Sunday, April 24, 2005


I like sun in the morning. I like sad songs. I like spaghetti. I like removing splinters from my fingers. I like the smell of mowed grass. I like weeds turning into beautiful flowers. I like carrots, raw, not cooked. I like silence. I like fields. I like the colour of the sky just after twilight. I like old cars. I like wrinkled faces. I like French villages. I like bumblebees.

What on earth am I doing here?

Zilina. A city in the northwest of Slovakia. It is 10 ‘o clock in the morning. The sun is shining. So far, so good. The breakfast table is standing next to the ticketmachine, about 2 metres from the single track. Marek bought ham and orangejuice and white breadrolls. The coffee is almost ready. Traffic zooms by, cars buzzing like big insects. A handfull of viaducts tower over us. When I take the first zip of coffee, a train stops. People leave the train, a woman wishes us a pleasant breakfast. The train moves on. I drink my coffee. Smiling. Smiling?

Did you ever see the French movie “Irreversible?” I did. It is terrible. It is terribly good. The worst scene happens in an underground passage. A woman alone. A man passing her. Haunting music. I’ll spare you the cruel course. But I can tell you a friend of mine saw the video and didn’t want her boyfriend near her for a whole week. She almost got into a fight with the person who had encouraged her to go and see the movie. This made me curious. That is when I rented it.

I arrived in Zilina in the middle of the night. It takes 3.5 hours from Bratislava. I couldn’t leave earlier because I didn’t want to miss a lecture by a British D.J. The lecture was part of the Multiplace festival, an international new media festival. I saw a lot of videos, attended a “walking workshop” and hung around in the “Trash cafe”. It was a relief to see some real contemporary art and talk to people who work in the same field as I do. The dj was an excellent lecturer. The subject of his lecture was “Sonic warfare”.
He talked about sound being used as a weapon during the Vietnam war and by policemen during violent protest actions. About shops attracting customers with music, about rappers and D.J.’s and about the movie “Irreversible”. “It isn’t just the terrible images that make you feel sick” he explained. And he turned on his sound system. Loud. Louder. Louder. It was the music from the movie. The music in the underground passage. Just before my stomach turned around he switched the sound of. A terrible sound. With tunes so low they actually make you feel physically unwell. I hadn’t experienced that while watching the video. But it must have been like that in a cinema with a good sound system.

My train left at 21.30. I slept -or did an attempt to- the biggest part of the journey. The landscape was invisible. It was only from my reading about this area I knew I was in the presence of mountains. The pension I booked was situated outside the centre. The 5 euro rate per night didn’t promise a lot, but it was near my destination.
I crossed the whole village, it was past one ‘o clock already. A big road led to a huge interchange. Big roads crossed bigger roads. Viaducts. A graffiti jungle. Only one way to reach the other side. When I walked down the stairs into a dark tunnel the music started in my head. At the end of the tunnel a man was walking in my direction. I tried very hard not to feel scared. But trying didn’t work. The music got louder.

But here I am. 33 hours later. Zipping my orange juice outside a trainstation in the middle of the interchange. Cars like bumblebees. Graffiti like flowers. Yesterday evening we danced on the platform. Inside students from the art academy showed their videoworks.The D.J. played terrible music, but we danced anyway. Did the others think about the Jews who were transported from this same platform? I didn’t. I forgot. But I remember now. My footsteps on their footsteps.

What is it with this place? When I got here I couldn’t believe somebody would fall for this location, would put all his energy into changing this railwaystation in a culture centre. Now I drink my coffee smiling. I don’t want to leave.

I have to leave.

I enter the underground passage and hope I will walk it again soon.


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