National Geographic : 1965 Jul
Once more afloat and eastbound, we drifted lazily along in the shimmering heat haze of midsummer. We felt as stuffed as Vienna sau sages-filled with fresh memories of pastries, schnitzels, and sweet cold milk; of gaiety, grandeur, and good conversation. I have told earlier with what unexpected warmth Bratislava welcomed us to Commu nist Europe. But there was more. "Tomorrow you will dance and sing with club members. Tonight you are my guests." This was our invitation from Dr. Konstan tin Carsky, president of the Tatran Sports Club and professor of surgery at the Brati slava Medical School. He had visited leading medical colleges in the United States. In a plain but comfortable home in a mod ern section of drab and dusty Bratislava, his wife stuffed us with Bryndza cheese and Prague frankfurters, served with horseradish, pickled red peppers, and a wine our host had made. A mounted boar's head witnessed a verbal free-for-all, joined in by Dr. Carsky's daughter and son-in-law, and by three col leagues and their wives who dropped by. Folk Songs Link Two Continents I think we had expected to find all stolid, gloomy people here-not this worldly, witty, and stimulating company. In snatches of four languages-English, French, German, and Slovak-we talked for five hours. "There are good people and there are bad people," said Dr. Carsky. "But let us not dis cuss sad things and old wars. We should not spoil a wonderful evening." He poured us a glass of slivovitz, the ubiquitous plum brandy of Danube lands. "You can tell everything about a nation by the way it sings," said Anton Dastinsky, the Tatran club's vice president. "The farther down the Danube, the more passionate the music." Our hosts sang lustily themselves, and Terry Fowler, to his own guitar accompani ment, won applause for a sad song about the Civil War, "Two Brothers." Russia's image as "liberator" is fading in most Soviet-sphere countries, and Moscow's political and economic grip grows weaker. In Bratislava, handsome apartment blocks that have been a-building for five years aren't yet finished. A Bratislavan told us that "they look nice but are really junk." Czechoslovakia's limping economy has been diagnosed as a case of overcentralization, and decentraliza tion and flexibility key new policies. In 1964, Czechoslovaks for the first time EKTACHROME(BELOW) AND KODACHROMEBY CHRISTOPHERG. KNIGHT © N.G.S. Young lovers rendezvous in a park beside the towered Rathaus, Vienna's Town Hall. Ten years after occupation troops quit the city, Austria's capital sparkles again beside her "Beautiful Blue Danube." Treading a steep slope, an Austrian sprays grapevines that have made the Wachau one of the most famous wine districts of his na tion. Here the river runs through a 20-mile defile below hills clothed in vineyards and orchards, and capped with the ruined bas tions of medieval robber barons.