This was my first ever post on the Englishman in Slovakia site, back in 2012. Other than this explanatory sentence it’s been preserved, unchanged ever since: I guess I’m attached to it, because whilst my perspectives on the country have changed radically since these words were written, it’s ancient history in this ever-changing blog world, and I like ancient history…
I’m a writer. I write a lot, and somehow even manage to make a living from doing so. A not insignificant part of this writing comes in the form of travel guidebooks. Recently, in fact, I’ve been working on the Slovakia chapter of the latest Lonely Planet Eastern Europe book. And whilst I’m not going to give out any secrets about the exciting places included, I will say one thing. Writing for guidebooks can be frustrating.
Not the first phrase that comes to mind, sure. How about “lucky bastard” for example? Well, that’s true too. But guidebook writing is frustrating mainly when it comes to space. I’ve never felt that quite so acutely as when writing a book about a country I’m actually living in.
How, for instance, can you fit in appropriate descriptions of Bratislava’s wonderful boutique hotels, like Hotel Marrol’s? There just isn’t sufficient space to describe the ornateness. How to include mentions of my favourite hikes? Really only a fraction of the beauty of one of Slovakia’s national parks can be communicated in even the most comprehensive of guidebooks. I go to these great places and (not being of a naturally selfish disposition) want to share them with others (you, dear readers). Then I can’t because whether it’s a book, or an article, space restrictions have you always watching your words. Twitter too come to that. And as anyone who knows me will happily tell you, I don’t always like limiting my words. It can have its uses but not when I’m taking a hike up Suchá Belá in the Slovak Paradise and want to talk about the endemic butterflies I’m seeing, or the shapes the streams form when they freeze.
That’s partly the reason I’m setting up this site. To do justice to Slovakia and what I believe to be some of Europe’s greatest, and most versatile beauty… in the scenery, in the architecture, in the folk culture, in the people.