After the night on the bus; leaving wet Krakow at midnight we arrived in Bratislava to sun at 7 am.
Our airbnb was a short walk from the bus station and we were invited to check in before our host went out at 8.30 am, eventhough her official checkin time was 4pm. This allowed us to recover from the overnight before going out to explore. She was 60 and lived in a huge, very stylish apartment with high ceilings. We later found that she had many stories to tell and we learnt how it was for her to live here under Soviet occupation. Her brother had escaped 2 years before independence and it resulted in her father getting a demotion and losing his and the rest of the family's travel privelages that had come with his position. She never had a problem living in Bratislava under Soviet rule and today has a very good life.
First impressions of the old town were positive. Not as touristy, nor as big as Krakow but very pretty and full of ice hockey fanatics. The World Championships were currently in Bratislava and it was one of the reasons that Tomas had insisted that
we go. Finding a decently priced place to stay in this normally cheap city had not been easy.
On the Friday we explored the city and walked up the hill to the Palace. It is a compact centre that is not overwhelming in size. The weather was perfect and the sun felt good after all the rain from the last few days. The colourful, happy ice hockey fans were making their presence known all over the city.
Being a Saturday we explored Bratislava's markets. Near our home was a little market that only opened on Saturdays where there were very few tourists. We wandered around and sampled local treats before I left Tomas at the Fan Zone area of the Ice Hockey semi finals. He watched the Russia vs Finland game while I got myself lost walking back to town. Not once did I feel unsafe.
The food in Bratislava was a little less varied and creative as it had been in the more northern cities of eastern Europe but the local speciality was sheep's cheese with dumplings, so I was happy that dishes were not heavily meat based. Goulash was starting to become more dominant here (or
maybe this was just for the tourist's benefit and our proximity to Hungary)
On the Sunday we took a trip to Devin Castle; a stunning Medieval ruin in a protected natural settling. So great to get away from the city on such a perfect spring day!
On the bus we talked to a Turkish guy from Istanbul, living in Graz, Austria who had woken at 2am to do this day trip to Bratislava on his precious day off.
Birds were happy and singing in the perfect weather and so we're we! Families were out on bicycles and bushwalks. We spotted quite a few snakes on the banks of the Danube and Morava rivers as we walked the nature trails and I carefully picked some nettle leaves so I could make a tea with them when we returned.
With its proximity to Austria Devin was the location of the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Period. A memorial with bullets embedded in it comemorates and names the 400 people who were killed trying to escape to freedom.
The castle is one of the most visited attractions in Slovakia, being the country's oldest castle and is awe inspiring. Considering this
it was not overly crowded.
Built between 864 and the 15th century; The last fortifications were built in the 17th century but Napoleon destroyed it early 1800s.
The bus to and from Bratislava is cheap and easy and only takes 20 minutes.
Upon returning we took a break before we both spent the evening supporting Finland against Canada in ice hockey at the Fan Zone with hundreds of fanatics. It was fun and the European crowd favorite won.
It was a late night back to our apartment and an early morning the next day. The good weather was holding with us so we took advantage of it for a day trip to Vienna, which was just 1 and a half hours away by bus.
This follows in a separate blog entry.
Our last day, Tuesday, was very wet and we just managed a walk to the famous Slovak Pub for lunch. Beautiful old pub with traditional Slovakian food.
More Photos follow below....
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