My 5: Komárno, Slovakia.

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1. Klapka Square, February 2003. When I jumped on the bus to Komárno I didn’t know a single thing about the little Slovak town I was heading to. I was with Sladjana, a Canadian-Serb I was kind of seeing in Bratislava. She was a mysterious, elusive sort and in retrospect I knew as much about her as I did of Komárno. On arrival we were greeted by a wintry ghost town set at the confluence of the mostly frozen Danube and Váh rivers. The streets were caked in snow, with perilous spots of black ice. This pretty square is dominated by Komárno’s town hall, while the statue is of Hungarian revolutionary György Klapka, who bravely led his men as the last line of defence against the Austrian Imperial Army.

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The Slovak Files – a short story from Slovakia.

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In September 2002 I rocked up in Bratislava with a couple of bags and just enough cash to last until my first paycheck. And so unfolded one of the great years of my life…

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“All packed up?’’ asked Goldblum from the hallway as I dropped the last few items into my rucksack. As exciting as it was to be off on another adventure, I knew this one was gonna be a slog lugging all my stuff around, an unavoidable downside of life as a professional transient.

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Minx Manor – a short story from Slovakia.

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In September 2002 I rocked up in Bratislava with a couple of bags and just enough cash to last until my first paycheck. And so unfolded one of the great years of my life…

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‘‘Minx alert!” announced Goldblum one morning, arriving at our table with a coffee and a sorry looking McMuffin. “Where?’’ asked Ben, craning his neck to see. ‘‘Not here’’ chuckled Goldblum, ‘‘Little Katka told me three new gals have arrived. And guess where they’ve shacked up?’’ ‘‘On the hill?’’ I asked with a sleepy smile. ‘‘Yah’’ he confirmed, taking a chunk out of his eggy monstrosity. ‘‘Looks like we’ve got three new neighbours’’. ‘‘No guarantees they’re minxes” pointed out Ben, nursing his coffee. ‘‘Irish Mike has already gotten a glimpse’’ explained Goldblum, ‘‘and he’s forecasted a general outbreak of Minxomatosis”.

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Me Fish Be Dead – a short story from Slovakia.

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In September 2002 I rocked up in Bratislava with a couple of bags and just enough cash to last until my first paycheck. And so unfolded one of the great years of my life…

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‘‘How’s your love life Lignon?’’ asked Irish Mike one night at The Slovak Pub. It was one of those sleepy midweek gatherings that had kicked off with half a dozen teachers, but soon fizzled out to just a few late night stragglers. ‘‘Ha!’’ I replied taking a gulp of Zlaty, ‘‘Interesting… confusing… unpredictable… and not half as eventful as you’re thinking’’.

‘‘Who’s Busminx?’’ grinned Clockwork Orange Paul as beside me Ben shrunk back into his chair, doing his best to suppress a ridiculing chuckle. ‘‘You bastard’’ I muttered, without even turning to look at him.

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Party Hearty – a short story from Slovakia.

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In September 2002 I rocked up in Bratislava with a couple of bags and just enough cash to last until my first pay check. And so unfolded one of the great years of my life…

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Winter hit Bratislava hard that year and I was totally unprepared for it. ‘‘Lignon, is that your damn coat?!’’ scoffed Goldblum one day as we headed out into town. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a winter coat, but it was all I had and I was too stubborn to buy a proper one. Before long Golblum began calling it ‘‘the pathetic piece of cloth’’ and was forever shaking his head at me as we stood shivering at the local tram stop.

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The Last King of Štúrovo – a short story from Slovakia.

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In September 2002 I rocked up in Bratislava with a couple of bags and just enough cash to last until my first paycheck. And so unfolded one of the great years of my life…

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Ah Leighton! Do you have a moment?’’ I’d just finished an Obchodna morning class and was dashing through the lobby, keen to get my daily fix of McMinx-served coffee and fried apple pie.

Little Katka? Her shrill voice stopped me in my tracks. Oh shit, what have I done? ‘‘Sure’’ I said, trying to look relaxed as she led me into her office. Although pleasant enough in her own clipped way, the school’s assistant director was someone you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Little in name, but gargantuan in reputation, it was a widely held belief among the teachers that if you could avoid being called into Little kaka’s office, then all was well with your Bratislava teaching career.

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Road Trip Part II – a short story from Slovakia.

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In September 2002 I rocked up in Bratislava with a couple of bags and just enough cash to last until my first paycheck. And so unfolded one of the great years of my life…

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It was still dark when I awoke. With a thumping headache and sandpaper throat, I forced myself out of bed and shuffled over to the bathroom sink. Greedily gulping down mouthfuls of lukewarm water, it took me a beat to realise where I was. Then it all came flashing back, a whirlwind of images from our road trip across the country, followed by the more twisted snapshots of the previous night’s festivities in Košice. ‘‘Young girl, they call them the Diamond dogs!’’ 

Having put away just three to four hours’ sleep, my body was screaming for a return to bed and the blissful coma I’d been enjoying. And yet, peering out the window at the breaking yellow-grey of dawn, I found my myself wide-awake. Out into the Košice morning, the first blast of chilly air washed over me in a refreshing wave, going some way to hush the complaints of my aching joints. The streets were empty and silent save for the terse movements of the sparrows as they whistled and fluttered among the trees.

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