Dead Bat

Dead Bat

I see a lot of bats flying around in the day time. Until fairly recently, in the towns they roosted in the gaps in the side walls of the ubiquitous socialist apartment blocks. However, there has been a flurry of energy-saving reconstruction, mostly polystyrene blocks placed over the walls and then plastered over. This has covered up the roosts and it’s common to see bats trying to return to their former sleeping areas and not being able to, then they circle until eventually collapsing.

House Martens also use the flat blocks for summer nesting and both they and the bats keep down the mosquito population. As the region modernizes I see some Eco-system upheavals on the cards….

Feral cat and doll

Feral cat and doll

Today I witnessed a bizarre scene in the proximity of some container bins. A discarded doll was apparently being guarded by a feral cat, which hissed at passersby. Whether the cat had claimed the doll as a potential food source or something more sympathetic, I couldn’t tell.

All Saints’ Day (Dušičky)

All Saints’ Day (Dušičky)

While we in the West celebrate Hallowe’en, the Slavs celebrate All Saints’ Day on the 1st of November. this is a particularly somber affair which involves visiting all the graves of departed family members and loved ones, cleaning their plots, lighting candles and laying flowers. It is a day of remembrance which can require driving many hours to make sure no deceased loved one is left out.

At night, the various cemeteries shine brightly from all the candles placed atop the graves.

Halloween 2014

Halloween 2014

Last night we celebrated Hallowe’en at the house. Ye gods it was cold but it wouldn’t be the same doing it at the flat. The house has an atmosphere and ambient very conducive for candlelight and creepiness. We had both fires going but the temperature just wouldn’t climb. The kids wrapped themselves in wool blankets and we watched horror films and then told each other ghost stories. It was great fun as always.

Another reason I like Halloween is that it’s the only celebratory festival where the kids look forward to it for the ambient and activities rather than for presents and materialism.

Forest cabin

Forest cabin

This is a cabin we stayed at last weekend in the forest above Svidnik, East Slovakia. It’s owned by the regional forest office and is situated on Black Mountain. The hill is renowned for the bandits who used to inhabit it centuries ago, and also for the number of German soldiers who died there during the war.

Despite being deep in the forest it was silent, creepily so. Apart from one owl which called for 30 seconds, the rest of the night was without animal or bird activity. It was like a blanket of silence had been thrown over the area. Ordinarily, the forests around here produce a cacophony of sound once darkness falls. Not at that cabin… I was pleased when dawn arrived.

I guess that part of the forest remembers the dead.

Cicva castle – Elizabeth Bathory

Cicva castle – Elizabeth Bathory

Most people associate Cachtice castle with the Blood Countess, Alzbeta Bathory,  but in her youth she used to live closer to me. Cicva castle, between Lake Domasa and the town of Vranov, was where she was married.

Because she was a Hungarian noble, most foreigners believe she was Hungarian by birth. She was in fact from the territory now known as Slovakia.

Given that she believed the blood of virgins would help to keep her young and beautiful, she qualifies as the only real vampire of the Middle Ages – Vlad Tepes,  Dracula,  was just a sadist in comparison.