Dateline: Liptovský Hrádok, Slovakia

It was a pleasant trip down here yesterday. fuego did the driving, MaK the navigating, and I the passengering. To navigate in this country you have to know the names of every damn village and cottage between your start point and your destination — referring to roads by number at an intersection is rare, and using the same town name at two consecutive intersections also seems to be against the rules. Sometimes even when you do recognize a town name on a sign it’s difficult to tell what intersection the sign is referring to.

One wrong turn eventually led us to a little place whose name translated (with only a little license on my part) to “Snowville”. It was pretty and appropriately named. The snow was coming down hard as we went through, and it seemed that everyone in town was out with shovels. We got to see the village twice, as we reached a dead end at the far end of town. The road went on, but when we asked a guy if we could get through he said “maybe in a Jeep.”

Eventually we got here and settled in. This place is nice, and very inexpensive. We have the bottom floor of a house — two bedrooms and a fully-equipped kitchen — for less than $30 per night.

Once we settled in it was time to set out in search of pivo and a bite to eat. We quickly discovered that options are limited in L. Hradek. We walked down to the most center-of-town-like area and surveyed our options, but one place had the wrong kind of beer, one was an English-style Pub which was right out as far as MaK was concerned, and one was a not-so-special hotel restaurant. Finally we asked some people on the street where a good place to go would be. After much discussion, first directing us to one place and then another, we said we just wanted to go to a place to have a nice beer and relax. One of the guys took charge, and walked with us to a place very close to our little home away from home. The man said hello to everyone in the pub, including the kitchen help.

It wasn’t a fancy place at all, but it was comfortable. It is part of a hotel that serves a sports complex; I assume it is where teams stay when they visit. We sat, our beers came, MaK chugged hers in the Czech fashion, and we settled in for a nice meal. My dinner was excellent. While sipping my dessert beer I said to fuego, “You know what I like about this place? It’s not smoky.”

fuego looked around and noticed that there were no ash trays on the tables. It turns out we were in a non-smoking bar. fuego asked if this was a Slovak law, and the bartender said no, they just didn’t want people smoking in there. I honestly never thought I would find anything like that in Eastern Europe, where tobacco is a food group. When we were done we bought some beers to go and made the short walk back here, tired, happy, and not smelling of smoke. It was a good day.

11 thoughts on “Dateline: Liptovský Hrádok, Slovakia

  1. Remind me to tell you of a recent discovery in Pagosa Springs … no time to go into detail now, since I head out to teach my class in a few minutes, but I thought I’d tantalize you a bit….

    (Also, I’m likely to forget if I don’t leave this message to remind myself!)

  2. OK, actually, I have two discoveries in Pagosa Springs, and while neither is smokeless, they have their virtues.

    First is the Bear Canyon Brewing Company, which isn’t actually a microbrewery, but it has 10 taps of interesting stuff, a food menu that includes enormous and delicious sandwiches, a bartender/waitress who calls everyone under 70 “hon,” and $2 pints during Broncos games.

    Moving down a couple of notches on the socioeconomic scale, despite its upper-class name, is the 19th Hole. It IS a hole, a dive, located in a prefabricated building that may have been originally designed as a warehouse, or possibly a hardware store. (It is close enough to the country club to earn its name that way, but I seriously doubt anyone from the country club has ventured through its door — one glance inside, and they’d be scared away.) It has 8 taps of good stuff, and $2 pints during Avalanche games. Alas, there are none of those this year. The food is serviceable, and comes in generous portions. The atmosphere is schizophrenic — some parts of the place look like a sports bar, some like a disco, some like a generic dive.

    The first time we went there, it was pretty quiet — it was the week between the playoffs and the Super Bowl, and there wasn’t even any good NASCAR going. The half-dozen or so flies at the bar were watching a car auction on the Speed Channel. I found myself getting into the action when a souped-up yellow version of Blue Blazes (Mom’s ’57 Chevy Bel-Air)came onto the block. It sold for a mere $180,000.

