Bratislava, Slovakia

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August 20th 2016
Published: September 27th 2016
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Munich, Germany to Bratislava, Slovakia

I take an early train from Munich to Bratislava via Vienna. I have not ever been to Bratislava, and I was excited about the opportunity to explore somewhere new. When I arrive at the train station, I had to find the bus stop for bus 93 which would take me very near my hostel. After walking a few minutes, I realize I am on the wrong side of the road, so I hurry to the other side, purchase my bus ticket, and await for the bus to come. I was pretty excited when I saw the correct number of the bus coming my way. I enter the bus, validate my ticket, and off we go. As I only had to go to the second stop, the ride was very quick. I am glad, for I certainly could not understand the language on the intercom as the stops were announced.

I get off the bus, and the directions take me to the Old Town, which was probably a quarter of a mile from the stop. The directions were pretty specific, but when you are new to an area, and not familiar with the surroundings, it can be a bit uneasy feeling. Especially since you have all of your luggage with you. One wrong turn can be tough, especially when you have to backtrack with all of your things on your back. Been there done that. It seems that the load gets heavier day after day. Lucky for me, I did not have that problem this time. I find my hostel, which was on the second floor of a building, and find the reception desk. The guys that run this hostel (Wild Elephants) were so cool. They actually have travelers that assist with the running of the hostel. You really get to know them during your stay.

Seeing the timing of my arrival was after check-in, I was able to go right into my room. I decided I wanted to take the afternoon free walking tour to learn a little bit about the city, so after cleaning up a bit, and after getting directions to the meeting point, I make my way out to explore. Now, as mentioned, I did ask someone in the hostel about the meeting point for the walking tour. They told me the spot, however, it was not for the tour I was wanting, but for the hostel free walking tour. I did not know this at the time. I wait until my meeting time, and no one was there. There usually is someone with an umbrella or something that notates the free walking tour. I start walking around rather quickly trying to see if anyone looked like a guide, and they did not. I asked another tour guide for a different tour if he know where to go for the free walking tour, and he told me it was in the next little park. I walk very hastily to get there, as it was already five or so minutes past the start time. Luckily for me, I find the crowd gathered, and they were just starting. There were so many people, they had to split the tour into three groups. I guess this was anticipated, as there were three guides. I got a guide named Lucia, who was a native of Bratislava.

We are explained by Lucia a brief history of the country of Slovakia, city of Bratislava, and about the general culture. We start the tour and the first stop was a statue of Hans Christian Anderson. He had made a stop in Slovakia, and was commemorated with the statue. Funny thing is that on the back of the statue is a carving of a little naked king. I forget at this moment why it was there, but it was funny none the less. We then see and are explained about the memorial monument to the Black Death plague. Our next stop is at St. Martins Cathedral. We are explained the history of the cathedral, which is situated at the western border of the historical city center below the Bratislava Castle. It is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, known especially for being the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary. The tower is topped by a gold-plated replica of the Crown of St. Stephen. I did a little research, and it weighs about 330 pounds, measures around 3.3 feet in diameter, and it sits on a gold-plated pillow (3.9 feet * 3.9 feet) and stands around 5.4 feet high. Also, the pillow and crown contain a total of around 18 pounds of gold. From the ground it does not look that big, but we were assured it was. The tour guide told us it has been said to be the size of a VW Beetle car, but I think that is a little exaggerated. Interesting stuff. Anyway, we proceed to walk around the Old Town and are shown where the old city walls once were that went around the city. Only the gate on St. Michael's Tower has been preserved out of the original four gates that were gateways for entering the fortified medieval city.

We find our way to what I believe is the most famous statue in Bratislava which is a bronze statue entitled "Cumil". The statue is of a man peeking out from under a manhole cover. It is unclear, however, if this man is intended to be a spy or just someone out to watch the ladies! In either case, Cumil is a popular attraction for visitors to Bratislava. You could hardly get a photo with the statue, for there seemed to always be a line of people waiting. I just took one of the statue by itself, and did not attempt to get a selfie. I actually came back to the statue on my last day, instead of trying to do with our big group. From what the tour guide told us, there are many representations of this statue around the world.

