Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween in Bratislava

By request: Halloween is apparently not a big deal in Slovakia. At least not as it has evolved in the States. I am living and working in Old Town, Bratislava (I walk through the square pictured here every day) and there was very little of the witches, ghouls and goblins paraphernalia that we associate with the holiday.

Candles and pumpkins, yes. A few nightclubs did advertise Halloween parties. When I went out for a walk earlier in the evening, I saw a couple of stout, glowering bar employees standing and smoking outside their establishment. Both were stocky with beard scruff and dirty fingernails, and stood in grim silence as they puffed. One was dressed as Dorothy Gale, the other as a princess (Rapunzel, maybe?): dresses, wigs, heels (and hairy legs), the whole thing. A few passing boys hooted at them, and Dorothy swore (in Slovak) as s/he flicked her cigarette butt at them.

Later, I spotted a few twentysomething girls and their Gays headed somewhere in an excited gaggle; they were all done up as skeletons. So there is some interest among the younger set, I suppose. One of my guides told me Slovakians spend Halloween honoring their dead. The graveyards are full, he told me, of families visiting their loved ones and bringing flowers. None of the churches nearby have cemeteries, so I couldn't check this for myself.

A note about the smoking: It feels like every third person in Europe has a serious nicotine addiction. And they ain't smoking cloves or any of that sissified all-natural tobacco stuff. In Slovakia they are all pissed about recently enacted legislation outlawing smoking inside clubs and restaurants. Thus, the sight of clusters of people furiously puffing away in the cold and wind has become common.

One indoor restaurant I pass regularly allows smoking on its outer patio. By mid-afternoon, thanks to a lack of ventilation, a cloud of cigarette smoke hangs there, right above the door, like an errant scrap of cloud. But at least the air inside the restaurant is clean!

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