A Slavic Weekend Detour

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April 17th 2015
Published: April 17th 2015
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Of all the places I expected to be on this trip, this has got to be the unexpected of the unexpected. I had no intention of going to Slovakia on this trip, other than maybe sleeping through it on the night train I had booked for right now between Budapest and Poland. But things change, and that's great. This is my 2nd time in Bratislava, but the first time was only about 6 hours one day while I was staying in Vienna. This time, I get to experience more than just a meal and a few of the highlights. Already, I've enjoyed myself immensely!

The train ride was smooth. I couldn't believe it, though I did make sure to catch the train that was going all the way to Berlin. I figured if the Germans were involved, there would be less fuss and/or muss. I got to Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic, around noon, and I was checked into my hotel by 1. It was a longer hike than normal to my hotel, and there's no elevator (I'm on the 3rd floor with only a spiral staircase and a 40+ pound suitcase to carry up). I got my bearings with some maps and planned my time for today before walking to the center of town.

First off, my hotel is further away from the train station that it claimed to be on the website, and it's about the same distance from the train station as it is from Old Town. The good side is that we're in a quiet neighborhood. The bad side is that I'm going to get more exercise. After what I ate today, though, maybe that's not really a down side. I digress. The wifi here is awesome, so now I just need to find out how good the breakfast is, and I may be in love.

As I said before, this isn't my first time in Bratislava, which makes this only the 2nd place on this trip I'm revisiting, so far. I found a lot of the places I remember from last time, but really, that was 6 years ago now, and it was all in a week-long Euro Spring Break that went to 4 different countries in that week. Jetlag helps me forget some of the things. The one thing I did remember about Bratislava - other than the castle was closed at the time, even though we climbed all the way up to the top of the hill where it sits and there were no signs anywhere to tell you it was closed until you got to the top - is that they have some weird statues lurking about in their Old Town. I think I got pictures of them last time, but since I'm sharing this with a wider audience, I snapped a few again. They haven't changed, but I have. I saw a few odd-colored churches, and I'm including them in the pictures, too.

I had dinner at this place on the square near St. Michael's Gate (which my family will probably find appropriate) called Segnerova Kuria, specializing in Slovak cuisine. I had the homemade gnocchi with Slovak sheeps-milk cheese sauce and bacon on top. It was possibly one of the best things I've ever tasted. That may be in part due to how hungry I was, but it was still pretty good either way. After that, I followed it up with some coconut gelato, after the recommendation by Ray Neal. That was pretty good, too. It started to rain on me for the first time on this trip while I was having dinner - luckily, I was underneath some kind of tent structure. It really was a nice atmosphere at this restaurant. When I was done with the gnocchi, I made my way to that gelato place, but on the way, I saw a boy, maybe 10 years old, playing the accordion against a wall, and he had a little dog with him. I don't know why, but I gave him some money in the little bowl he had out front - that's the first time I've done that on this trip, and I really can't explain why. Maybe he reminded me of someone? I don't know. After I got my gelato, I was standing underneath an awning in front of some Rolex watches in a glass case, enjoying the people-watching and virtually empty square, when I was approached by some beggar holding some magazines to sell. I just said "no" loudly and walked away.

The culmination of my evening was watching the Slovak Philharmonic in the Reduta building in the downtown area just by the Danube River. The interior was way classy, and I've included a couple of pictures for your viewing. The ticket was only 8€, so why not? I was not quite dressed like most people there, but at least I wasn't the only one. I found it very fitting that when I was walking back to my hotel with the light sprinkles coming down, I was listening to "Solidarity" from "Billy Elliot." Definitely look like working class here. The concert included a piece by Bodorová, whom I'd never heard of, and Shostakovitch. Any time I hear about Shostakovitch, I'm reminded of that "Golden Girls" episode where Miles invites Rose to the university for the afternoon - "They're playing Shostakovitch." - "And I hope they beat them," she responds. Oh, Rose. The first bit included a baritone soloist and only strings, but it kept my interest. The Shostakovitch was a full orchestra, and I was happy to hear not only the typical oboe, piccolo, and string soloists, but also a bass clarinet solo, flute flutter-tonguing on several occasions, and some dazzling bassoon parts. I imagine a good time was had by all, except the lady sitting across the aisle from me, who I think slept through most of the show. Maybe that's how she gets her sleep in? So maybe she did have a good time after all.

Tomorrow I'm going to head over to the castle - they've promised me it's open now. I also intend to hit up the zoo while I'm here. I really don't know what else I'll do, but stay tuned. If I do something interesting, you'll be the first to know.


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