ly transmutes virtue into vice, and vicernversa.rnThe secret of its success lies in itsrnshameless, chaste ambivalence, of thernkind that would permit the most disinterestedrnof observers to use the wordrn”chaste” as a synonym for “shameless” inrnthe description, for instance, of a youngrngirl trying on her first string of pearls withrnonly a cheval glass for company. Thernvery topography, and the toponymy, ofrnthis strange town ought to provide the unprejudicedrnvisitor with plenty of examplesrnon his first day here. If one wishes torngo from a certain place to another, onerncan always get there by water; or one alwaysrncan get there by land, keeping inrnmind that some of the canals one takesrnwere once land, while some of the streetsrnwere once water. The back of the palazzornwhere I live faces a street called Salizadarndella Chiesa o del Teatro. Thisrnmeans that the street used to be a canalrnand that some people thought it led tornthe church while others thought it led tornthe theater.rnJust across a canal from where I amrnruns Calle Corner Piscopia o Loredan,rnwhich some people thought had just onernnotable family in residence, while othersrnobviously disagreed. There are sevenrnstreets here, admittedly in different partsrnof town, all called Calle della Chiesa. hirnfact, there are four different streets inrnVenice called Calle del Angelo, threernCalle Bembo, seven Calle del Cristo,rnthree Calle del Dose, and so on acrossrnthe map and down the alphabet until onerngets to the two Calle Zorzi, one in SanrnMarco and the other in Castello. Typically,rneach of the thousand bridges spanningrnthe tiny canals will have displayedrnon its side the heraldic markings of thernthree families who jointly built it, a deliberaternprecaution ensuring that none ofrnthe bridges would have exclusive proprietaryrnassociations; in this, as in evervlhingrnthey do, Venetians have shown that theyrnabhor the notion of the pontifex, whornmight give to a place its proper name andrnto all life a single definition.rnMore than a hint of polytheistic paganismrnis in the air at the conjimction ofrntreeless, salty earth and Siberian emeraldcoloredrnwater, of Turkish fatalism and indigenousrnlanguor, of Gallic sophisticationrnand northern brawn. This troublesrnmy friend and landlord, a Venetian to hisrnfingertips of whom more will be said inrnlater correspondence. Baron F — . AtrnEaster, I brought him along to hear thernmidnight mass at the Greek church here.rnthis being his first time ever in an Orthodoxrncathedral, and he later confessed thatrnhe was unable to sleep the rest of thernnight. Only in the atmosphere of totalrnambivalence that is Venice, it seems, canrna man in his 50’s, with an important socialrnposition, a young wife, and smallrnchildren, worry about religion the wayrnpeople elsewhere—in parts of the worldrnmore professedly moral or wholeheartedlyrnChristian—worry about their businessrnaffairs, falling interest rates, and the pricernof the U.S. dollar.rn”But tell me,” he kept repeating, “isrnMussorgsky’s music really Christian?rnWe know that Wagner, who is the West’srnMussorgsky, was a paganist. Are the Russiansrnand the Greeks really different?rnCan you, unlike ourselves in the rest ofrnthe Christian world, combine pleasurernwith goodness, wisdom with contradiction,rnpolyphony with morality?” I answeredrnhim in the usual way people dornwhen embarrassingly emotional questionsrnare put to them, obfuscating ratherrnthan clarifying the points at issue, butrnwithin a few days I was out there on thernZattere embankment, filling out membershiprnforms at the Palestra Club Delfino.rn”La Strada verso il Wellness,” proclaimedrnthe poster adorned with a linerndrawing of the ecologically problematicrnsea animal of the whale order.rnOnly a week before I would have saidrnnuke ’em. But now the gentleman in thernback only looked meekly all around him,rnas though saying goodbye to his troubledrnpast, and reflected that the annual cost ofrnliving this new dolphin life, in this improbablernand contradictory town, is farrnless than the cost of losing just one of hisrnfavorite neighbor bets in the time it takesrnto light a cigarette or mutter a swearword.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’rnEuropean correspondent.rnLetter From Slovakiarnby Gabriela KolvekovarnHey, Macarena!rn(Editor’s note: The world, we are told, isrnshrinking, and all of us are coming tornshare the same global superculture. However,rnthis brief report from a Slovakian collegerngirl shows what happens to a commercialrndance craze when it is taken up by anrnancient community living on the fringe ofrnEurope and transformed into a ritual ofrncommunal solidarity.)rnTo most Americans, even to readers ofrnChronicles, the eastern fringe of Slovakia,rnwhere I come from, must seem like thernother end of the world, but the truth is—rnand I am not a tourist agent— Slovakia isrnone of the most beautiful places in Europe.rnIf you are searching for a land ofrnmountains and deserts, swamps andrnrocky caves, wild rivers, dramatic waterfalls,rnand untouched woods—evervthingrnbut a seacoast, which would ruin the solitudern—you will find all of them in Slovakia.rnThe capitol and largest city of Slovakiarnis Bratislava, 60 kilometers down thernDanube from Vienna. Bratislava is arnwonderful, cosmopolitan city—as Germanrnas it is Magyar and Slovakian—andrnit is visited every day by tourists taking thernobligatory Danube cruise. For a morerntruly Slovakian experience, however, yournmust visit the secorrd-largest city, Kosice,rnwhich has only 300,000 inhabitants, hirnBratislava, you are not far (either in distancernor in atmosphere) from the city ofrnStrauss, but Kosice is home to the world’srnrecord Macarena dance.rnHow the SuperMacarena came tornKosice is a long story that stretches backrnto the beginning of European history.rnLocated in a river valley not far from thernUkrainian border, Kosice was first settledrnin the Stone Age, long before the arrivalrnof the Slavs. The oldest preserved documentrnreferring to the cit)’, the DonationrnPaper of King Stephen V (of Hungary),rndates from 1230. Kosice became a freerntown in the 14th century, and it wasrngranted a coat of arms in 1369 by KingrnLouis the Great. This consisted of arnshield with four silver and white horizontalrnstripes on a red backgroimd. In thernupper part were three lilies —the royalrnemblem of Anjou. This was the first coatrnof arms, not just in Slovakia but in all ofrnEurope, to be established by royal decree.rnToday, the city’s coat of arms alsornincludes an angel, added by a later royalrndecree.rnIn May 1997, we commemorated thern628th anniversary of our attaining thernprivileges of a royal free city by celebratingrnthe third annual Kosice Days. Thernfestivity lasts nine days, and the celebrationrnprovides a series of amusements forrn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn