I Was very much looking forward to going back to Slovakia, for the second time this year. Not only because of the numismatic plans I had for which I didn’t have time when I was there in March, but also some of my childhood memories bring me back to this country. For those of you who are looking for some museum descriptions, I have to say, nothing happened. Those, who would like to understand the not always successful aspects of numismatic tourism, I’d like to tell you about the not so good as well, just so you get a more complete picture of what it takes, and the mistakes you can make. Fortunately, not harmful, only annoying ones.
Originally, I was going to travel to Kremnica to visit one of the oldest mints and the museum, since I had a free day in Bratislava. However, I found that there was a numismatic exhibit at the Bratislava City Museum according to their web site. Since life often takes me to that part of the world, I decided I didn’t need to do everything on the same day, so since I knew I’d have two busy weeks, I chose to visit the museum in Bratislava and leave Kremnica for the next time. Well, this is what I do with all the museums in Hungary, until there will not be a next time, but that’s another story, I’m planning to take drastic action on this front.
Planning wasn’t easy, I called and emailed all the contacts I could find. After all, it is a 149-year-old museum, somebody must know something, maybe they won’t close it while I’m traveling there, odds were on my side. The only contact I received was a lady in a castle who answered my call, and we managed enough communication to get her email address, she promised she will forward my request. When I wrote to her, the email bounced back. I tried all kinds of different spellings I could imagine, no luck. Later, no lady, no response, must have been some enchanted castle. As I was coming back from Romania, still no response, and it was too late to change the plans. If I go to Kremnica, at the very least I’d like to have plans set in stone, and read a few books. I will not take that trip lightly. There was one thing left, to go there and find out what I can do with my Sunday.
I always feel bad when I don’t speak the language. Not because I’m lost, but because I had the guts to land in a country where I didn’t manage to learn 100 words of the most widely spoken language. Well, with the armory of thank you and I don’t understand, I left the hotel for the new adventure. Ok, maybe 20 more words, but that’s that. First I couldn’t communicate with the Uber driver, but fortunately the GPS and the phone app does the job. I’m glad I speak Hungarian, there’s no Uber there. I was trying to assure the Uber driver that I know some Russian, but as I was told several times, in Slovakia, people don’t understand Russian. Let’s just stop here for a second. I’m not so American that I wouldn’t know that people above the age of 40 had to learn Russian at school. Ok, I did too, and I have no idea how to say coin exhibit. But: from the little Russian I managed not to forget, when I heard Slovakian, some words sounded suspiciously familiar. This will be important later.
So, the driver dropped us off, yes, us, Baldwin was with me, not even sure why I wrote in first person so far, but if you read the adventures from Romania, you know already that he made it to Europe this time. It was the edge of downtown, later I found out it could have been faster to walk there. But coins first, adventure next. By the way the museum wasn’t even nearby. As I started walking, I got different GPS signals, once the museum was ahead of me, after a few steps of walking forward, it was behind me. Not sure why, maybe some big buildings nearby, but the GPS proved to be useless downtown. So, I started asking people, receiving similarly confusing, and inconsistent directions. I had no problems with the language, I got by in English or in German, and if I ever had to, I could ask for help in Hungarian, but I didn’t want to assume immediately that people speak it just like I do. Maybe I should have? The waiter who served my dinner for three nights turned out to be half Hungarian and we communicated in English. But back to downtown, two young ladies offered to help me. After a few minutes of trying to communicate in English, they turned to each other in Hungarian to figure out the way to the museum. Ok maybe Hungarian is useful after all. Instead of yet another confusing direction, they offered to walk me there as it was only a few yards from us.
There was a lady at the reception, I’d love to say she greeted us but after the first few seconds my Slovakian proved to be much richer than hers. I was wondering if it was my accent or her Vow of silence, so I tried a few other languages I was more confident in, but the only thing I managed to understand was “slovenska”. Well, after all, I was rudely not preparing for the trip. Note to self: next time learn how do they say coin exhibit in the local language. But in all seriousness, one can’t expect that all people speak English just because I decide to explore the city on a quiet Sunday afternoon. But here is the thing: in a capital city, a short distance away from two other capitals, where by default people speak English and German on the street, it may make sense to put somebody in front of a museum who can say I don’t understand in English if nothing else.
But I can’t just give it up now, after all, I gave up a trip to Kremnica for this. So, when all else fails, let’s ask Google Translate. What a luxurious life, 10 years ago I would have looked for a real translator. Not an app. A person. So, in easy to understand phrases so that Google gets it right, I explained that I heard that there was a coin exhibit here, and I would like to visit it. I already had Slovakian downloaded on my phone, at least I prepared this much if I didn’t learn a thing, and I showed it to the lady at the reception. She sure didn’t notice that I was desperately trying to communicate with her. I’d get upset, but what if she was blind too? After all, we all have the right not to see… So, a last try, I spelled the translation from my phone and tried to pronounce it as close as I thought Slovakian sounded. No luck, I still heard something about “Slovenska”. I started to lose my patience, this is “Slovenska”, I’m trying.
Before I had time to think about what’s next, a kind gentleman came up to me and offered to help. I told him why I was there and that I can’t seem to communicate despite of all my efforts. So, a little Slovakian back and forth, none of my forgotten Russian helped me to catch anything, then the gentlemen told me that the lady needs to see documentation of my disability, in order to be let in with my dog. Dear lady, at the reception: how on earth would you believe me even if I had such documentation if you even refused to understand your own language. But better yet, if I was as nice as you were, you would be in deep deep trouble legally because in the European Union such request is unacceptable, and not tolerated. But as I didn’t want to get into such heights of conversation with her, first I wanted to know if such an argument was necessary. So, through my kind translator, we managed to figure out that there was no coin collection there. Not that I was convinced, but at this point, if there’s no coin exhibit, I didn’t want Baldwin to feel bad about the European Union, after all, I’d like to bring him back many more times. And since he owns a European passport, he feels rightly that he can guide me in a public building if he chooses to, and since I could confidently say that he is a dog who has been to most coin museums, if he could talk, maybe he could be recognized as the most educated four-legged numismatist, I didn’t see why he wouldn’t want to guide me around. We depend on each other, he can’t go in alone, either.
There was one thing left, aside from being sorry for missing Kremnica, to figure out if there was a coin exhibit or not. I will spare you from the details, but my two Hungarian guides were still there enjoying the show, so they offered to take me to the information center a few feet from the museum, where we unfortunately found out that though the coin exhibit existed a few years ago, it is no longer the case, the web site I was referring to was ten years old. At this point, I decided to close the adventure learning that there was a huge coin collection which we can’t figure out where it went. One thing for sure, it was pretty obvious that I will not find it on that Sunday afternoon, but now I’m curious. I hope it didn’t just disappear, but if it didn’t, what happened to it? But for the moment I decided to ponder and research when I get back to the US. That is, now. If I find out, I’ll let you know.
The rest of the day was spent in gastronomic pleasure. Not as sophisticated as Gordon Ramsay’s was last time. I was looking for the best, the simplest. To bring back all the memories, all the tastes. After a few drinks and the song that the gypsy violinist played just for me, even the sorrow came back of what has never been mine, but I still left behind. But let’s face it, without leaving it all, today there would not be numismatic tourism, there would not be so many other things.