Saturday, April 09, 2005


Bratislava the sequel. Hotel Kyjev hasn’t changed. The weather has, though, and the room we find ourselves in is hot and on top of that very noisy. Partly because it is on the city side but also because one of the windows doesn’t close. That isn’t very strange. It is a miracle the other three windows close well.
We change to a room at the other side. It is the same room. Every room is the same room in this hotel. Even the colourless reproduction of a tree painting is bought in bulk.

To get here, we took a fast EC train. It stops only once on the way here but at every small station the train passes, a railway employee in full uniform is waiting outside the trainstation, the green/red round device buried under his or her armpit. Not moving. Maybe smiling. We are going too fast to see the details. Why on earth are they standing there like that? Whatever it is, I’m sure it makes them feel more real. Maybe that’s why they all grow moustaches too.

The second time you visit a city is the best. From the first time you know the rough outlines, the different rules. Where to get your tramtickets, where to find the galeries, restaurants, cafés. Where to go and where not to go. But still you don’t know it well. You can be surprised. You can be lost. You discover new places. You return to the old ones.

I only get lost in Hotel Kyjev.

I am up before the sun is. I see Albert of at the Bratislava airport. I walk back to the hotel for the famous Kyjev breakfast. These are the small pleasures in life. The extra’s you get for free.

Three hours later I set foot in a sleepy town called Cunovo. No living soul around. A flat metal Jesus hangs on a cross in front of the church. His eyes are closed. Just outside the cemetary a flashy folder is nailed on a tree. Gravestones for reduced prices the whole month of april! In Cunovo you can save a lot of money when you die.
I am here for the Danubiana museum, founded by a Dutch guy named Meulensteen. I am promised to encounter some of the “more cutting-edge art in Slovakia”. The three kilometer walk is surreal. I can’t find a way out of the dusty cluster of houses, walk in circles for three quarters of an hour. Next I find myself in a Tarkovski movie, walking through the woods, out of nowhere the wind starting to blow at full volume. A deserted restaurant followed by a deserted highway. A river, followed by a dike, followed by a huge and entirely empty parking lot. I hear a hammer hammering but I don’t see anybody. There is a lake and on the other side a silvery museum, shining in the sun. Swim or walk? I walk. And walk. And walk. And reach a dam. The sky has turned greenish. Cars pass me by. Big cars, bigger cars. Enormous cars.
Exhausted I reach the museum. And feel betrayed. Respectable paintings in charming colours. Soft easy listening music fills the majestic rooms. Shit, I forgot to wear my “good taste is the enemy of art” button! The coffee is nice though and the waiter charmingly shy. And what can be more soothing than the promise of an exhibition coming up with the once so famous Martina Navratilova. Yes, you are right, there is a tennis player with the same name. In fact, it is the tennis player.

Back to Sturovo. At the window an elderly couple carrying a large container filled with home made wine. Opposite a girl dressed in white, obviously wearing a wrong bra, the whole trainride she keeps adjusting it with one hand, the other one she needs to hold her phone to her ear. Next to me a smelly man, trying to talk to anybody but me. Sometimes it is a blessing not to speak the language. A border patrolguard comes by to check our passports and doesn’t believe I am not travelling to Budapest but get out at Sturovo. “What are you doing there?” he asks. “Living” I answer. He gives me back my passport without a word.


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