Other Nuts And Bolts Of The St. Urban’s Day Of Open Cellars

Random Nuts and Bolts of St. Urban’s Day

May 13, 2017

Allan Stevo

If you like wine, this time of year welcomes a prime weekend to be in Bratislava.  It is usually the weekend in May closest to St. Urban’s Day (usually the third weekend in May).  If you can’t make it this weekend, come another time – come during the second weekend in November closest to St. Martin’s Day (usually the second weekend).

The event is fun, out of the ordinary, and makes for a nice time spent with friends. Some other reasons that I love this event and try to make it each year are talked about in this post.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Blessing Of Wines And St. Urban’s Day

The Blessing of Wines and St. Urban’s Day

May 12, 2017

Allan Stevo

There are lots of wine cellars around Bratislava that open up for special events.

These cellars might be above-ground, in basements of municipal buildings, in modified cellars with long tables for serving food and wine to guests, or they might be in old moist, cool, underground spaces first hewn from rock hundreds of years ago by some ancestor still talked about to this day.  I imagine you know which of those I most prefer – the authentic one, the old one, the one that has served its purpose for hundreds of years and if left in peace, will serve its purpose for hundreds of years more.  It’s a space, filled with old wine barrels and that looks the same whether it’s only the husband and wife wine making team in it, or if they are welcoming hundreds of visitors that day.  There are no airs put on in such a place.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Does This Make America Less Free Than Slovakia?

A Slovak Woman Buying Unpasteurized Milk at a Vending Machine in Namestovo in the Upper Orava Region of Northern Slovakia.

Raw Milk

May 23, 2017

Allan Stevo

Should a person be able to eat any food he wants? Is it the role of the state to prevent the informed consumption of certain foods? These are two issues that I come across when I travel into different countries. An especially poignant example can be found between Slovakia and the United States on the issue of raw milk.

This widely-respected doctor uses quotation marks to distinguish between pasteurized “milk” and raw milk. He’s not sure that the former deserves the same name as the later, the reasons of which he points to in this article that – 1. Attacks the public relations departments of the dairy industry for leading consumers to believe that pasteurized milk is so good for us while 2. The lawyers and lobbyists of the dairy industry see to it that raw milk is virtually inaccessible to that same consumer.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Photos From Slovakia May 2012 – Winning The Silver In Hockey

Silver

May 21, 2017

Allan Stevo

As I have long pointed out, Slovaks tend to be fond of their hockey. On Sunday May 20, 2012, Russia faced Slovakia in the world finals of hockey. Russia beat Slovakia 6-2. While Russians offered their world championship hockey team a bit of a weak welcome home, Slovaks offered their silver medal winning team a grand celebration.

In 2002, Slovakia won the gold and many Slovaks proudly mentioned that fact for seven or eight years. In 2012, they have won the silver. I think visitors to this land will be hearing about that victory for at least a few years to come – unless, of course, next year’s team outdoes this year’s team.

Below are a few photos of memorable moments from this year and some photos of Slovaks watching and celebrating hockey. I think these photos are likely enough to demonstrate the deep appreciation for hockey felt by many in this country.

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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North Carolinians Could Learn a Lesson from the Ultra Liberals of France of All Places

France

North Carolinians Could Learn a Lesson from the Ultra Liberals of France of All Places

May 20, 2017

Allan Stevo

This past month I spent some time in France monitoring the French presidential elections. What I witnessed was a common sense voting system praised even by the ultra-liberals of French society.

– All voters must register by December 31 of the previous year to participate in elections. This gives officials plenty of time to assure that the voter rolls are accurate. There is no same day or last minute voter registration in France.

– Polls are open 8AM to 8PM on a single day. There is no perpetually open voting period in France.

– A voter may only vote in the nearest polling place. To help ensure only one vote is cast by the voter, voting may not happen outside of the voter’s official polling place.

– All ballots are placed into an envelope by the voter for privacy and then cast into a guarded glass box, for the public to be able to witness that the number of votes is equal to the number of voters.

– Voided votes (such as double votes, torn ballots, or non-votes) are considered intentionally voided and a political statement rather than proof of systemic disenfranchisement. Some 9% of French voters expressed distaste for their choices in the May 7 elections by voiding their votes, or as the French say “vote blanc.”

– All voters must show a driver’s license, a government ID card, or a passport in order to vote. The French are so serious about ensuring that the vote is protected that identity is challenged not once, but twice by election officials in each polling place – once before receiving balloting material and once before casting the ballot.

