Meeting G’ma Sip’s Cousins

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

We woke up in Klato and Elena made us omelets + liquor for breakfast, toured a neighbor’s garden and had mushroom soup (made by Michael’s mother, Hana).   Mushroom Soup

Every time we left a relative’s house, we got presents- usually it included alcohol!  (See below: my bell + apron!)

Elena's kitchen

On our way out of town, we stopped in Nedanovce (a tiny town a few miles away from Klato) to plan a visit for the following week with another set of relatives.

Zdenka

(Zdenka & Marie: The sisters are 80 & 85 year old cousins of his mother!)  It was a pretty old-timey way to set up appointments.  They sure were surprised to see us!

Hana’s summer cottage is in Neda Nofsa and she took us over to the cemetery to visit dead relatives.

CemeteryLovas Grave IMG_0794

We headed back to our Slovak ‘home base’- NITRA- It’s a mid-sized college town where dad is friends with a Lutheran priest called Pastor Ivan.  We settled in at the Penzion Vila Aria and made plans to drive across the country the next day.  Luckily, in Slovakia it will only take us 4-5 hours.  🙂

PenzionAria

September 23

In the morning, a tiny, hummingbird of a woman, Anka, made us omelets for breakfast and forced me to take a pile of salami for the road.  She didn’t speak any English, but she was very concerned that I might go hungry.  This often happened to me in Slovakia… I guess I just have that look about me. ; )

ANKE at the Aira

Before we begin our cross-country trip we pop over set up a visit with “Young Jan” who also lives in Nitra.  Dad knew where Jan lived, so we stopped over- but no one was home.  We called Jan’s cell phone and he answered but the connection was bad… until he stepped out onto the front porch!  HEY!!!!

After setting up a visit for the 30th, we start our journey to Poprad, at the foothills of the Tatra Mountains.

tatras

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The Agricultural Fair in Klato Nova Ves

Michael cheers DadWhen I last left you, we were just leaving the VINOTEKA – where we tasted BURCIAK (wine’s sweeter/younger/cloudier cousin) and gave the chandelier the ‘Ultimate Test’.  We headed towards Alena’s school through the grounds of an abandoned mansion- the family had collected ‘exotic’ trees that we recognized from Michigan!  Species like Black Walnut, Ponderosa Pines and Sycamore trees!Klato MansionThe Mansion was owned by the mayor and in 1901 his wife started a school in a spare room.  Now, Alena is the principal of that school, on the same property.  Today is the Agricultural fair and all the kids have brought their biggest vegetables/fruits to school to win ribbons.

Outside of the school, Veronica was gathering seeds for her garden.Nika picks seedsInside the school, the ballroom was lined with folding tables heaped full of the bounty of the backyard gardens of  the town of Klato Nova Ves.  It was pretty impressive!

The spoils of Nature

The school kids recreated the town with cardboard box houses, decorated with seeds  and leaves.

Klato recreated

This is the cutest Leaf-Fox I’ve ever seen.  Good job, Anetka!Leaf Fox

Mom found a BIG pumpkin and a basket of gourds!

Big PumpkinThere was also an entertaining table of door prizes – our favorite was a gift basket of wine, paired with a first-aid kit!  Just incase you injure yourself in a drunken stupor.  We headed out an hour later and stopped to admire the fountain in the ‘Nameste’ (Town square).

Klato fountain

Then, we head back to Alena’s house for leftovers! We’d spent 1/2 the day, wandering through this tiny town!  As we made our way home, these hearty geese chased us across their yard… eventually, I should post videos- these guys were SO NOISY!

Klato Geese

Slepacia, Slivovecia and wood-fired pork knee! Oh my!

Klato

We arrive at Alena's house just before noon and lunch smells fantastic!

Arrival

Meals are long and boozy when we are hosted by our Slovakian relatives. Every course begins with a shot of local liqueur called Slivovica, served in a fancy cut glass. Whoa! Mom & I play along- knocking back our shots and shouting, “Nastrovia!!!” Dad has learned that he can opt out of most celebratory drinking with a single word, “Chauffeur”, since the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.0%. Slovakians take drunk driving very seriously… probably because they take their drinking very seriously!

Nastrovia

*Upon closer review of this photo- this is breakfast. Omelets and shots = Yowza!

The first course is always Slepacia. Homemade, delicious chicken soup with delicate handmade noodle (if you're lucky). Alena had ordered focaccia with bacon from the bakery and I had to pace myself- everything was so delicious but there was more to follow.

Then, the pork knee arrived at the table, wood fired and full of flavor. (Did we have veggies?) There is a little plate of cut veggies & pickles- just like at G'mas house.

 

We sat for a while after dinner- Michael in the center of multiple conversations- and then dessert arrives on the table. Kolache! Dad's favorite kind of Slovak cake is a roll with walnut paste inside. There is also a poppy seed version that is very popular. G'ma Sip used to make both varieties. Two & 1/2 hours after lunch began & its time for a walk… Or a nap. We opt for the guided tour of Klato.

In such a small village, the principal attracts attention wherever she goes. We stop to talk to kids & parents as we head up the hill to the cemetery.Alena and her students

One of the older women we pass offers us handfuls of walnuts that she has collected.Walnuts

In the cemetery, we visit Alena's mother's grave, Stephania who passed away 3 months ago and clear the leaves off her grave and light a candle for her. In Slovakia, everyone takes care of their own family's grave – one family was there doing some landscaping with white quartz rocks.

Stephania

The town of Klato is so small that they do not have a church- the chapel in the cemetery holds services on Saturdays, when the priest from the next-town-over is available.

Klato chapel

We stopped in side to ogle the paintings on the ceiling and making sure our number wasn't up…

Now serving

Jesus is now serving number 888.

After leaving the cemetery, we make the logical next stop… the VINOTEKA!!!

On Tap

Slovakians grows lots of grapes and many of them make their own wine. This guy built a bar in his basement and it's awesome! He is also a metalsmith and really went all-out decorating the bar in a manly fashion.

IMG_0686

The owner really wanted to put up this sweet chandelier and then his wife pointed out that tipsy patrons may try to swing on it. So, he re-installed it to support up to 250 lbs. In the photo, Veronica + Michael are giving it 'the ultimate test'. It seems to be holding up!

Burchiok

Did you notice the pitcher of cloudy 'wine' in the photo of all the taps on the wall? No? Well, it may have been your introduction to BURCIAK- its midway between grape juice and wine. A lot of the sugar hasn't fermented into alcohol yet, so it's sweet yet gives you a buzz. And since we had WALKED there, Dad's usual excuse did not apply. This photo cracks me up!

The tour of Klato wasn't over, next we head over to Alena's school to check out the Agricultural Fair! We'll save that excitement for next time!