Category: trencin

Family Pictures

I hinted on Facebook a month or so ago that we’d just taken family pictures in medieval garb in downtown Trencin, and that I’d share them with you when I got them. Well, I have them, and today is an insanely busy day, so it seems like a perfect candidate for a “Show Pictures Instead of Writing a Post” day. These are just a few. I’ll be sharing more on Facebook tomorrow or soon thereafter. Denisa and I are very happy with how they turned out, which is good, because we’re not exactly “Get dressed up and hang around town for a photoshoot” sort of people.



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Trencin Castle: Vodnik Commentaries–Chapter Five

So here we are at last (as far the ongoing chapter commentaries for Vodnik go)–the introduction of Trencin Castle. I approached the castle almost as a character in and of itself in the book. It has its own subplot, it’s very much in danger, and it’s has a big impact on the story line.

As I’ve mentioned in past commentaries, I went through the same tour Tomas goes through in this chapter. One of my favorite memories of my first trip to Slovakia was going around the castle with my brother in law, with him pointing out all the stupid things Communists and architects had done to his castle over the years. I’m the sort of guy who goes straight for the castle in whatever European city I end up in. Castles get explored first. Ruins are just as acceptable.

One of the things that has disappointed me over the years is the fact that some castles are just, well . . . phony. I’m looking at you, Neuschwanstein. Absolute poser of a castle. It was built to look like a fairy tale castle, not to actually be a castle. That might cut the mustard in Disneyland, but when you’re in Europe, you need a whole lot more than that.

Trencin Castle represents almost everything I love about authentic castles. It’s utilitarian. You can tell that it was built to be used, not to be pretty. This is no chateau. It’s old, with a ton of history stretching back over the years. It has a bunch of interesting stories connected to it. It has a large park out back (which Tomas never really explores in Vodnik). And it sits high up in the middle of the town like some kind of watch-dragon.

Of course, a large part of my great impression was due to my tour guide: Milos “Lasky” Krizan. My brother in law is pretty much the best resource an author could ask for when it comes to Slovak history, folklore, and anything medieval-related. Not only does he take part in jousts and gladiator combat, he’s a blacksmith (here’s his FB page for arrowheads he makes) and the night watchman at the castle. He’s also much more extroverted than I am. On one trip to Slovakia, we went on tours of a ton of castles and palaces around western Slovakia. Milos came with us, and he pretty  much got us in anywhere we wanted to go. Everybody knew him or knew of him. I don’t know if we paid a single admission on that trip. Everybody just waved us through when they saw him.

Any time I had questions about a matter of folklore or history, I’d get on the phone to Milos and work things through. His English is about as good as my Slovak, but between the two of us, we manage to be pretty well understood–though every now and then we’d have to resort to using my wife as a translator.

What can you expect if you go to visit the castle? Well, no tours in English, for one thing. (At least not last I checked.) They have an information sheet in English that you can take around with  you, but all the tours are in Slovak only. (This might be a bit different in the summer. I’m not sure.) And the only way to see the tower and the palaces are by tour guide. Still–you don’t need the guide in English now, right? You’ve read all about it in Vodnik. 🙂

Note the Communist star on top of the castle in this picture.
Milos is the one in the middle surrounded by the harem. Typical.
A closer up shot.
And . . . him dressed up like a vodnik. Because hey–why not?

Help Me Pick an Author Photo

Zoolander (Special Collector's Edition)

Derek Zoolander: Well I guess it all started the first time I went through the second grade. I caught my reflection in a spoon while I was eating my cereal, and I remember thinking “wow, you’re ridiculously good looking, maybe you could do that for a career.”
Matilda: Do what for a career?
Derek Zoolander: Be professionally good looking.

As promised, today’s the day where I show you the various candidates I feel would be good for my author photo. I’d initially planned on having just a standard head shot taken locally, but once the trip to Slovakia was firmed up, I reconsidered. Why have a boring normal photo when I could get one of me with Trencin Castle? Way cooler. My brother-in-law recommended some good photographers, Denisa called them up, we looked at samples and chose one: Peter Stolarik (his website isn’t bringing anything up at the moment. He’s got a Facebook page, too–but I think you have to be his friend to see the photos.)

