Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ghost Town

 id=Today the streets of Bratislava are empty; you can, as Pán Kocúr is fond of saying, fire a cannon down the street and not hit anyone. This is true for two reasons: firstly, today is a national holiday. It is All Saints' Day - the day when Slovakians traditionally go to the cemeteries, clean the graves of the departed, leave flowers, and light a memorial candle. Department stores like Tesco have been selling red, yellow, and blue lanterns since September which either attests to the importance of the day or the overzealousness of the buyer for Tesco's candle department.

Secondly, that Bratislava is a ghost town today also has much to do with the fact that today is Saturday. Having survived the vagaries of living in Spain - a country without Sunday shopping (at least Franco had the decency to open its border with Gibraltar, whose grocery stores and pubs remained open 7 days a week) - I was totally unprepared for Saturday in Slovakia, a day which I had mistakenly assumed would be a prime shopping day.

Yes, the malls are open. Yes, Tesco and Carrefour are open. But on Saturday afternoons, the rest of the town rolls up its proverbial sidewalks, and since I live downtown, I find this little quirk puzzling, annoying and a major pain in the ass. By 1:00 in the afternoon on any given Saturday, downtown stores are closed. Neighbourhood convenience stores (potraviny's) close anytime between 12:30 and 1:00 which begs the question of how convenient they truly are. This has compelled
Pán Kocúr to be more organized when shopping for the weekend's beer. I have racked my pea-sized brain trying to account for Neutron-Bomb Saturdays, and all I can come up with is that on Saturday, the city's mercantile sector likes to join the rest of its citizenry shopping at Vienna's outlet mall, some 15 kilometres from Bratislava.

So it's All Saints' Day and those Slovakians who aren't spending Saturday at the mall or bargain-hunting in Vienna, are travelling to their hometowns to spend some time with the dead. I toyed with the idea of taking a stroll in our neighbourhood cemetery this afternoon, but my curiosity was quickly dampened by the rain beating down on our living room window. It seems that my innate inquisitiveness has its boundaries and those boundaries are really rather pathetic. (I'm sure I'll be housebound with the first snowfall). A few weeks ago,
Pán Kocúr and I did pass an afternoon at the Ondrejský cemetery up the road and found, amidst the rather Teutonic grave sculptures, petrified angels, and art deco grave art, an oddity: a mushroom. Or a toadstool - I never could tell the difference. Or more accurately, a stone mushroom (or toadstool) which had pushed its way up among the more conventional graves.

Why a mushroom (or a toadstool)? Was it associated with any particular person? Had that person been overly fond of fungi? Did the deceased die from eating a poisonous mushroom (or toadstool)? And more importantly, will anyone give that little mushroom (or toadstool) a good cleaning today and leave a candle beneath its cap? Rain be damned, I'm going to the cemetery today to find out.

2 comments:

Snowflake said...

Tesco, Carrefour, malls!!! One man's trash is another man's treasure......

Mačka in Slovak said...

Are you mocking me Snowflake????