Published: April 22nd 2012April 22nd 2012
Me DJing at KC Dunaj
Photo by Daniel Szöllösi
Imagine you're in a bar with a friend of the opposite sex you don't know all that well, perhaps you just met her at the bar, you're chatting in a normal, friendly way and then suddenly her drunk boyfriend saunters down the stairs having had a particularly bad day at work, sees you with her, gets the wrong idea and you later end up in hospital. But the girl has a heart and a good temperament, so she sticks around with you until the ambulance comes having sent him home in a taxi to sober up, then once you get out with a few stitches in your head and what not, she arranges for the three of you to meet for dinner so the guy can sincerely apologise for his mistake and then you and the guy end up actually becoming pretty good friends. Granted this analogy is total freak shit that would never happen, but that's basically what's become of me and Bratislava, since that unforgettably catastrophic first visit back in 2009.
I've now been to this city a total of 11 times and the only reason I haven't written about any of them is because there's not a
Photo by Anne Haack
whole lot to write except that I went to a club (quite often playing somewhere), got drunk and woke up on someone's floor, usually accompanied by a disapproving stare from an albino cat which a couple whose floor I oft frequented are owned by. I've got to know the Bratislava club scene pretty well, as well as pretty much all the DJs within my little microscene who are countable on my two hands.
Highlights of my trips here include a great set from techno legend Richie Hawtin back last August at Loft, which is probably the biggest (and most expensive) club in this city, and my first set here which was at SubClub, an old nuclear bunker underneath the castle, which is an amazingly cool spot despite the sound problems caused by its environment. My most regular spot has been Radosť music pub on Obchodná street, which is a lovely joint, a bit smokey at the fullest of times but the kind of atmosphere where you can just sit and listen to whatever music is playing and drink and talk. Just down the road from this place is 1. Slovak Pub, which does really good traditional Slovak food for
Bryndzové halušky s klobásou
My recommendation for 1. Slovak Pub. Tons heavier than it looks!
low prices, but gets stupidly crowded later on in the evenings in summer. Until yesterday, the only remotely touristy thing I had really ever done in the city was walk along the river.
I came this weekend for a long desired catch-up with my friend Monika, who's just been accepted to study an MA in English literature at Westminster University, so naturally we had a lot to talk about. I arrived on my favourite zombie train after a few drinks in Brno, that weird Moravian metropolis which always either feels extremely safe or extremely not, and today it was the latter. I couldn't sleep for a couple of guys sitting next to me who kept sniggering repeatedly at some incomprehensible in-joke about ringing bells, so I watched as we thrusted in and out of Břeclav for about 30 minutes as our train made love to the Warsaw-Vienna one. When all carriages were rearranged, I just went out and watched the sun rise over the last stretch of the line.
Waking up a few hours after arriving at her flat in the centre, she asks me "so what do you want to do today?", a question which my mind,
Sculpture at this art space in Čunovo
totally poisoned as ever by stupid bullshit problems like females, why I'm not making enough tunes, females, why I'm not writing enough stories and females, hadn't even stroked on the journey from Brno. The correct answer was "just take me somewhere". After some breakfast we set off in her car over to the other side of the Danube through Petržalka, a massive housing estate which takes up most of the area. When we cleared the endless panel blocks, we were heading towards the Hungarian/Austrian/Slovak borders' meeting point, which is somewhere in an extremely flat meadow not far from the start of a huge complex of dams on the Danube river. The village of Čunovo, located just across from the Hungarian border and next to the Danube, hosts an array of interesting attractions in the middle of the river for purposes other than flood prevention and power generation, including a white water rafting course and an art gallery.
This gallery is worth a visit, although it is difficult to reach on public transport. The garden surrounding it is full of sculptures, and the atmosphere was extremely calm; if I lived nearby I would come for whole afternoons with my laptop
To the fallen who tried to escape the ČSSR.
and write stories here in summer. The contents of the building itself are based on some kind of concept involving an Austrian artist - I wasn't exactly clear on what it was. Some of this man's work was on display in the upper hall which was about as abstract and minimalist as you can get with a paintbrush. An especially memorable series attempted to represent some old medieval drawings of knights on horses carrying spears with arrays of single lines. The lower hall was full of other people's work, all of which was somehow related to the main subject.
From here we drove to Devín, a more popular tourist spot just outside of the city's northern limits where the Morava river flows into the Danube. As we refuelled with some much needed kofola in a beer garden we were pleasantly surprised a facepainted zombie couple turn a corner behind us carrying a babovka in a wicker basket. As we walked further towards the castle ruin, we passed the whole zombie walk they belonged to, which amused us for a while before continuing.
The castle is mostly still intact and stands at the point where the two rivers meet,
The Morava and the Danube at Devín
which also marks the beginning of the Morava floodplain, and with low water levels marks one of the easiest places to cross the Danube on foot. A great concrete arch looking out onto the Austrian side of the river serves as a memorial to the many people who were shot dead trying to escape the Czechoslovak socialist republic here. The view from the top of the castle was nice, one side flat and packed with wind turbines (a clear sign that you're getting close to the Austrian border anywhere you are), one side hillier with cottages scattered on the side of the valley. Monika reminisced of spending a night in one of these cottages and watching the castle at sunrise in the morning.
Our plan for the evening was to spend it at Radosť, which we warmed up for with two bottles of rosé. Just as we finished the second, we got an invitation from Monika's friend Rado to stop by his brother's wedding. We (especially I) were completely underdressed for the occasion and I felt like a total gatecrasher, but we went anyway and were both welcomed extremely warmly onto the boat-restaurant on the Danube where the reception
was taking place. We drank some more rosé and danced to some Slovak folk music and talked for a while - it was undoubtedly the most fun part of the night, and my first Czech/Slovak wedding experience besides once being given a glass of champagne by an overtly cheerful best man as Jessica and I crossed their paths while wandering around the zámek at Průhonice a few years back.
So that's that, all in all a really memorable day, a nice detox from the aforementioned mind poison and a decent warm-up for my next proper trip, which I'm going on in 2 weeks time and finally alone again, as celebration for making it through my probation period in my new job as a game tester (yep - I finally got out of the TEFL shithole at the end of last year). I'll be starting off on the same path as this weekend but continuing further east to Nitra, playing a show there, then spending 2 nights in Zagreb, 2 in Budapest (which I miss so much I even started learning Hungarian), then 3 in the north of England making tunes with someone and playing another show. So a bit of a working holiday, but I hope there'll be enough stuff going on for me to start updating Travelblog again, because quite frankly getting drunk and waking up on people's floors is not an acceptable substitute for discovering the world. I never even wrote about finally losing my Berlin virginity (Berlinity) in December, and that's because there wasn't much to write except that my sleeping pattern was 6am-3pm and the non-stop bars are basically time warps. God I hate time warps.