    This past Saturday, we revisited the 19th Hole, and things were much more active. There were three times as many flies at the bar, and they were immensely boisterous. There was NASCAR on the TVs. The lone bartender, a less hairy version of Skinny from Unforgiven, was hard-pressed to keep up with the customers. Turns out they were leftovers from the night before — there had been a live band, and things had been hopping. Skinny didn’t get to leave until 4 a.m., and these folks were waiting for him to reopen at 11.

  3. But one of the great things about this bar was how much of a community the flies were. They clearly knew each other well, and when another one came in the door, they greeted him or her loudly. There was one guy who appeared to be going through some emotional distress, and his friends were working hard to cheer him up — at one point, three attractive young women were hugging him and kissing him and pouring tequila shots down his throat, and later another guy was getting down with a serious hear-to-heart talk.

    Then there was another regular who came in with a kid about Gerald’s age, who demonstrated Colorado liquor law — at least as interpreted by Skinny. In New Mexico, a minor is not allowed to enter a bar, even if accompanied by a parent or guardian. In Colorado, a minor may enter the bar with a proper chaperon, but the minor may not sit at the bar. So the kid couldn’t sit on the barstools, and he had to stand back about a foot and set his soft drink on one of the tables instead of the bar. As it was, he played a couple of rounds on a pinball machine, and a couple of songs on the jukebox, and then his parental unit had to leave.

  4. What I see my previous entry didn’t completely communicate was the huge energy in the place — the vitality of a bunch of people who know each other well, and who enjoy being happy together. The 19th Hole was a happy place. Just being there, even as a visitor, was a happy feeling. Next time, maybe we give Gerald an allotment of quarters to practice up on the pinball, and when that kid comes in again, he and Gerald can play. And if the kid is constructively occupied, maybe his parental unit doesn’t feel so guilty that he has to leave after only 15 minutes.

  5. The “Colorado Burger” and “Pagosa Buger” were also pretty good, and they had stuff like fish, and decent fries. Interesting that the flies, who ranged from punk/techno to country cowboy/girl in attire, all seemed to know each other; two of the girls who were trying to cheer up the depressed guy were also kissing each other in front of him. We were in Pagosa to get some stuff from Radio Shack; we also managed to hit the monthly “bag sale” at the Methodist Thrift Shop.

  6. I’m sure Pat meant “Pagosa Burger“; as far as I know, nothing in the place came out of anyone’s nose. And as far as I could tell, the “stuff like fish” actually was fish. At least, it was nice and flaky and not overcooked. I’m guessing New England cod. It wasn’t skinny enough to be farm-raised catfish, the other inexpensive fish to be found in these parts.

  7. NEWS FLASH! The Town Talk in TorC has gone non-smoking!

    Well, actually, it’s more complicated than that, but to refresh memories, I had in an earlier thread mentioned that the Town Talk did a fantastic over-easy egg but had the drawback of having a very small dining area, of which only three tables in the corner were designated non-smoking.

    Well, it is now under new ownership. We had heard of the Cuchillo Cafe in Cuchillo, about 12 miles outside of town, and had heard that it was worth the trip, but we had never gotten around to it. This past weekend, however, the Town Talk had a new sign — it’s now either the new location or a satellite location of the Cuchillo Cafe, and not the Town Talk any more. However, it still has some of the same staff, including the breakfast cook.

    And now that it’s the Cuchillo Cafe, it’s 100%, totally, completely non-smoking. I could never have imagined something like this happening in Sierra County, but yes, indeed, it has. Sure, the new-age and vegetarian eateries that cater to the holistic folks who come to the hot springs have always been non-smoking (or at least not tobacco), but conservative Cholesteral Central? Whoa!

    What else was amazing was what a huge crowd the place drew. Apparently TorC has had a huge reservoir of people who have desperately wanted their over-easy eggs but didn’t want the nicotine. Now they have exactly what they want. Hurrah!

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