Winter is here. When you go to a winter resort like Zuberec in the Orava region, you can start to ski as soon as you get out of your car. Everything you need can be rented near the bottom of the lifts. That was not always the case. In the past, you had to bring everything. Once I borrowed skis from one friend and ski-boots from another. That wouldn´t have been a problem if I had checked how they fit. But I didn´t do so until I was standing at the top of the Chopok ski run and tried to ski down. Whenever I wanted to swerve, my boots turned but the skis went straight because the clamps were longer than the boots. That day nearby tourists saw a unique style of skiing I call the tiger´s jump. I made that jump every time I had to change direction. I spent more time on my back than in the air. But it was an enormous success because the spectators thought that the resort managers had hired a clown. They enjoyed the show immensely. I didn´t. But I did learn a lesson. Now I watch those on the ski-runs safely from the bar, the best place for unskillful guys like me.
I am never bored at a Slovak ski-bar because they have a wider variety of local spirits than I had ever dreamed of. For example, paprikovica is made from local chili, and any virus in your body will jump out in horror if you put the small glass of this „liquid dynamite“ anywhere near your lips. Orechovica is made from walnuts, and koreňovica is made from some strange roots – but stop – this list is endless.
Now perhaps you will understand the little story of an official delegation of Slovaks in Spain. One man from the Ministry never said a word during the official talks. On the third day, they were passing through streets in Sevilla lined with beautiful orange trees. And good-looking fruits were lying under the trees.
„Why don´t you use these nice oranges for something?“ he asked a local guide.
„They are too sour,“ the Spaniard answered.
„Nonsense,“ said the until than silent man. „In Slovakia, we can turn anything into alcohol.“
That is true, but when confronted with the vivid imagination of Slovak distillers, mix caution with curiosity. Otherwise, you may be drinking original Slovak orange wine! That is not a joke but a real drink, perhaps invented by that silent man.
With all these spirits it is wise to try a cheese that is an excellent Slovak invention. KORBÁČIKY not only has a unique taste but also an unusual shape. This salty sheep cheese is made from strips tied into braids by patient women hands. This cheese has a long tradition in the Orava region, and in the village of Zázrivá you can buy them from houses where making it is a family tradition. parenica is also cheese but this one is made in the form of a small bundle. Very popular is also oštiepok in a form of a half-kilo cheese egg.
Anyway, you will need some internal heating because Orava is the coldest place in Central Europe. Oravská Lesná sometimes has temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius. The village has 201 (two hundred and one!) days of snow in an average year. There was in past so much snow that children used to toboggan down the roofs of houses.
Once, when I had guests there in our wooden cottage and was trying desperately to warm the room we all slept in, I used the wood stove, an electric heater, an electric coil for heating water, and we still had to go to bed fully dressed except for our boots. After all my attempts, my friend Peter said quietly from under the feather bed, “Hey, I feel that you made real progress. After all these hours of heating, we´ve reached the level of a good working refrigerator.”
Those days are over. Even in a remote village like this one, the Hotel Tyrapol has a sauna, fitness center and a swimming pool a whole year round.
I am not against these innovations, but what the hell will we do now on long winter evenings? Perhaps invent some excellent new drink?