The actual photo shoot felt really strange and bizarre. I’m just not used to getting my picture taken–certainly not when it’s just me that’s the subject. Large family group shots? Okay. At least it’s a shared misery. All by my lonesome? Very weird feeling. Peter wanted to know what I wanted as an end result, and I was purposefully vague. I told him I wanted me in it and Trencin Castle–ideally recognizable as Trencin Castle. Other than that, it was up to him. He took something like 60 shots. Maybe more. Various poses all over the castle. We jumped fences, climbed up where only goats were supposed to be, and basically went wherever he thought he might get a good shot.

Anyway. Here are my top eleven (because I go to 11). There were many others I liked–he’s a great photographer, and I highly recommend him if you’re in the Trencin area.

What I’d like from you is feedback. Which picture do you like the most? Any you really dislike? Any input is welcome–including “I like them all.” I’m mainly looking for opinions. You’ve surely got one. Share it with me here, in the comments section on Facebook, or drop me an email.

In no particular order:











What I Did on My Summer Vacation: July 15–Barbecue! (and Trencin Pictures)

*Stumped about the connection between Firefly and yesterday’s post? Here’s another clue for you in the pic today. Somebody’s gotta get it now, right? (Denisa’s not allowed to respond–I told her in person yesterday.)*


We’re up to July 15 now, and I think we might stop there for the next few posts, just because there’s so much material to blog about. Denisa and I took the kids into Trencin to get several Vodnik-things done at once. First up was finding some Slovak story books. Remember, the hope is that I get to write a second book set in the setting of Vodnik. One of my main goals on my trip to Slovakia this time was to get research done for that book. Not saying it’s actually going to happen, but I figured while I was there, it wouldn’t hurt.

Doing research for Slovak-oriented subjects can be difficult. Since the country only has about 5.5 million people, digitization of their cultural knowledge doesn’t quite happen at the same rate as in America. (Think of it like this: imagine if American internet influence was spreading as fast as the population of Wisconsin would allow. And don’t forget: not all 5.5 million people are actually online. 75% of them are. Broadband penetration was at 4% in 2006, and even if it’s skyrocketed since then, there just hasn’t been that much time for people to get hold of the huge backlog of information any society has on hand. Even in America, if you go back to the 70s or earlier, good luck on finding much digitized (outside of the New York Times or other bigger publications.) It’s getting better, but it takes time.

This is just to say that I knew going to Slovakia that if I wanted to get some information, it would be easier and cheaper to do while I was there. So Denisa and I took the kids around town, visiting bookstores. I wanted to get some books of traditional Slovak fairy tales. So much of what you can find easily is just reheated Grimm. I wanted the real deal, and I found plenty. We also got some books for TRC and DC–their Slovak did so well during the 5 weeks we were there. We wanted to try and keep that up once we got home. (Denisa already speaks almost only Slovak to the kids, but TRC has very little experience reading in the language.)

Anyway, while we were at it, I also took pictures of the town–trying to get a shot of the site of all the major events in the novel.

Tomas and Katka’s Apartment Building:
An East German car, with TRC place in the picture to give a sense of scale:

The town park:

The bakery downtown:

The plague column:

Random Communist building plunked down into the town center:

The Vodnik, again:

A look at what the Vodnik is looking at:

The closest thing to a “mall” downtown Trencin has. It’s really getting run down:

A certain fountain that roller bladers in the city really ought to watch out for:

The movie theater downtown:

I know: most of these pics probably don’t do much for you if you haven’t already read the book. Fear not. Because after we ran errands downtown, we went up to the castle to do some grilling. After the grilling, we’d arranged for a professional photographer to meet us at the castle to take pictures of yours truly. I need something decent for my book. Help me decide, tomorrow. (And the day after that, get excited: I’m posting princess pics of DC (and Denisa).)

Meanwhile, here are a few BBQ pics.
DC had so much fun riding horses, she kept it up at the castle:

TRC in action. Who knew bungee cords were a lethal weapon?

Speaking of lethal weapons, Milos teaches TRC how to maim tourists:

No pics of the food this time, alas. It was the same menu as last time–check the pics I took from three years ago here: Yes–we dressed up then and shot arrows, too. Kind of a walk down memory lane. TRC and DC were so much younger . . .

Until tomorrow . . .

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