From the first installment of Fran’s travels to Slovakia with the RMU contingency, she reports …
We arrived to a very hot Austria/Slovakia on Saturday morning on one of the two or three days a year with absolutely no wind in eastern Austria/western Slovakia. The Austrians have a number of windmills on the border and they were not moving as we passed by. Our host said this doesn’t happen very often; maybe three or four days a year.
We are staying in a facility that hosted Queen Elizabeth a couple of years ago. It is a modern non-commercial apartment/hotel that was used by the government for meetings and such before 1989. Very unusual in style, but the view is spectacular. It overlooks the Danube and the windmills in Austria.
Our one hour train ride to Vienna on Sunday went very smoothly. The trains are quiet and comfortable and both legs ran on time. We walked for hours inside the Ring and I would have to say the most interesting thing we saw was the Vienna version of watching Penguin Hockey outside of the Igloo. The Opera was performing Wagner’s Die Walkure and people sat outside the Opera House on benches and chairs to listen and watch the performance that was taking place inside. The screen was enormous and the sound was very good. So while we watch sports, they watch opera. It’s a pretty striking contrast.
This morning we met with the U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia (Theodore Sedgwick) at the Embassy in Bratislava. He spent a good amount of time with us and it was a wonderful experience just to be in the Embassy. The Staff of about 100 is divided between Americans (one-third) and Slovaks (two-thirds). After our meeting with him we returned to the hotel where we had lunch with the Deputy Minister of Education.
This first week is set up as a cultural exchange visit, so we are off to do some castle hopping tomorrow. I will report on that later in the week.