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.