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When you drive from the Munich airport and the Alps come in sight you see Austria. This time we flew to Vienna and the moment Austria came in sight, the moguls began. Bumpy off-piste down, left wing up, right wing up, left wing front, right wing front.
Swing you hips, baby! No 720° though, not even 360° sideways or any ways but finally we had the smoothest landing I ever experienced.


Just give the pilot some challenge and he's awake at touch-down.
       Evidently there was too much challenge some planes later and the airport was closed.
       Emma Storm, a distant relative of mine attacked Central Europe causing the deaths of at least nine people and vast estate damages and trafficchaos. In Vienna a building crane crashed on the South railway station.Eva Woyte was the only German bird to catch the worm. The rest of the team had to come by car, and they arrived on Sunday.
       We early birds enjoyed a minor welcome ceremony at the Bratislava airport and only when we were supposed to re-enter the buses the wind and horizontal rain hit us. The clever bus driver fetched most us from the main door, but those only two losers who had been punctually at the agreed-on meeting place and had to run 100 meters windward and rainward were soaked and e.g. my hairdo didn't recover from the shock during the whole week.
       Well, there was enough time to dry up during the six-hour transit that included the driver's obligatory 45-min break.
       Well # 2, at Jasna we arrived and a quiet, light fall of snow welcomed us before the traditional hassle with fighting over the keys, tickets, presents, hugs and kisses on cheek.

SUNDAY
At ten o'clock we did it again; we swarmed out
of the main door and stopped in front of it so that those still inside were blocked there.But we are used to push rival colleagues out of our way and finally everyone was out. Then the ski instructors, un-experienced to work with journalists kindly asked us to get clustered according to our skiing skills. Hardly anyone stopped to listen to them or in any way show any sign of grasping the idea. However, little by little we all started our 300 m crawl towards the nearest ski lift. In my group I noticed one of the worst skiers and a bunch of Swedish semi-pros. I'm positive we all learned something from (and of?) each other.
       It was so reassuring to notice that some things never change. Just like eleven years ago we still had the privilege to warm up our muscles before sitting down in the chair lift. Well, actually the chair lift was closed because of hard wind and we were only happy to crawl a bit longer.
       So, up we went, and then a bit down to get a more up to what I think was Lukova. Our guide skilfully showed us the right direction to get downwards and not to be slid uphill by the fierce wind.
       It had been snowing since Saturday and the skiing conditions were getting much better than what they had been on Friday by our Spanish-Swiss presidente el Miguelinho. It was pretty soon clear to me that there was much more skiable area at our disposal than last time.
       Heaven sent snow gave finishing touches to what the snow-blowers had started.
       The scurry of snow never stopped that day and it cave it's magical extra effect to the opening ceremony, when pictures and animation were lasered on the slope as the silver screen.
       Our hosts had invented something new to the old loud music, speeches and fireworks.The freestylers' skiing and jumping backwards and landing backwards after turning I-lost-count-how-many degrees in any direction mid-air were wilder than seen on telly. The most incredible was the blind racer skiing by his guide's yells: Links! Rechts! Links!
       Back at the hotel we gathered to the congress hall to hear the latest on "The New Philosophy of Slovakian Tourism Marketing". Listening standing up to Beethoven's "Song of Joy" as the anthem of the EU was almost embarrassing in it's American-like chauvinism. Is this kind of new super-nationalism needed in this union of free independent countries? After all, we were just having a press conference.
       Anyway, much more information was poured on us than anyone could swallow. However, it remained a little uncertain what the new philosophy is. Of course, when the info cramps loosen their grip and we have more time to go through the facts it certainly will all clear up.Meanwhile, in the kitchen a fatted pig had been butchered and some poultry for the road and the bacchanal feast could begin.
       When the young folk music band played, little children danced barefoot and finally us journalists were invited to the newly built dance floor I little by little started to feel that I'm rather far from home.
       The rhythmic movements of our divine bodies to the loud music in the dark, hot disco added what was still needed.

