it was a 24-hour convenience store.
We met with a group of young Slovakian military members at a reception in Trencin after our concert.
I gave this young man one of my band career badges (it’s the silver badge above his left shirt pocket).
He thought that was incredibly cool. I’m sure he still has it.
Zvolen, Slovakia. We stayed at the Hotel Bien. It is nestled in the woods about
6-8 miles from the town of Zvolen.
At the Hotel Bien, we had some of the best food on the trip.
The décor suggests that the pheasant soup and shark filet I had would be good.
These two sisters were the daughters of the owner, and spoke English very well.
They helped us with the menu at dinner, and answered a lot of questions about Zvolen.
Zvolen, Slovakia. It could be Main Street on just about any small Midwestern town.
Hanging out with the locals on a park bench in Zvolen.
The people of Zvolen braved the rain to hear the first
American military band to perform in their city.
Slovakian Cola – 5cents a bottle. Not bad!
After our concert in Zvolen, we were treated to a very nice reception and
were given gifts by local politicians and high-level Slovakian military officials.
After the formalities, the toasts started. Slovakian liquor is HARD stuff!
I had just a few drops on my tongue to taste it, and it brought tears to my eyes.
These guys were drinking it like water.
During the reception, we were entertained by a member of the
Dance Troupe orchestra in traditional Slovakian clothing.
Earlier in the day, I had given Chief Warrant Officer Jaro Hrivnak one of my US Air Force Band career badges.
That evening, at a reception, he presented me with a set of Slovakian officer shoulder boards.
What an honor!! It is such a good feeling to know the two people who were on opposite sides
of the Iron Curtain for half a century can meet and be best of friends.
For More Information on Slovakia and Bratislava,
(I sure did!!)