– Nearly all voting is on paper and openly counted in front of large numbers of witnesses after the polls close. To audit the paper results, a group of representative districts (equal to about 5% of voters) are chosen as electronic voting districts.

Unlike the trends in American elections, the French system demands a higher level of responsibility from voters.

“You Americans are strange. You consider it voter disenfranchisement if you do not let someone register 48 hours before an election,” said one ultra-liberal French voter defending the French voting system.

“You must think your people are stupid,” said another ultra-liberal French voter taking jabs at the many US states in which voter ID laws do not exist and periods of seemingly perpetual voter registration are prevalent.

In light of the recent strike-down of a North Carolina voting law, one must wonder if lawmakers and judges alike believe that North Carolinians are in fact stupid. Perhaps a voter system with more rigorous standards expected of voters would prove otherwise.

In what was effectively legislating from the bench, five parts of a 2013 North Carolina voting law were struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia in July 2016, and on May 15, 2017 the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, effectively affirming the Fourth Circuit’s overstep in striking down the North Carolina law.

The five components struck down called for presentation of an ID to vote, reduction of early voting to 10 days from 17 days (now considered a constitutional right, in person early voting was a concept that did not exist in the US until Texas first tried it in 1988, eliminated out of precinct voting, eliminated same day registration and voting.

As for claims that this law discriminates against black voters, the evidence shows the opposite. The Wall Street Journal reports that black participation in North Carolina elections actually increased during the time that the law was in place.

Nearly two-thirds of registered Democratic Party voters support voter ID laws according to the Pew Research Center along with 83% of indepdents and 95% of Republicans, making for 77% of all registered voters supporting voter ID laws. Additionally, 98% of registered voters from the same poll are confident they have the required ID to vote. It is common sense among voters in Chicago or North Carolina alike that a photo ID card should be show. It is the Democratic Party hacks, however, who don’t support voter ID laws.

Current laws lend themselves to fraud, which dilute the votes of legitimate voters. A judicial strike-down of common sense voting legislation is a victory for party hacks and a loss for the average voter. Even ultra-liberals in France know enough to know that.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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The Death Of Slovak Hockey

Hockey, fatalism, pessimism

May 19, 2017

Allan Stevo

It was not one year ago when one of the most well-recognized magazines in Slovakia declared the death of Slovak hockey. The good players were all born during communism claimed the allegedly conservative publication. Good hockey was a product of those times.  Perhaps bad hockey was inevitably therefore a product of the times after communism. Were Slovaks being left with only two options – either return to communism or forever be doomed to bad hockey? Without the logic of central planning, the wealth of the nation could simply not be used to muster the resources required to succeed in a post-communist era.

This is the country in which people young and old, male and female rejoice at the success of Slovak hockey and brag about it to visiting foreign strangers like myself.  Wouldn’t communism perhaps be a better fate than giving up on this source of pride of the Slovak nation?

 

Well, thanks to the 2012 Slovak hockey team, the 2011 prediction made by the Slovak weekly Tyzden has been put to rest. Maybe now Slovaks won’t feel compelled to choose communism as a way to achieve pride in hockey.

Did communism really lead to better hockey players? Could there be some other answers that explain this scenario? Is it possible that communism might not be the only answer to the question of how the Slovak national hockey teams that came of age  a decade after the fall of the iron curtain got so good? Surely I know that no logically minded Slovak would say to himself  “There is only one way to achieve a good hockey team and that is through communism.”

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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Communism Has Clearly Always Failed And Will Clearly Always Fail, Unless You Haven’t Done Your Homework

top

May Day

May 18, 2017

Allan Stevo

Every May Day, I see an interesting trend – in some far-flung place that has never known communism, I find people marching in the streets and gathering in public places to recite the whole litany of what is wrong with the world from a Social Justice Warrior’s perspective.

You see it in Paris. You see it in London. You even see it in Toronto, and in some of the other richest cities in North America – like San Francisco or New York.

While America has a socialist holiday of its own – Labor Day – that feels too American for some. “Too American” is a bad thing, since everything American is de facto evil for the Social Justice Warrior. It is May 1, May Day, that is the true day of international oppression celebrated by Social Justice Warriors.

Wealthy Westerners choosing that day to protest the immense oppression that they perceive as daily life in a non-communist society, must appear at least a little surprising to many in the still relatively impoverished post-communist countries who know that oppression so well.

