Thursday, December 22, 2011

Real Pigs, Fake Cows, and Homemade Cheese

If you take anything away from this post, it should be this simple lesson: “Holy shit, the Slovakian countryside is beautiful.” That’s what I learned, at least. 

A side note for some context, this was the same day as this encounter so we were already a bit tipsy from all those welcoming shots as we drove from the old couple’s cute cottage to an even cuter farm. There were animals in every freaking nook and cranny.

[Jenna Klein once captioned on a similar picture, "Art kids first encounter with nature," which I enjoyed]

Not only that, we explored some sort of homemade playground as well. Damn, climbing ropes is fun.

After spending some time in the gorgeous fall weather in the gorgeous countryside farm place, we were ushered inside for lunch. Perhaps I should say Lunch because this was intense.
The first course was soup. Two kinds of very heavy soup plus many bread baskets. One must soak in the bread baskets here because they are not complementary at restaurants, not even Italian ones. I know, right? We once asked for one at a restaurant and caused a lot of confusion and possibly even resentment from the Czech tender. (Tender being short for bartender. You got that, right?)

After the soup, there was a main course: potatoes, meat, lots of very filling things. I was honestly going to explode when they brought out the two desserts. I forgot to take pictures until they gave us pickled beets, so this is the only representation you will get of the food at the epic Lunch. 

After lunch: more animals!

As our class wandered around staring at the beasts, our teacher Sarah had an epiphany, "Wow, these pigs are so REAL!" The most real of the real pigs she had ever seen, I guess. (Don't worry, we didn't let her live it down.)

[First line of a real life high school paper, written by a friend: "The spirit of the wild horses will never be broken." So hilariously terrible, and yet when we told Aidan, she defended the horse-loving writer. You can see it in her face here.]

 [Side note: The "spirit" was all over this place.]

 Soon enough our translator offered to take some of us on a walk. As we ventured out, we asked her how far we'd be going. 

"Ten miles."

"Ten miles? That's a really long way--nearly 20 kilometers!" We argued, but she insisted, pointing to some distant hill as our destination. (SPOILER ALERT: We didn't really go ten miles.)

But what a photogenic walk this was! We ended up stopping in this fantastic sunny field and taking some photos. And a nap.

Soon enough, it was decided that Joe was dressed like "a Sears model" and needed to pose for his cover shoot in the field. 

Oh, and don't think I forgot about the nap.

[Photo by Danielle Lashley]

 We stayed in the field too long and had to take a short cut across the field for more food.

This resulted in my left foot getting sucked into a giant mud puddle. 

[Ne, ale dekuju. ("No, but thank you.")]

 The return was worth it though, as we were introduced to unlimited homemade cheese and given a demonstration on how it is made. 

[He is wearing these pants that every Czech person seems to own, but few in our American group have been able to find in stores.]

I was so pleasantly full from the cheese, the perfect light dinner after a long day. Then we went to the hotel and were pretty much force-fed more food for dinner. On this day I decided never to eat again. 

p.s. More farmage.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Cutest Village in Slovakia

After Krakow, we clamored into our personal travel bus with the grumpy driver and made our way through the mountains to Černy Balog, a village in Slovakia. I’m going to have to split this town into multiple posts because a small non-profit group showed us around and pumped our days full of activities.

Get ready to be jealous as I show you the cabin-mansion, mountainous, fresh-air haven where we stayed. 

 [View through the window]

Like Rehlovice, we were welcomed with shots of some flavored vodka, or maybe the herbal hard liquor Becharovka, who can remember. The shots kept flowing in Slovakia: we awoke to early morning liquor at a kind old couple’s house. 

[It must be a painful life for those who are less artsy than myself...]

We had one when we arrived, one in the middle, and another before leaving, but who can remember.

This couple was adorable though. They showed us traditional Slovakian dress, food, music (involving an accordion, the instrument of angels), and weaving.

Oh yes, and dancing. The first involunteer was myself, but others followed. Let me tell you, this woman was ridiculously strong. Some of you readers may know that I can’t dance; I hardly did anything in this traditional Slovakian partnership but we were spinning at 20 miles per hour (sorry, kilometers) and stepping across the whole kitchen. I basically just held on and hoped I wouldn’t be flung into the traditional bread with lard and bacon on it (surprisingly better tasting than it sounds). 

 [And next was Naomi]

By the way, this house was adorable. (I would use a stronger word there if I could think of one.)

 [And this was in some sort of gazebo thing, furthering the adorableness to new levels]

So now you probably want to know about our third round of shots:

[Perhaps I didn't make it clear to the subjects that a photo was taking place]

The day was far from over. More fresh air and obviously more shots awaited us at the next farm.

To be continued…