MONDAY
Wet snow, wet Gore-Tex, wet boy
. That's the day in a very tight nutshell. O.K. Skiing was great up there. Lower parts of the slopes lost their snow and one had to be careful not to hit rocks. Sauna and XXL Jacuzzi O.K. even though I in general agree with Mr. Erkki Raatikainen, the late president of the Finnish Broadcasting Company who said that people should wash themselves at home. With this he referred to the habit of Finnish president Urho Kekkonen who used to have his negotiations in sauna with the Russian leaders as well as those from the other superpower. Semi-public nudity must have been kind of hard for the Americans. To me the sauna is a place of relaxation and I don't need others there. Well, if anyone of you comes to my summer cottage, you are welcome to join me in the sauna.
       Anyway, fresh as the morning view we, again gathered in the congress hall, listened to the theme of the Eurovision Song Contest and inhaled an enormous information package on "Slovakia -country of tourism and investments opportunities" served by SR Minister of Economy and a SACR-Tourist Board representative. I totally share the faith in future with the conference in this matter.
       Then we had another excellent meal - "My greetings to the chef" - and again the Dancing Queens and Kings disappeared downstairs.

TUESDAY
The sun is shining, there’s plenty of light
, a new day is dawning sunny and bright. But after I’ve been crying all night... (The Temptations)
       Stop it, stop it! Wrong song. Was it a bad disco night for someone?This day is sunny and bright for everyone at the races.It’s the most important day of the week, the day of the Grand Slalom competition. Of course, the sun will shine warmer on some.The course offered good speed but rather easy turns. There was only one place where you could loose it after a bump, but it was so obvious that only few put his/her foot in it.
       The sun shone cold on Roberto Micalli who was removed from the track area wrapped up in a sled. However, he committed a miraculous revival and was soon seen leaning on the bar desk with his regular Marlboro hanging from the corner of his mouth.
       Another reviver from under cold sun was Romanian Luciana Neascu, the juniora of the meeting, who first very skillfully spread all her gear on the slope, re-collected her gear and herself and finished the race as furiously as she had started it. Good old self-discipline still left in the young lady.
       The champions of the race were Gisella Motta, ITA (WJ), Andrea Mugnaini, ITA (MJ), Barbra Jermann, SLO (WS),  Matjaž Albreht, SLO (MS), Ivana Suhadolc, ITA (WSS),  Gregor Pucelj, SLO (MSS).
       Back at hotel the General Assembly decide to give the 2009 meeting to Abetone, south of Florence, north of Rome. For the 2010 meeting we have one candidate till now; Oukaimeden in Morocco would be a new territorial conquest for SCIJ. At least the Moroccons made an impressive conquest in SCIJ in the Nations’ Evening.
       For once the Nations Evening was on the right night. The young and even older champions so knew how to celebrate and the bar looked like it. When the disco opened the personnel got their chance to clear the place up, and cleared up it was in the morning, miraculously. Probably the first ones coming for breakfast and the last ones returning from disco met in the lobby.

WEDNESDAY
On the busses
. One busfull went to ski in Lomnické sedlo, the extreme mountain skiing, listened to the presentation “High Tatras yesterday and today” and drove by the historical train Kometa to Poprad, up to the bus and back to Jasna.Others skied in Donovaly - the place of annual Sled Dog Racing World Championship, and visited Brusno, a little spa town.
       Another busfull took a stroll through the historical town Banská Stiavnica, experienced what it was to be a miner going underneath into a historical mine Glanzerberg and went through a demanding beer tasking in the Steiger brewery.
       Car freaks visited the KIA plant in Zilina before spoiling themselves in the Turcianske spa.
       We culturally oriented, or lazies went to Bojnice, a beautiful castle, one of the oldest preserved castles in Europe. Its mysteries lead us back through centuries to the times of King Matej Corvine, of Turkish invasions and to the noblemen era.
       At the lift bridge of the castle we were welcomed by falcons, owls and a fire-eater, who, like a connoisseur of good wine didn’t swallow the fire but spat it. So, he wasn’t fired.
       There was a several floors deep well in the middle of the castle. When a repairman had climbed down the well about a hundred years ago, he found a large cave that the castle was built on. Odd enough, there was no disco. At least the humidity was right.After an excellent dinner and presentation of other Slovakian castles and churches built without any stone or metal the dirtier ones went to the classic spa of Bojnice, Pablo Costa and I went strolling in the Old Town.At night the Slovakian wines found their way to our hearts or at least heads.


