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From St Nicholas to St Andrew: Patron Saint Celebrations

On Saturday it was St. Andrew's Day, celebrated in Scotland as their patron saint. On the same day in Slovakia it is the name's day of Ondrej, which is the central European version of Andrew. Both refer to the St Andrew apostle who was crucified on an X shaped cross. He never made it to Scotland, but his bones were carried there by other missionaries. And St Andrew's cross has been the national symbol of the country long before whisky, kilts and the deep fried Mars Bar appeared.

In Slovakia, St Ondrej was associated with folk customs. Girls used to pour hot iron into water and the shape of the solidification determined the profession of their future husband. If it was a gun, he would be a soldier, a hammer stands for a smith and so on. There were more traditions, like preparing the cattle for the winter and starting the Christmas cooking and decorating. With the confectionary and trees on display from October in Slovakia, we can raise a glass with our friends, being a few weeks ahead with the Christmas preparations.

However, the traditions are surviving only in regions where folklore is more resistant to alcohol intoxication than commerce. Let me explain. Having a beer in a Scottish pub in central Bratislava on the 30th, I was one of the few who took any notice of St Andrew's Day. Most of folks were looking forward to St Nicholas Day, six days later than St Andrew's (which I wrote about last year).

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The Revenge of Mother Nature on Easter

Easter in Slovakia is supposed to be the celebration of spring and birth. Well, the pounding snow last Friday morning surprised everyone.

However, the climate was still that of April and consequently the snow in the lowlands started to melt and caused flooding. Some villages had to be evacuated. During the second part of Easter festival guys go house-to-house and pour cold water on women and girls so that they stay healthy and pretty. I think the flooding is the revenge of Mother Nature for the years of watering.

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Bratislava From a Visitor's Point of View

Pleased by the fact that the airport transfer bus was on time, and the pilot's announcement that the weather conditions in Bratislava were suitable for landing, I could really start to enjoy my holiday. I hadn't been to Slovakia for 5 months and so I've taken the opportunity toreview the capital from the point of view of a visitor.

It took us about five minutes to get on the bus to undergo the 30 second transfer to theairport gate. There are not many flights at the Bratislava airport, therefore they cherish every single landing and like to give passengers the ride. The totally empty arrival lounge testifies to the idle periods between flights.

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Slovakia Vs ‘Western’ Culture (Part 3)

Erik is a university graduate from Slovakia who is currently living in London. In the third and final part of a mini-series, (see part one and part two) he reacts to an article about the differences between Slovakian and 'Western' life. Each quote is a reference to Slovakian life:

Bread & Soup

Quote: "Always start a meal with soup, but make sure you have bread with it."

I had a friend back in London. He worked as a chef at one of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants in Knightsbridge, so he had some background in cooking. He would run me down every time I started to heat a cup of soup, telling me that soup is only for cold, winter days. It is enough to eat something small, like fruit or salad to kick-start your digestion. Some people, however, classify soup as only the starter, which then as gives them the excuse to cram it with bread, pasta, cream and any other excess calories.

"Brake" the Alcohol

Quote: "Most Slovak bartenders couldn't make a decent cocktail to save their lives, but that's just because Slovaks take their alcohol straight up."

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Slovakia vs 'Western' Culture (Part 2)

Erik is a university graduate from Slovakia who is currently living in London. In the second part of a mini-series, (part one is here) he reacts to an article about the differences between Slovakian and 'Western' life:

Family Lunch in Slovakia

Quote: "In Slovakia a nicer meal is often eaten for Sunday lunch than what would be eaten during the rest of the week. The family might even all sit together at one time at the table."

Slovakia is a predominantly Christian country, and keeping the family together is still entrenched in the subconscious of the society. Although the old-school church goers are slowly dying out, or are being institutionalised in the retirement homes, it is not too bad to join our loved ones for a couple of hours, enjoy a meal and discuss the things we can't get down to during the busy week. As the five star chef Gordon Ramsay says in one of his books I recently came across; the gathering at a joint meal can actually take place on any day. Just make sure that you spend some with your family and that no one leaves until everyone has finished their meat.

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