Schöner Náci, September 2002. I’ll never forget the magical year I spent living and teaching in Slovakia’s gritty capital. Although a relatively small city, upon arrival it felt like I’d been dropped in some gargantuan Soviet bloc jungle where a dense concoction of dark, gray and unsmiling was the order of the day. Thankfully, the city’s tight compact old town saved the day with its historical buildings, artsy cafes and grungy bar scene. A collection of cutesy historic statues added much to the district’s enchantment too. This one stands in honour of Ignac Lamar, a renowned Bratislava vagrant whom the locals supported with free food and occasional cleaning work. Famously friendly and charming, if not a little mad, he was a regular city sight; strolling around in his tails and top hat, greeting people and kissing the hands of ladies. For a more detailed insight into my first impressions of Bratislava, check out my short story Up on the Hill.
The Paparazzi Statue, September 2002. Paparazzi was one of Bratislava’s swankiest restaurants and indeed us English teachers never actually made it there for a meal. This guy, commissioned by the restaurant itself, was another popular old town landmark. A few years back I was saddened to hear the restaurant had closed down. Horrifically, the owners took the statue away with them!!!! I’m not sure if it’s since made a comeback, but was encouraged to read that city officials had been negotiating its return. For a more detailed insight into my first impressions of Bratislava, check out my short story The Welcome Party.
Štadión Pasienky, September 2002. Essentially it was the people that made my Bratislava year such a memorable one. By far the most fun, carefree, shenanigan-laden twelve months of my life, the people I shared it with have since taken on an almost mythical status in my psyche. This was an early shot taken just a few weeks into the year. We’d gone to see a god-awful football match between ŠK Slovan Bratislava and Košice, which turned into an excellent opportunity to ignore the game and get to know each other. There was Andrew Reynolds (green sweater) a northern Englishman with an anti-monarchy stance (“string ‘em all up!”) and a penchant for bear impressions. Jessie and Caroline (front row) from Washington State were two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, while some ten years later Irish Mike (white/brown jumper) and I would write a screenplay together, an Amsterdam-based comedy drama called Red Light. Ben meanwhile (far right) became one of my closest friends, a perennially grumpy but warmhearted son of Doncaster who turned me onto Bob Dylan. And then there was Sladjana; sweet, sexy, confusing Sladjana, the girl who stole my heart and refused to give it back. For more on these characters and our adventures together, take a look at my short stories Minxology, Road Trip Part I and Road Trip Part II.
The Dubliner Irish Pub, December 2002. We inhabited numerous bars that year, though two favourites were the legendary Slovak Pub on Obchodna Street and this lively Irish bar on Sedlárska. I remember being distinctly unimpressed the first time we went to Friday night karaoke. The singers took themselves so seriously and were way too polished, hogging the stage with multiple performances. Plus every other song seemed to be Robbie Williams’ Angels! Happily, when Rich (my Californian flat mate) and I stood up and belted out Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles, the audience seemed to really respond. In fact, it went down so well and we enjoyed it so much that Don’t Let Me Down Friday became a tradition. For more on The Dubliner and my time in Bratislava, have a look at my short story Blood in the Lobby.
The Mask Party, February 2003. When winter hit Bratislava so did house party season, with people taking it in turns to host. There was a Cheese and Wine Party, which felt very grown up, though sophistication levels suitably plummeted for The White Trash Party, a parade of mullets, sideburns, thongs and affected southern accents. This early morning shot was taken at the infamous Mask Party, my handmade mask having been discarded somewhere in the apartment. I have long forgotten what Bagman and I were talking about, but it looks like it was an intense conversation. For more on Bratislava party season that year, cast your eyes over my short story Party Hearty.