THURSDAY
Another Marx brothers’ day
. This time at the cross country races at the fine Strbske pleso stadium in the High Tatras. Vice president Uros Sostaric, responsible for planning the ski trail probably received tens of thoughts of despair from SCIJ members who slid from the trail on their butt, thigh or face after the steep downhills. No casualties, but quite enough hematomas and bruises. Well, the terrain was what it was. What could a trail master do.
       The track was quite O.K. for those who put cc skis on more often than just for this one SCIJ competition day a year. One had to be able to push, slide, climb steep uphill and ski down a steep trail. Like in Grand Slalom the champions knew the technique, but also had the condition that it takes to be fast.
       The ski trail heroes were Maja Ros, SLO (WJ), Stanko Milan, SVK (MJ),  Barbra Jerman, SLO (WS),  Matjaz Albrecht, SLO (MS),  Jana Janku, SVK (WSS) and Gregor Pucelj, SLO (MSS). However, the fight was tight especially in Men’s Super-Senior and Senior categories.
       Maybe we should start a new category just for the Slovenians and the Slovaks.
       After the dinner and being scared of the economic tiger Slovakia in hotel Patria, most of us went to spas. Tatralandia and in Aqua City Poprad are both modern entertainment spas, but the latter has interesting history.
       The owner of the spa had moved to the UK in his youth. After the collapse of the Iron Curtain he traveled to Slovakia wishing to show his little son his old home district. When walking in the field he kicked his foot on an end of a tube. He went to the town council and asked what the tube was. Oil searchers had been drilling in the field but all they found was hot water. So they packed up their gear and left. The man bought the wasteland right away, and build the spa. And as we say every now and then: the rest is history. Now the water and all energy needed in the huge spa comes from underground for free.
       With all the responsibilities over we re-filled the disco.

FRIDAY
Free skiing under bright sun
. Finally the highest lift was open and we could ski the highest part of the mountain. However there was no way to get to the other side, but climb the last 100 vertical meters. The ski area from the highest lift was in so bad condition that I didn’t want to ruin my skis there and looked right instead. A huge bowl opens at the side of the slope. A slide over the snow border brought to a steep off-piste full of deep sticky snow where jump turns were the best way to stay on foot. After an ecstatic run the slope became more gentle and I reached three Swiss scijers and we slid to a thin forest full of powder, not thick but soft. After some of my nicest turns of the week I noticed that the Swiss had taken another way while I had followed some older trails.
All good comes to an end and I found myself doing very tight turns in a dense forest.
       After ten minutes I suddenly popped up in a small opening full of skiers who had come from different directions. That was the end of the off-piste. Everyone took their skis on their shoulder and started climbing a steepish trail in a line like the gold diggers in Klondike. Out of the forest we came at a turn of the mildest slope leading down from the chair lift. Down to Zahradky I went and considered having deserved a beer.
       The conditions were so great that Kimmo Sarlin and I skied till we were the last people let to enter the ski lift. There was no going to ski all the way to Hotel Grand and we decided to take the ski bus from Zahradky back home. There were already other SCIJ members at the bus stop. Busses drove by but didn’t stop. Surprise: the ski busses don’t take passengers after 4 o’clock when the ski lifts stop!
       One might ask: When are they more needed than after the lifts have stopped?!Well, on the phone Darina encouraged us: “Walk. It’s not far.
       ”Well # 2, we had been taken down the same way by bus to the opening ceremony and back. Now we had ski boots on and carried our skis uphill after having skied the whole day our hearts out. Does someone think we are some sorts of sportsmen?!
       Well # 3, we don’t matter, but is this good service for all the families who come here. If the public transportation doesn’t improve there will be a huge traffic and parking chaos. The transportation chaos lurks also in the ski lifts. More, and more effective ski lifts from the street are needed to feed the upper lifts. People come to Jasna to ski, not to climb stair or stand in lines. Something should also be done to move people from hotel Grand to the nearest slope. People staying in a four star hotel don’t nowadays walk 300 m uphill to get to the lift. The walk was a shock already eleven years ago, and still was.
      After a heavy week the partying seemed to have lost some of it’s charm. Several car loads left to the night and most of the rest went early to pack and to bed.

