New Found Family and Friends
North Carolina, USA, 01/17/00

Mary and I were invited to Slovakia to visit Peter's family. Peter married my daughter, Kim, in December. They seemed surprised and delighted when we accepted the invitation.

We arrived at The Vienna International Airport and were met by Peter's brother Jaro and his wife Eva. Eva is fluent in German and although my German is a bit rusty, we managed to
communicate until Peter and Kim arrived late that same night.

We drove through the Austrian countryside and made our border crossing near Bratislava, the capitol and home of our hosts.

Jaro, a school teacher, and Eva, a nurse, share an apartment with their sons, Matko(Matthew) and Jurko(George), fourteen and nine years old respectively. They own the apartment,
which is nicely located to the city and surrounding areas.

Matko surprised the entire family with his excellent command of the english language.

We spent a day in Bratislava and it is a beautiful city. I paid particular attention to the business atmosphere. I have been investing on my own for about twenty years and I try to pattern
my investment style after Peter Lynch, who advocates investing in companies you know something about and I also like to take a risk if the potential reward is high. Bratislava is teeming with activity; rebuilding the Old Town, shops, restaurants all busy
but very friendly. Bratislava is strategically located astride the Danube, on the move upward, not without pausing to access the results, but upward none the less.

Slovakia reminds me of Germany in the 1960's, I lived in Germany from 1961 to 1965, and have returned several times over the years, I will always have fond memories of Germany, but Slovakia, to my way of thinking, represents much better investment opportunities, very risky but very rewarding.

In Bratislava, Prievidza, Banska Bristrica and points between; new factories, outside investors ( VW, Whirlpool, Siemans and others) and the people we met were industrious, friendly and
service oriented.

We spent a week in Handlova, a small mining town in central Slovakia, and Peter's hometown. I grew up in the coalfields of southern West Virginia, so I felt at home in the mountains
around Handlova. We stayed with Peter's mother and father, His mother and sister, Ajka, cooked traditional Slovak meals and desserts every day. I know they were exhausted from all the
additional work our visit generated, but they were always the most gracious of hosts.

One day was devoted to a visit to the garden, a fifteen minute walk up the mountain. Here the family raises many varieties of vegetables, fruit and flowers, as well as rabbits, chickens,
ducks and turkeys on about three acres. Nestled in the middle, at a high vantage point, sat the log cabin. Peter, his father and uncle built the cabin on weekends and evenings for three
years. The garden was surrounded by other gardens of various sizes. During the summer entire families work, play and visit with others at the garden spots.

We hiked about a mile into the woods above the garden to a cool, sweet spring for a drink, to fetch water and a chat with neighbors. They had spent the day in the woods gathering
mushrooms. A stop at the pub for a pivo(beer) on the way home capped a perfect day.

Day trips to Prievidza and Banska Bystrica were other highlights, in Prievidza a young lady gave me a Harley Davidson calendar after I tried to buy it and was told it was a sample and for ordering next years' calendars. Banska Bystrica was bustling with tourists from all over Europe and the US, the shops were filled with Slovak arts and crafts. The people who work there speak English, German, French and were infinitely patient and helpful. The word is out about this jewel of a city which hosts the Uprising Museum, a must see, and has beautiful old town centre.

If castles are your interest, Slovakia is castle central, my favorite is Bojnice, near Prievidza we visited there before returning to Bratislava for our final to days.

We visited Vienna the final two days by day trip from Bratislava. The border crossing on Friday was extremely slow, but we crossed the border six times and except for an Austrian Guard
with a bad temper and attitude to match, each crossing was uneventful.

Other things worth mentioning or mentioning again:

* There are plenty of hotels in the major cities and more are being built, but not in the small towns.

* The roads for the most part are not Autobahns, but are more than adequate for now. However, I was told building of new major highways has stopped, this could become a significant
deterrent to new industrial development.

* Bratislava, I repeat is located on both sides of the Danube River and this is a great advantage for industry, tourism and transportation.

* The people are Slovakia's greatest asset; industrious, friendly and well educated with a great national pride .

* The politics are complex, but there has been steady improvement in the past few years in most areas of government, unemployment remains high and privatization is never a smooth

* Membership to the European Union should happen in a couple of years, this will bring great changes , not all of them good, but a necessary step for Slovakia to move forward.

* Speaking to investments, there are great risks and rewards, in my opinion, in Slovakia. It will take a lot of homework to find good companies to invest in, but they are available, I
will look at companies I know something about and will study their reports before investing.

I hope to return to Slovakia soon and I stay in touch with my new found family and friends through phone, mail and internet.