That’s the day, after all – May 1 – that some of the most oppressive regimes over the past century united to celebrate international communism and sometimes even forced their people into the streets to decorate and celebrate.

That’s the day that communist regimes that killed some 150 million people over the last century celebrate the justness of their aims and the appropriateness of those deaths – calling it International Workers’ Day, or some similarly noble sounding name to stress that everything can be deemed moral if it is the ends that justify the means.

That’s the day that Social Justice Warriors choose to stand up to celebrate their self-perceived possession of higher moral authority and to give speeches about their ideas. Because some believe that the ends justify the means, these ideas get lots of free passes. The speeches get to not be based in historically accurate readings or in economically accurate concepts. These are speeches that can only be given far away from places where populations still remember communist regimes.

Communism has been the source of the greatest human oppression over the past century, yet some gather on May Day to call for communism in the West, pretending that communism is the solution to oppression.

You couldn’t choose a more ridiculous day to claim that you oppose oppression while revealing how entirely oblivious you are to the history of oppression. Either that, or it’s really the perfect day to call for more of that oppression. Of course, not everyone who celebrates May Day is uneducated about the topic and opposed to the oppression. Some understand exactly what they are calling for.

And sure there is some good that has occasionally accompanied communism in some places, but it is no coincidence that heavy handed oppression is always the traveling companion of this governmental system. Always. Without fail. And no matter how many tweaks we make to the system I’m not willing to join you down that road.

In line with being oblivious to the oppression of communism, the Coalition of the Oppressed gather their crews together to deliver speeches of great emotion and limited thoughtfulness on May Day in the West, to shout out slogans in exuberant call-and-repeat fashion. The sloganeering lends itself to the belief that they haven’t done that much homework on the topic. It can feel good to get lost in the emotion of a chanting mob. I get that. It’s just not fair to claim that being lost in emotion is a rigorous intellectual study of the topic, for sloganeering is the closest to studying the topic that some get. This is often the case for the most certain Social Justice Warriors.

Sloganeering isn’t intellectually rigorous, and accordingly it’s accurate to call some people chanting slogans ignorant. There’s a level of hard work combined with intellectual rigor to earn the ability to be anything other than ignorant on a topic.

Anywhere I look, in any area of life, it’s hard to find a rigorous intellectual who will both share and challenge truthfully. That is the curse of he who decides to bear that cross – if you dedicate yourself to that process deeply enough and thoroughly enough you eventually realize how few people take ideas seriously enough to merit a conversion with you or any other intellectually rigorous person. It’s a near certainty that the tough thinkers aren’t out and about in wealthy Western cities chanting slogans on May Day.

With some joy I watched the Coalition of the Oppressed gather on May Day last year in New York’s Washington Square Park. The joy I felt had little to do with the absurdity of people celebrating the unprecedentedly oppressive system of communism as a solution for oppression. The sense of joy, instead, had to do with what happened away from the protest – a simple statement made by a passerby. As I left their circle of protest, a gay man, a passerby, spoke up to a friend. He maybe didn’t realize that the Coalition of the Oppressed considered him one of their own. His tonality showed he was clearly unsympathetic to the fact that as an oppressed person the annoying protestors were actually shouting back and forth at each other for him and for all oppressed people.

“What are they even protesting about?” said the one gay man to another in a tone of dismissal, derision, and genuine confusion. That simple statement by a man the SJWs claimed as their own brought me so much joy. Their place there that day made as little sense to him as to me. His dismissive tonality still fills me with joy.

The guy he was walking through the park with was equally annoyed by their presence and dismissive of the extensive list of concerns often produced by the Coalition of the Oppressed. Had any Social Justice Warrior simply been given the chance, the two gay men would have surely been informed that they shouldn’t worry, that they too were oppressed, but they just didn’t get it yet. Communism was coming for them, to free them from oppression. Yes, they didn’t get it and I would surmise they didn’t want to get it either.

The two gay men in Washington Square Park that day – May Day 2016 – reminded me of the impoverished, landed farmers of Marx’s day and after. Some historians call them “peasants,” others called them “kulaks.” By either name, they were hated by Marx and many of his supporters. Because as Marx saw it, these economically downtrodden farmers were oppressed by the system. Forget hard work. Forget raising a family with a work ethic. Forget scrimping and saving for the future. All they had to do was to put their faith in the unkempt ne’er-do-well that was Karl Marx. Marx, that doughy, city-dwelling man who could not even keep a single stable job, let alone manage a farm, was frustrated that they wouldn’t put their faith in him.

