It seems rather too much to conceive thinking about how quick the time has passed, yet in desperation for making the most out of what time is left, I’ve opted for a so called ‘let’s just book it and get out of here’ attitude. Austria is small and bordered by eight different countries, all reachable by simple and cheap train journeys. I would be rather foolish not to take advantage.
Therefore…Vitajte v Bratislavy…Willkommen in Bratislava…Welcome on and all to Bratislava!
Quick hop over the border for a weekend city break in sunny Slovakia – why not!?
The day started with an early train on the Friday morning (definitely wasn’t well organised timetabling so that I get Fridays off uni…) Should point out that there is some studying involved here, I promise, though that would make for a rather boring blog post!
Anyhow the journey from Graz took us once more up through to Vienna and then an hour further east over into Slovakia. In all honesty I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of Bratislava, yet upon arrival in city we were pleasantly surprised with what we discovered.
We arrived promptly at the station, greeted by the sunshine and the realisation that we weren’t entirely sure which direction to go in. With a somewhat incomprehensible print screen of Google maps and a vague direction of North and South we set about walking to the centre to find our hostel. The hostel we stayed at was the Downtown Backpackers Hostel, located only a few minutes walk from the centre of the city. We were lucky in that even though the room was mean to be for 8 people, there was only 4 of us there in total, much to my delight as it means less awkward encounters with strangers in pajamas. The hostel was, well, rather basic to say the least but you can’t expect the Hilton when paying 12 euros a night. The main thing was for us that it was clean, we got a decent nights sleep, and central to all that we wanted to see of the city. (http://www.backpackers.sk/en/) Also breakfast, for under 5 euros each was delightful – the menu was set up so that you picked from a menu of different breakfast styles from different cities. This spanned from English-style fry ups, continental bread roll, meat and cheese combo, to the New Yorker feast of fresh pancakes with nutella and whipped cream. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I went for the latter. There was also a bar at the hostel where people were hanging out at night time, which although was a little noisy, it seemed as though the party all came to an end around 1am, so it wasn’t such a terrible disruption, since we had been out for a drink or two in the evening anyway!
Bratislava was all in all a place I can only really encapsulate as a total surprise. Of course like any city, there was an essence of the modern influence, with a star-wars-esque UFO bridge and grey high rise blocks across the cityscape, but this does however not surpass the sights of the towering green church spires amidst the old-town mosaic of terracotta roofs.
After checking in at the hostel and most importantly grabbing a good-old tourist map, food was first on the list, we opted for a lunch of bagels and homemade lemonade; though I must admit I didn’t quite expect the the seemingly large jug that was presented to me, full of fresh ginger, citrus fruits and mint leaves. Though it was the perfect accompaniment to relaxing in the main square in the sun.
We ventured through the town, seeing all the sights, sampling local cuisine, seeing the palace and theater and taking a look at some the beautiful churches, as well as the cathedral. The city also lies right along the bank of the Donau river, so it was lovely to walk down to the riverside where you can get a good view up to the castle.
A few snaps of the sights…
St. Elizabeth’s Church
That evening we headed to a traditional Slovak style restaurant, which was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me! The restaurant was kind of hidden away, but once inside it turned out to be a renovated theater full of big tables, people eating and drinking beer, and just relaxing and having a good time; such a good atmosphere, I loved it! Fellow Brits will know what I’m talking about when I say that it kind of reminded me of a ‘Wetherspoons’ pub, just minus the drunks slumped on the bar and the familiar whiff of the roast chicken dinners flying off the kitchen hot plate. For dinner I chose to have a homemade sausage with mustard for a starter and then as a main I had stewed beef with vegetable sauce and sliced bread dumplings. It was a very reasonably priced place to eat, and it was honestly some of the nicest food I’ve eaten out in a long time! A definite recommend to anyone who ventures to Bratislava http://bratislavskarestauracia.sk/en/
Traditional Slovak Restaurant
On Saturday we decided first and foremost to take advantage of the glorious weather and head up to the castle, situated on the west side of the city. Although the castle is today very modern due to extensive restoration work, it still made for a worthwhile visit. A short walk up the hill took us right to the top where we got some pretty decent views of the city and beyond. Entrance fee to the castle wasn’t too expensive at all, between 5 and 10 Euros depending on which exhibitions you wanted to see.
After a short walk back into town we wandered around for a while popping into the touristy souvenir shops (of course), before heading back to the station to head back to home to Graz late afternoon.
Bratislava was just lovely and it is somewhere I would definitely recommend to fellow year abroaders and travellers alike! A small city, yet one full of different things to do, see and experience. A cheap and perfect little city break if you ask me!
It’s dawned on me the lack of time that I really have left here, but it’s going to be an exciting few weeks. 9 weeks to go and I’m determined to make it count! *high-five*
– erasmusexplorer –