SATURDAY
Nothing much more to say
. The Slovak team had done excellent work and the organization by the team and the hotel worked like a clock till the very end. Milan Minaric sent the buses out punctually like a good old train dispatcher and Darina collected my ski boot bag from the parking place where our chauffeur had left it and sent it to me.
      The High Tatra formed the great background to our road movie.Friends were still friends in the bus, and to the Vienna airport we came.
       I called Darina who told me that it was raining in Jasna.Gods of skiing were crying after us.
      Talk about timing.I burn to return to Jasna hopefully sooner than in another eleven years.
Seventeen hours from home to hotel was worth it.

 

Timing is everything
Skiing at

Jasna
Slovak Republik by Rauli Storm

 

Bojnice HOME PAGE
The most visited chateau in Slovakia was owned by the famous conqueror Matús Cák of Trencín. Later it often changed its owners. After rebuilding at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the chateau acquired its current shape similar to the style of the French romantic chateaus of the Loire valley. The chateau is encircled by a giant-tree park.
A botanic garden, ZOO and a castle cave also belong to the park. In the chateau interiors collections of neo-gothic style equipment, historic furniture, porcelain, pictures and housing accessories are on display. The castle chapel from 1662 with a wonderful stucco vault and fresco paintings is one of the original parts of the chateau. Various events and special programs are organized in the castle, e.g. the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits, Knights’ Days and others.


Banská Stianivca HOME PAGE
Banská Stiavnica was formerly one of the most significant centers of precious metal mining, mining science, technology and education in Europe. It was awarded the official status of a town and mining rights as early as 1238, but the extraction and processing of metals, principally gold and silver, dates back to the Bronze Age. In mediaeval times, many German mining specialists came to Banska Stiavnica, bringing with them their new and progressive expertise in ore extraction. The world’s first technical university, devoted to mining, mineralogy, physics and chemistry, was established here in 1735 by a decree of the empress Maria Theresa, inspiring the establishment of the later polytechnic institute in Paris.
       The renaissance fortress against the Ottomans dominating the city was constructed from the former roman-gothic church, carner and fortification. The Old Chateau originates from the 16th century. The New Chateau was similarly built between the years 1564 – 1571 as a counterbalance to the Old Chateau and as part of the town fortification against the Ottomans. Today the Slovak Museum of Mining and an exhibition documenting the history of the fights against the Ottoman expansion are located in both chateaus. The location is listed in the UNESCO world cultural heritage site.
 

The Low Tatras

The Low Tatras have a dense network of hiking trails of various degrees of difficulty while the northern slopes of Mt. Dumbier, Mt. Machnaté, Mt. Siná and Mt. Bystrá are all popular places for climbers. The park’s cycling routes include the circuit around the Liptovská Mara reservoir, the Demänovská dolina valley, the loop around the Dolny´ Liptov region, a 73-km circuit around the region of Horny´ Liptov along the valley of the river Cierny Váh as far as the High Tatras to the village of Podbanské, and a mountain route along the ridge of the Low Tatras.       
The nearby dam of Liptovská Mara offers a wide range of water activities while in the town of Liptovský Mikuláš there is an artificial canal with Olympic parameters for water slalom.


Tatralandia HOME PAGE
The biggest complex of water fun in Central Europe lies in the striking scenery of Nízke and Západne Tatry, only 2 km from the centre of Liptovsky´ Mikulásˇ. There are 6 thermal pools with a steady water temperature of (26 - 38 ˚C), and they provide for a number of relaxation options - water massages, bubble-ups, water mushroom, a water swing, water beds, water streams, water volleyball and basketball and a climbing wall with a waterfall. Adrenaline rises at 18 colorful spiral slides (3 of which are open all year round) and straight water slides. Aquapark offers pleasant restaurant facilities, a bar,a rest zone, energetic activities throughout the day, different types of relaxation massages and a children’s corner.Vital world Tatra-Therm-Vital – a complex of 13 saunas, steam, water and massage baths.Holiday Village Tatralandia – a distinctively styled accommodation complex with a capacity of some 500 beds.Tarzania – the longest climbing rope track with obstacles in Slovakia - 520 metres long with three levels of difficulty, including three tracks, supported by a tower and 32 columns at the height of about 7 m above the groundWESTERN CITY – An identical copy of a town from the old American West at the end of 19th century, in the Wild West style. Connected with this is an entertaining show which includes stunt performances.

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