MARCH 6, 2007



Several months before our trip, I tried to make arrangements to visit the Spis Castle. The castle is closed during the winter, probably because ice and snow make it a very dangerous place.


On our way to Presov on March 2nd, we passed the castle at night, which is when this photograph was taken. The dots of light in the lower part of the photograph are from the town below the castle.



Today will be our last full day with the Miklus family in Presov. The day begins with a good breakfast. This breakfast sandwich, which is like a grilled cheese sandwich, is made in a special toaster. Note the little cut out cheese shapes that circle the plate. Presentation is as important as the taste.


Janka speaks no English but something is going on in the kitchen. When Janka comes out of the kitchen we discover that she has been practicing how to say something to us in English. She says, “The Spis Castle is open.”


We find out that, because the weather is so warm this winter, the decision has been made to open the castle early. Tomorrow, on our way back to Bratislava, we will visit one of the most famous castles in Europe.



As for today, we will go to Kosice, the second largest city in Slovakia. There are many memorials, like this one, which were built to honor the soldiers who fought in World War II as well as other wars. These memorials also remind us that Soviet Communism once ruled this country.



We walked around the city enjoying our time together. Moments like this one, captured in the photo above, reveal something interesting about Janka: She knows what’s in people’s hearts. This is her gift from God.



With Kosice in the background, Dianne and I stand next to a sign with the word Miklusova on it. Did they name a street using our family name? No.


This Miklus is not related to us. The sign points the way to the Miklusova Vazinca or Miklus Prison. This Miklus was the headsman at the prison - he cut off the heads.



We took a tour of the prison. This room is one of the prison cells. On the floor is a bed made with straw inside a rectangular box. Hanging on the wall are shackles.



In this cell manikins demonstrate how prisoners were tortured.



This device was bolted around the prisoner’s leg. Bolts were tightened until the two pieces squeezed the leg and broke the bones.



Women prisoners received special treatment. A female prisoner would get her own pot to use as a WC. Note that there are coins on the floor around the pot. It is unlikely that, 150 years ago, when this prison was in use, a female prisoner would have had visitors who would throw coins into her pot so their wish would come true. For some reason people do that today. I wonder what it is that they’re wishing for.



There are other artifacts on display at the prison that are less gruesome. This large megaphone really does make your voice sound big and loud. When this photo was taken, I said, “People of Slovakia. Attention! You are surrounded by American tourists. We have digital cameras. Surrender and show yourselves.”



Leaving the prison, we continued to walk down the street. The train tracks shown here are no longer used. In this area of the city cars are not allowed. This is like a giant outdoor shopping mall.



We stopped at Aida’s for ice cream, cake, and drinks. There’s a very large area in the back of the store where you can sit and enjoy your treat.


When we arrived, school had just gotten out so all of the seats where taken. We shared a table with a woman and her young son, who looked to be about six or seven. I was fascinated by way this little boy ate his ice cream cone. He was intent on enjoying every lick as if it would be his last.


Looking around, I noticed other children in the shop acting the same way. There was no running or fooling around while mothers were trying to discipline their children - like you would see in America. Slovak children are very well mannered.



Last August, Dusan had to be hospitalized for severe back pain – which is why Theodore and Tilly-Bear sent him the brown Get Well bear. Dusan was operated on by his cousin, Imrich Lukac, shown in this picture, seated next to his wife, Bozena.


Doctor Lukac is a neurosurgeon. He speaks English and has been to America on professional visits. He is also my second cousin just like Dusan is my second cousin. Since Dianne and I were family, we were invited to eat.



This is Imrich’s daughter, Daniela, her daughter, Ivanka, and Imrich’s son-in-law, Matej (father of Ivanka).



Also at our dinner table is Imrich’s daughter-in-law, also named Daniela. After dinner we watched a DVD of her wedding. We learned a few things about Slovak wedding traditions.


Before the wedding starts, the parents of the bride and groom give the couple their blessing by making the sign of the cross on the forehead with the thumb.


After the wedding, the newlyweds go to their wedding reception. Surrounded by wedding guests, the bride and groom toast each other. They give the waiter their empty wine glasses and then the waiter drops a dinner plate on the floor. Using the heel of his shoe, the waiter smashes the plate.


The groom is given a broom and the bride a dustpan to sweep up the broken plate. This is done to show the bride and groom that they must learn to work together. The guests who are watching this sometimes have fun by making the mess worse.


Sitting down, the newlyweds enjoy their first meal together as husband and wife. They must learn to share by eating from a single plate of food using only one set of utensils.


Later in the evening, one of the male wedding guests will steal one of the bride’s shoes. The thief will then negotiate with the groom regarding the conditions for its return. It is a way for the new husband to demonstrate how much he values his new wife. Often, this turns out to be the value of a bottle of good wine.



Ivanka brought out two teddy bears that she wanted me to meet. Neither she nor her mother speaks English. First, I played with the little bear as shown in the photo above. Then I picked up the large bear that was sitting in the chair. I poked my finger in the big bear’s stomach and said, “Tickle, tickle, tickle!” Ivanka exploded into laughter.