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May 27, 2002
Mission Improbable: Learning Slovak

By Alex Dominguez on Monday May 27, @07:27AM
from the Here is your mission, in 5 seconds this bacon will be eaten dept.
ON THE TRAIN TO POSZONY, Slovakia (JNS) _ Buying train tickets is not nearly as tough today. I even ask what track the train leaves from _ ``Mi vagony?’’
We take the first compartment and a police officer in a dirty blue jump suit joins us.

He has a reddish, tanned, pockmarked face, a light-brown goatee and is armed with a small pistol in a leather holster hanging from a thick leather belt _ both well worn and well oiled.

We know he is a police officer because across the back of his blue jacket are the words ``Fegyvres Byztonsagi orseg.’’

``Kabina rorseg?’’ I ask the officer, worried that we were in his compartment.

``Nem,’’ he says with a ``Don’t worry about it’’ expression.

``Just a storm trooper on his way to work,’’ I tell G-Monez, prompting a dirty look. The police obviously are still looking for the bank robbers, or their accomplices, and are unaware of our plans to ally and strengthen the two empires.

We sit quietly for a while, the officer makes a cell phone call, says goodbye to us and gets off at the border. Four other officials then check our passports, and we can pick out words like ``hologram’’ and ``U-S-A’’ as they look at the passports. One asks in English if we have any contraband, we say no, and after about 15 minutes (perc) we’re on our way again.

We almost get off at the wrong stop approaching Bratislava, but stay on and then do get off at the wrong stop _ Mesto Novo, the ``new city.’’ Willing to be robbed to get into town, we approach a cab driver and say ``centrum’’ and then ``forint.’’ The driver says he won’t take forints or dollars. I say ``bankmat’’ and he agrees, driving us to an ATM where I exchange forints for krona and pay him about $3. After I ask how to get to the Danube River, he takes us to the Hotel Danube for another 75 cents. We then have the most phenomenal lunch after checking in, and I know the alliance will work.

We eat at the Korzo, across from the Hotel Danube, where I have a jar of caviar with butter and toast (250 krona or $5), and some of the best roasted pork ribs and potatoes I have ever had or made. Gibran, meanwhile, has venison kebab over a subtle hibiscus sauce _ delicious.

The ribs, roasted until the outside was caramelized, were served on a wood board with two fresh banana pepper rings _ one filled with mild horseradish and the other filled with mild mustard. Pickles, pickled peppers and tomatoes complete the garnish. The potatoes are in chunks about half the size of an egg, roasted in the fat that came off the ribs and are flecked with caraway.

The whole meal, including coffee and two large beers, is less than $20.

Dinner at the Camel Pub on the Venturska Ulica is interesting as well. The small place caters mainly to locals and its menu is not translated. We point at items, and wait to see what comes out.

I have a breaded piece of liver (leber) with fries, kraut, beets and hot peppers (70 krona, $1.25). Gibran does better, ordering Diabolska zmes, placka and TO (also 70 krona). I grunted ``Schwein?’’ at the waiter. Thinking it might be hot sausage. It’s actually turns out to be a rustic crepe filled with pork chunks stewed in a spicy, goulashy sauce. Both are washed down with big, cold pilsener beers that cost 25 krona.

Sated yet again, it’s off to the Internet café again to chat with the lovely women there who speak a little English, and meet my handler.

Posted by Alex at May 27, 2002 07:27 AM
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