Its interesting how you come to learn the way in which different cities across Europe work in comparison to each other when you are jumping from place to place. For example Vienna’s heart is contained within the Innerestadt, contained within a circular ring road. Prague on the other hand is broken up into numbered districts, with the two main areas connected by the spectacular Charles Bridge (which I continuously seem to call the George bridge). Once you understand this, in the same way you soon learn that London is in fact one enormous amorphic blob which seems to have landed on the planet with a smoggy splat rather than ever adhere plan, you find the cities that bit easier to navigate and you can finally begin to get around with minimal difficulty. I suppose the City I have got to know better than any other on my trip is Prague because I have been here for twice the time I have spent anywhere else. But that would be getting ahead of myself, last time I checked we were still in Vienna…
Reading my last post makes me chuckle a little, because soon after I wrote that I might “take it easy” that night, the room was invaded by a horde of partying Irish-folk who force fed me beer and made me go out and party until sunrise. “Ce la vie”, I muttered as I left the hostel at midnight to Vienna’s famed ‘Bermuda Triangle’ (the name is pretty self explanitory, but for the slower of you it is the official party district). “Zut alors!” I was slurring as I was forced to check out of the hostel at 9am and somehow find my way to Slovakia.
Fortunately, Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capital cities in the world and are only an hour or so apart by train. Even more fortunate is the fact that Bratislava was the end of the line because no sooner had I put my bag on the rack had I fallen asleep and was awoken by an amused looking couple at Bratislava station, god knows where I would have wound up otherwise. I went straight to the hostel and went asleep again and woke up about 2PM and refused to waste a day and hit the streets.
Old town Bratislava is a maze of cobbled streets and alleys and is easily the smallest city I have visited on my trip so far. The weather was awful but that did nothing to take away from the charm of the place, though sad as it may sound charming old town centres with with winding streets and the odd church here and there are becoming the norm in my travles so far, which is why the castle looming over the old town provided a unique perspective on things in more way than one. On visiting the castle during my second afternoon (a far sunnier day) I gained an entirely different perspective of Bratislava. A 360 degree view from the castle mound revealed a cascading view to the beautiful old town to one side with the castle gardens to another. However, the river lying north of the castle acts as a swelling border between two very diffferent eras in history. Rows and rows of communist block housing stretch as far as the eye can see on the opposite bank of the river and to one side of these, equally endless fields of wind turbines. Try as I may to get a picture of this startling view, the limitations of the camera simply do not do it justice, though it is not something I will be forgetting any time soon, it’s just a shame you can’t share it with me!
By night Bratislava is good craic. Back at the hostel I met some keen partygoers and the usual shenanigans took place, all of which aided by the fact it was a Saturday night and the Slovak locals were all out as well. They don’t take too kindly to you chatting up their women though (of whom 75% are ludicrously good looking), which I found out from two guys who simply told me, “these are our women, stay away”. They turned out to be nice guys though (successfuly) trying to wind me up, and they took us out for the night and showed us how the Slovakians party….very hard. I won’t go into details of the night out, but the dinner we had before heading out is worth commenting on primarily for the quality but as much so for value for money. The simplest way of putting it is that a 0,5L glass of nice beer here sets you back less than a bottle of water, a glass of Coca Cola or even a pack of chewing gum and the food (providing you chose your location carefully) is not much more. Six of us all ate a traditional Slovakian main course and had a couple of beers each at a local restaurant recommended by our hostel receptionist and the entire bill came to just under 15 pounds for the lot. I ate Bryndzove Halusky, the Slovakian national dish, which is esentially potato dumplings in sheeps cheese, but in reality is possibly the greatest and tastiest stodge unde the sun. Ideal for soaking up those 30 pence beers and tasty to boot! Others had Goulash and other local dishes which we all shared around and it was a surprisingly civil and sociable experience compared to rest of the night!
All in all…go to Bratislava, it is great!
Right now I am in an internet cafe in Berlin, waiting for my overnight train to Copenhagen. This post, however, is becoming very lengthy and I haven’t even got going on Prague yet so I guess I will have to call a close to part one of this entry before my time runs up and hopefully I will finish it off tomorrow morning in Copenhagen before I go out to meet up with some friends of Bjorn’s in the afternoon. Hope everybody at home is doing well, and get in touch to say hi if you can! Stay tuned!