From Marx’s view, the peasants didn’t realize if they would do that and simply turn over their land and property to their neighbors, neighbors who were the same sorts of unkempt ne’er-do-wells as Marx, the communal good of all would near magically turn society into paradise.

The peasants of the 1860s knew a scam when they saw one, as did those two gay guys in 2016.

Yes. My country was not lost. There isn’t a grand coalition of the oppressed. Any attempt to convince a mass of Americans that they are oppressed, broken people who must unite as oppressed, broken people is a failure waiting to happen – a coalition that will fracture with ease. This is the failed identity politics that has become an American trend among some. It requires one to call oneself oppressed, a victim, a loser by some standard and to want to join hands with others who have acknowledged themselves losers. No self-respecting person will last long among such a group.

Eventually, in that motley crew, you realize that there are some real losers with you who are happy being losers, and that the elevation of loser to ruler is certain to spell trouble. There are lots of reasons to love your neighbor. Their status as loser is a pretty bad reason to choose as primary.

Elevating the state to a god at such moments, making the president into the high priest, seeing the dictates of the state as religious tenets adds to the ridiculousness. May Day was once an important pagan day that eventually became an important Christian day for some, and is now a statist day for the most ardent statists. May Day is a day to go through the processions and speeches and celebrations of the god we call the state. Something about that equation doesn’t sit well with some people. I have no surprise that the most sensible among us, as well as the ones most capable of intellectual rigor and intellectual honesty are the ones most likely to dismiss the silliness of Marxism, communism, or socialism.

The socialist takeover of America remains a failure – even if it has so successfully taken over some of the halls of power. The American people have little interest in it. Their common sense is different than the common sense of elites who insist that the world would be a paradise if all oppressed people accepted their oppressed status and gave in to the grand Coalition of the Oppressed, subverting their individual wills to the great collective, that those lives might be more “rationally” organized by the elites.

At times I’ve felt sad watching these May Day gatherings, because there can be such a sense of solidarity, solidarity around such intellectually and economically bogus ideas. That is until I walk away from a gathering like that and realize, that there’s little need to feel sad. That solidarity is held by a tiny minority of people, while that minority and the silly ideas they rally around have such little sway in the US.

Many more people are like those two gay men disinterested in being saved by communism or the peasants disinterested in Marx’s help at organizing their lives “better.”

Even in places like New York City the bond of the Coalition of the Oppressed dissolves with ease when put to the test. In New York, 45% of registered voters stayed home for the 2016 presidential elections, when faced with the choice of choosing a president from the ranks of the oppressed or choosing a president from the ranks of the oppressor.

Americans, true to the spirit of 1776 remain a bunch of people who mostly want to be left alone to live their lives in peace. Sure that “live-and-let-live” spirit of America makes it fertile ground for a pro-communist demonstration. It also makes the prospect of communism ever taking hold in America nothing but a pipe dream.

Let the communists rage in parks and squares on May Day or any other day. Day-in-and-day out Americans, by virtue of living their daily lives, participate in and work toward the improvement of a live-and-let-live system that has offered us so much freedom against the backdrop of a relatively unfree world. That’s the reality behind May Day in America and the nearly non-existent possibility of a communist future for this land.

NYC2016-MayDay-1crop

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

Photo credit: lauramethvin.com

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Photographs: Hockey Statues Around Bratislava

Photographs: Hockey Statues Around Bratislava

May 17, 2017

Allan Stevo

Below are ten photos of statues that were positioned around Bratislava during the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships.  The Championships were held during the last week of April and the first two weeks of May 2011. Bratislava and Kosice both played host.

It was hard to walk into a pub or restaurant without finding a hockey game on or being replayed during those weeks.  And it was hard to walk more than a few steps without seeing someone wearing the colors of a visiting hockey team, or wearing Slovak hockey jerseys.  Lots of Slovaks love hockey, as I’ve pointed out in other articles on this site.

The pictures below were sent to me by a visitor to Bratislava – Peter Propper.  Thank you to Peter for sharing them.   Scroll over each picture to read its caption, pointing out where each picture was taken.  Can you name each spot in Bratislava without peeking at the captions?   Enjoy the photos.   –  Allan

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Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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