Published: September 29th 2006September 29th 2006
A brief stopover in Bratislava has been just the ticket as an introduction to Slovakia. The capital is noticeable for the slower pace of life and laid back attitude of the locals compared to neighbouring countries. Although it seems the Slovakians are reserved I recommend experiencing this relaxed lifestyle in a small city of 440,000 inhabitants. There are just over 5,000,000 people that inhabit the country of Slovakia. The Velvet Revolution in Prague bought down the communist regime in 1989 and the Slovak parliament voted to declare sovereignty from the former Czechoslovakia, thereby becoming an independent country in 1993. When arriving in Bratislava the Soviet era apartment blocks on the outskirts of the city provide a stark reminder of the communist past, but strolling around the historic old town in a leisurely fashion as the locals do is one of the great joys of travelling in Europe. Maps are not really required as the landmarks naturally draw you into their orbit.
As a one off initiative, dear reader
, I will share a day in the life of a backpacker to take you into life on the road. I hope it makes for a good yarn as I had a
very enjoyable day. I woke yesterday at 6:00ish in Budapest to finish what I call the backpacker rustle. You do not wake up to birds whistling in the trees at hostels, but to people rustling around in their backpacks as they pack or unpack. However, it seems that whenever you are searching for an item in the top of your pack it's invariably right at the bottom or vice versa. I met an Aussie girl from the hostel the previous day who was also moving on, we checked out and took the metro to the bus station. We shared travel tales on the eurolines bus about the concepts of customer service, which are sometimes a bit lacking in this part of the world. My tale concerned a gent in a customer service booth at Vienna train station. I asked him where to buy a metro ticket, he started to tell me the directions in English then continued in German. When I asked for clarification he began to shout at me. It makes you wonder about career choices sometimes!
We arrived in Bratislava before midday with no worries, after being stamped in at the border. Check in at the Patio
hostel was a breeze then we went straight into the historic old town for an excellent afternoon strolling and taking in the sights, then catching a bite to eat in an outdoor restaurant. Of course after the meal I continued my never ending quest for the ultimate travel photograph, and that's certainly is an elusive goal! Then it was back to the hostel where we met a few travellers in the rooms, and before long we were out in a group of nine at a heaving local bar. As always on the road that's when the fun really started. A well travelled English lad regaled us with great travel stories of misadventure over the years, he was hilarious. These included several stories about a charismatic Irish scam artist mate of his, who seemed to be able to talk his way into and out of any situation imaginable.
Then we met Tony from the United States. Tony Montana ... I thought huh?! "That's my name" confirmed Tony "Don't wear it out!" By way of context Tony Montana was the name given to the Cuban cocaine gangster played by Al Pacino in the legendary film Scarface. Pacino literally ignites the screen
Aussie backpacker with "The Frenchman", Bratislava
Life-size bronze statue icon in the historical town
in a truly menacing and mesmerising performance. Wow, that's an interesting name I thought. So Tony is telling us he was at school as a pimply thirteen year old, and he keeps getting called Scarface by a kid he thinks is being cruel. Now he gets it, and reckons every time he rings for a pizza and says his name is Tony Montana they hang up the phone! We're all having a great laugh at the bar till closing time, Tony is showing us his repertoire of magic card tricks (he practices constantly and says if there is one thing a backpacker has it's time) then he decides to take us up and down dark alleys to get to some bar or other. I'm hamming it up, feigning terror about being led into a dark alley by Tony Montana, so finally I front him in my best imitation of a scene from Scarface. "Hey Dony" I say "Dony Mondana, come on over here, I wanna dalk to you Dony." I ask him straight out if he is the gangster Tony Montana, "No" he says to my relief "but I do a mean card trick." The English lad warns that I
could still suffer a nasty paper cut though at the hands of Tony!
Tony then takes us to a club underneath the Bratislava Castle. It's really cool and going off as the DJ in the house was spinning Slovakian hip hop. In another of those strange travel tales I am ribbed for getting my beer in a glass when everyone around me gets plastic. The only reason I can think of for the special treatment is that they've seen me with Tony Montana! A day in the life of a backpacker in Bratislava, basically all of you should be here now!
Youth is not a time of life but a state of mind." John F Kennedy
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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