So from where I dropped you off yesterday it’s an uphill walk to the Bratislava Castle:
And if it looks like new construction to you, it’s because it was rebuilt in the 1950s after a fire even though the original structure was occupied back in the Stone Ages. It’s not the largest castle I’ve taken you to, but the view of the Danube is fabulous:
From my vantage point, it’s the best place to chase the sun as it goes down over Bratislava…
As soon as the sky goes dark, my hunger returns. I walk around for about 40 minutes and look at a few, well, many menus in vain. I don’t understand a word I’m reading but I suspect they all have to do with meat. Am I desperate enough to go to McDo, which seems to be on every corner around here? Well, almost…until this sign stops me dead in my tracks:
What! Phở gà in Slovakia?!? Get out of town! But why the heck not, come to think of it…I just know I have to order this so I can show it to my parents. I can pick around the chicken. The second photo is of vegetarian spring rolls:
Now yesterday I told you I’d tell you a story, and it has to do with the proprietor of this Vietnamese restaurant. When I first sit down, she’s standing in the doorway chatting with 3 Vietnamese men at another table on the patio near me. I am probably more excited by the fact that I can understand what I’m hearing for a change than the food itself–and I say this because I’d been approached by good Samaritans all day long who tried to help me locate places on my map, though to no avail due to the language barrier. In fact, I’m so happy I don’t even mind that they are talking about me. They are trying to determine my nationality and come to the conclusion that I’m from Singapore. Wrong-o! So you can imagine her surprise when I order my food in Vietnamese. This always breaks the ice, and we end up talking for a good long time. I want to know her story and whether Slovak is an impossible language (!).
She came to Bratislava via Hanoi four years ago to follow her husband, a Vietnamese national who’s owned/worked at this restaurant in Slovakia for ten years. Which means they’d been apart for at least six out of the 14 years they’ve been married. She packed up the kids and made the journey for good and they have not looked back. She tells me it’s hard work, learning a new language and adapting to a foreign culture while running a business, but her kids are doing OK, and let’s face it, we Vietnamese are hardy survivors. Her story and struggle are no different from those of all the refugees who came to America in 1975 to find a better future…but Slovakia? We laugh about this, and about all the strange places on Earth where you might find a wandering Vietnamese (and by that I mean moi). She tells me to visit this town near Prague where there is a fairly large Vietnamese community–wish I had known that when I was in Prague last summer and craving a bowl of phở. By the time I finish my new favorite drink, the kofola, which tastes like a Coke blended with cherry, apple, and currant and that has less sugar but more caffeine,
we have bonded over our common age and uncommon life experiences. And our conclusion is the same: home is where you find it.