After Sofia, our shows traveled on to other parts of E. Europe and so did I. In my first stop, Bratislava (Slovakia), I took advantage of the amazing weather by walking up to the castle, some nice views of the New/”UFO” bridge & St. Martin’s cathedral but not much to see in the buildings, and around the winding streets around Michael’s Gate. In the old city area I discovered streets full of shops, restaurants, all with outdoor terraces alive & buzzing with the unmistakable spring feel in the air, and more quirky E. European statues, like the Paparazzi, Cumil “The Watcher” man in a manhole, and Schoener Naci, a Bratislava citizen who used to walk the streets in his finest, greeting people as they passed by.
My hotel was also a highlight of this short stay in Slovakia, there were touch panels in the people elevator - very futuristic - and a vehicle elevator to get to the parking garage. Once again, I was easily amused.
From Bratislava I drove into the Czech Republic. It was European Labor Day and the weather was perfect for the holiday, although I was working it was nice to have a day driving through the countryside surrounded by the bright yellow “mustard” flower fields. My destination was Prague but as I was passing by Brno, I thought I would stop off to explore the country’s second largest city. The police check point coming into the city and then lack of activity, people, open shops, etc. in the centre struck me as odd initially but I dismissed it as being a holiday and morning time, but when I realized the town was virtually deserted after the few hours spent visiting the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul, the Town Hall Tower, and the Parnas Fountain, it started to feel very eerie. As I walked down the Masarykova towards the Namesti Svobody (main square), out of the corner of my eye I saw a massive police TANK roll past me. Then as I looked around I realized that the street was covered with police in riot gear. Many thoughts ran through my mind… bank robbery, terrorism…then relief as I realized it was trendy to be American again thanks to Obama and that the cops were extremely relaxed & jovial. Curiosity, of course, got the better of me so I had to ask a TV crew to shed some light on what was happening. Finally I learned that a white supremacist march of 1,000 “skinheads” was taking place in just a few hours. I considered the photos I could get if I stayed around but better judgment took over and I got the &*^% out of there!
A few hours later I was safe & sound in Prague once again enjoying the many splendors the city has to offer – a mellow, eclectic vibe, beautiful architecture, bridges & spire topped buildings, and tasty food! I caught some sort of peaceful demonstration/parade of human flowers on the Manesuv most (bridge), strolled by the (John) Lennon Wall – a Czech symbol of love & peace, and went into the famous astronomical clock tower where I looked down on Old Town Square.
All things considered, it was a very eventful and enjoyable week in the former Czechoslovakia!