“According to this map we must go this way.” I pointed to the right as we headed out of our Hostel. My friends Brianna and Danny followed even though I know they doubted my sense of direction so did I. According to the map we had to walk to the corner and turn right. We hadn’t exactly done that, instead we walked a few meters away from the Hostel and saw a sign that said “1 Slovak Pub.” I played stupid of course and saw two guys standing outside. One of the guys was short and kind of had a baby face. The other guy was tall with a cap that ran down to his eyebrows making him look a bit dark and mysterious.
“Hello…I mean Ahoy. Is this 1 Slovak Pub?” I asked.
“Ah yes it says it right there,” the shorter one of the two, Lubomir, said.
“Oh but this map says to go around the corner I just wanted to make sure.”
“Francina, it says it right there can you not read?” Brianna points out.
“Well where are you from?” The other guy, Boris asked.
“We are from New York.” I said.
“Where are you from?” asked Danny.
“We are from here.” Lubomir answered.
“Well we are hungry we are going to go in,” I said.
“We are also going in. We can sit together.”
“Sure!” I said while looking over to Danny and Brianna for signs of opposition. We followed them in. Inside a cloud of cigarette smoke engulfed our bodies, the wooden floors creaked every time we took a step. We trailed around searching for a place to sit. After a couple of minutes of walking in circles we found seats and immediately asked for the menu.
“The kitchen is closed. All we are serving is what’s on this page,” said the waiter. We looked at the page unenthusiastically. I was terribly hungry and having limited options to choose from didn’t help. There was only one dish on that page, aside from potato chips and beer.
“What’s this dumpling thing,” I asked the guys.
“It’s Bryndzové Halušky, a traditional Slovak dish. You should try it. All Slovakians eat it,” said Boris.
“Ok. Well is it good?”
“Ok. I’ll have it. I’m not a picky eater anyway.” Brianna, Danny and I each ordered the dumplings. In my mind dumplings is a Chinese delicacy, I wasn’t aware that it was also part of a Slovakian dish. My stomach was howling. The waiter came walking towards our table with three giant plates, at that point he was my savior, he could see the hunger in my eyes and placed the first plate in front of me. I stared at it as if it were a specimen in a laboratory. It looked like macaroni and cheese except the cheese wasn’t yellow it was white and there was a lot of it. There were dry diced bacon pieces on top of it. The dish looked far from appealing.
“These are dumplings?” I asked.
“Yes.” They said.
“Ok well here I go.” I took the first bite. Gooey cheese seeped through my teeth, and small squiggly sized dough pieces slipped smoothly into my mouth.
“How do you like it?” Boris asked us. I didn’t answer, I continued to chew and even took another bite. I am far from a picky eater.
“Whoa. This is disgusting are you sure this is what Slovaks eat?” I said after staring down at my plate of food in attempts to fool myself into liking the meal.
“Yes. We know it’s not the best, but all Slovaks eat it,” said Lubomir.
“I like it,” said Brianna.
“It’s really salty. It’s like heavily salted, watery cheese dumped onto small pieces of dough.” I said trying to force myself to eat the rest of it, but the fear of puking it all out made me stop.
“Do you like it Danny?” I asked in hopes that he would have agreed with me and that I wasn’t simply overreacting.
“It’s ok. It could be a little less cheesy.”
Brianna left her plate entirely clean. Danny, however, had left half of his plate full, that being a clear indicator that I wasn’t wrong and that the dumplings were in fact distasteful. Danny is that type of person who never leaves a spec of food behind, he literally wipes a plate clean and that was the first time I’d seen him not doing so.
I ordered a beer hoping that it would remove the cheesy taste of that Slovakian dish. Lubomir and Boris carried a conversation with Danny. While Brianna and I watched how these two guys completely gave Danny one hundred percent of their attention.
“I’ve been to San Francisco,” said Lubomir to Danny.
“Really? What did you think,” asked Danny.
“It was nice, but I didn’t know that so many people were going to be homosexual. They always wore flowers around their ears. You know?”
“Yes,” said Danny looking over to us as if we needed to eavesdrop on that particular part of the conversation. Danny is homosexual and it’s always interesting to talk to people who cannot automatically pick that up upon meeting him.
“I think flowers are like for gay people in San Francisco. If you go don’t wear flowers.” Lubomir said.
“In that case I’ll bring a bouquet of flowers,” Danny suggested and Brianna and I automatically burst into laughter. They laughed too, but looked at each other’s faces a bit confused. We obviously laughed because we knew Danny was serious.
“Do you know of any places we could go tonight?” I asked in order to break the awkwardness.
“Yes there’s this place called Channels, it’s three floors. It’s both a club and a lounge,” said Lubomir.
“Sounds good right Brianna. How do you get there?”
“We can take you.”
“Thanks. That would be great.”
We paid for our meals, finished our beers and put on our jackets. As we walked towards Channels with our recently made friends, Lubomir and Boris, I had forgotten about the disgusting meal I had tasted. I started to focus on a relatively more interesting subject: for the first time in my life I had dinner with two complete strangers. Though I am not suggesting everyone do this, it was probably because of these so-called “strangers” that every time I think of Slovakia I make associations with it being full of people that are sweet, friendly, and above all slightly creepy.