In Eastern Slovakia there are three shakers on the table, sometimes labeled “black,” “white” and “red;” salt, pepper and paprika. This region mixes cultures as well as spices. The towns were settled by German (Saxon) craftsmen, ruled by Hungarian nobles, administered by Austrian bureaucrats, Slovaks and Ukrainians did the farming and Roma handled the transport. Kosice, Slovakia’s “Second City,” is the business center of Eastern Slovakia. It is also a mix of all of those cultures. Kosice is a wonderfully restored old city that has a beggar as its mascot. The “Golden Beggar” sat on the main square for years collecting alms. When he “retired” he built a fine house behind the spot where he practiced his “trade.” On the peak of the roof he placed a statue of himself, bowing, hat out. In 2013 Kosice is one of Europe’s Capitals of Culture. We both hope this honor brings well deserved attention to this beautiful city and the region around it, filled with old wooden churches, jewel box towns and sentinel castles on every other hilltop.
This is from a June 2011 letter, driving from Hungary to Kosice, Slovakia.
Slovakia is much more prosperous than Serbia, Hungary or Romania. US Steel in Kosice is the major business and is providing work. An industrial park near the border, which three years ago was just empty fields, is now full of businesses. Slovakia is in the Euro zone and it is one country that seems to be working. So is the Golden Beggar International Local TV Festival in Kosice. IREX was a sponsor in the early years of the festival. IREX has been gone from Slovakia for more than a decade but last weekend we attended the 17th version of the festival. The festival has changed, with competition not only for local TV programs, but awards for young producers and independent local producers. Next year the festival plans on introducing categories for local website video and video for mobile telephones. The idea is the same, celebrating local media, but as the media changes so does the festival. Some of the local Slovak cable TV stations we helped foster are doing ok and showing some very nice community video. It’s nice to return to a place after more than a decade and see something (several things) you helped get started doing just fine.