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Former Slovak president a wanderer at heart

in Culture / Entertainment/Travel by

He was the second president of the independent Slovak Republic; what is more, he was the first president to win direct elections in Slovakia. After the end of his presidential term in 2004, he disappeared from the Slovak political scene and started to engage in his hobbies: travel, photography and book writing.

Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and Vladimir Putin during the introduction of official delegations in 2001. Source: en.kremlin.ru
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and Vladimir Putin during the introduction of official delegations in 2001. Source: en.kremlin.ru

Rudolf Schuster (82) became a dedicated traveller following his retirement.

He travelled across Brazil, repeatedly managed to reach the North and South Poles, visited Greenland, Iceland and Alaska, and explored Svalbard. When asked about criteria by which he chooses the next country to visit, the former president says:

“I choose places that have been rapidly changed by time; mostly the northern countries. There, you can see what’s really going on in the world. Whether we want to admit it or not, global warming has taken its toll when it comes to nature. Icebergs are vanishing in front of our eyes.”

And he adds: “Sometimes I risk my life in order to snap a good quality picture.”

The camera lens of Rudolf Schuster scans nature that is affected by global warming. And let me tell you, his passion for documenting his travels flows in his veins.

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The roots of his desire to explore have to do, actually, with a country of the South. His father and uncle became Slovak pioneers of documentary movies when they decided to explore Brazil and immortalize everything they saw via old-fashioned wooden cameras.

“They roamed the jungle and watched native tribes, wild animals and also gold diggers. As a little boy, I didn’t want to hear stories about knights and dragons; I always begged my father to tell me everything about Brazil and the jungle. Over and over”.

When reminiscing about his childhood, the former president also mentions his travels through Brazil and recalls his own experiences. He admits that he couldn’t resist tracing his father’s footsteps, but he also set on a route that neither he nor his father had braved before.

And he encountered danger – he also mentions that while travelling through the jungle in order to visit a tribe that was recommended to him by the Honorary Consul, he and his crew were held captive by another tribe.

“We had to cross a land belonging to some other tribe. When we were doing so, they encircled our cars and made a huge mess about us crossing their piece of land. They basically didn’t want to let us continue in our way. It almost ended up in a huge fight.”

Then the Consul started negotiating with the tribe leaders, and it all resulted in them having some terms as a price to pay for crossing their borders. They wanted factories, SUVs… it came up to millions of dollars. The Consul was a born diplomat, though, and after a short negotiation, the tribe let them go and explore the jungle further.

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After the exploration, Rudolf Schuster made friends with the Brazilian president at the time, who said that he didn’t know any other foreign politician who knew so much about his home country. As a commemoration of Slovak explorers, there is a square bearing the name of Slovakia in Palmas, Brazil.

Conquering Antarctica again?

And what other plans does the former Slovak politician have in mind when it comes to future travels? His answer was simple and straightforward:

“I am 82. I have to take that into account when planning my future travels. But I would like to conquer Antarctica one more time. My doctor doesn’t want to hear a thing about that. And neither does my daughter. That’s why she always sends my niece Heidi with me, she was a nurse so she can help me if I need that kind of help.”

So now, even as we speak, Rudolf Schuster, now a retired man, is sitting in his study carefully studying his maps and planning a new expedition; approved or not, he is determined to put on the shoes of a traveller one more time.

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