National Geographic : 1968 Feb
How, I asked, do Slovaks differ from Czechs? "Czechs are very clever, more rational," he replied. "Slovaks have softer hearts. There are ten million Czechs and only four million of us, but we drink more wine and liquor than they do. Czechs may have more automobiles, but we have more fun out of life." Mr. Gal glanced at his watch and excused himself. "Dinnertime," he said. "We Slovaks are afraid of nothing but our wives!" Bratislava is Czechoslovakia's main door way on the Danube, the country's southern frontier for 100 miles* (map, pages 164-5). Up stream, across from Austria, the riverbank bristles with barbed wire and watchtowers. Downstream from Bratislava, opposite the People's Republic of Hungary, the shore remains unguarded. The banks flew past at 40 miles an hour as 170 a sleek Russian-built hydrofoil launch sped me down the rain-swollen river. Capt. Michal Schneider had consented to take me along on an inspection patrol of channel markers as far as Komarno, 65 miles distant. We passed heavy Danube traffic: rusty Russian river freighters; powerful Austrian tugs; gaily painted Hungarian craft with flow er boxes whimsically hung on the wheelhouse. Near the juncture of the Danube and Vah Rivers, Romans built a huge fortress, with walls nearly seven feet thick and an admira ble drainage system, in the second century A.D. Today the busy industrial port of Ko marno flourishes nearby. The hydrofoil slowed and squatted back down on its hull as we cruised past the Slo vakian Shipyards, which builds powerful *See "Down the Danube by Canoe," by William Slade Backer, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, July, 1965.