We find our way back Hlavne square in the Old Town and are explained about two other iconic statues.The first is of a colorful former city resident named Schöner Náci. Back in the day, Náci would walk around in his top hat and coat tails and go up to the women and tell them he would kiss their hand for free. He was a dapper gentleman known for his impeccable sense of dress, friendly disposition, and the fact, at least what we were told, that several city cafes let him eat and drink for free. Many people were standing in under his top hat when they were taking there selfies or photos. We then went to a bronze statue of a Napoleonic sniper soldier leaning on a bench.The tour guide told us it is a representation of an iconic Napoleon Army Soldier. As was the case previously, it was difficult to get a selfie with all of the crowd. It seemed when one person would get their selfie, than another would be on the bench or behind the statue in a split second. If someone wanted to have more than a small amount of time to just admire the statue, most likely you would have to come in the early morning or late evening. Saying this however, I did get a singular shot of both this statue and the Schöner Náci statue, but I had to come when the crowds were minimal.

We continued our walking tour learning many interesting things concerning Bratislava. Our last stop was at the iconic Church of St Elizabeth (more commonly known as the Blue Church), just east of the Old Town. The church was painted pale blue and white both inside and out. The tour guide told us there were many names given to the church with one being little smurf church. I was able to peek in the door, but I was not able to take any photos of the inside, for there was actually mass going on during this time. I did come back when the church was empty at a later part of my stay, and take some inside photos. I have never seen a church with these colors on the inside. It was pretty neat.

The tour concluded, and I go back to the hostel to relax. At the hostel I was staying, there is an opportunity to eat supper together and meet the other travelers. You give a small donation of three Euros, and someone form the hostel will cook the dinner. I did this the first night, and we had a traditional Slovakian dinner. Not sure what all was in the main dish, but it was quite tasty non the less. I remember some type of chick peas, potatoes, lots of spice, with some onions and other vegetables. I am not a big vegetable eater, and luckily my plate was more of the other foods. I was able to meet and chat with many new people, and I spoke mostly with two Germans, Olga and Benjamin, as well as a couple of Australians, one Irish guy, and one British girl. After supper, we all went as a group up to the castle area to overlook the city. We sat up there and chatted a while. That was lots of fun, and the city was just beautiful at night.

The next day I decided I wanted to go back to the castle to look around during the day time. I make my way back to there, and after going up the many steps, I was finally at the top. I made the decision to not go inside and tour, for I really did not want too number one, and I did not want to pay a fee number two. I just walked around the castle and admired its beauty. I made my way to the back side area where the gardens were and walked through them looking at the flowers and trees. Lastly, I went back to where the hostel group went the previous night, and I got a daytime view of the city. It was pretty neat, for you can see both the Old Town and new more modernized town all together. I sat on a bench and watched folks take pictures standing on the wall overlooking the city. Dangerous picture I suppose, but one that would probably look pretty neat in a photo album. Anyway, I make my way back down back to the Old Town area. I pretty much retrace my previous days tour to revisit places that we only spent a few minutes at. Funny thing is that I saw a group of folks with the same tour guide I had the previous day. I could hear her saying or going over the same information she gave to us at that particular site. I guess it just gets routine to say the same things over and over.

I had booked a night walking tour of the city. I wanted to just see the city at night, and to hear any history that I may not have heard thus far. I get to my meeting point, and low and behold, I am the only one to book the walking tour. My guide was a native of the city, and we begin the tour. Unfortunately it had started to rain, however it was more of a drizzle, so we were able to walk and talk as she had an umbrella, and I had on my rain jacket. I pretty much heard the same things I had heard from the free walking tour, but I was able to hear a little more detail. My tour guide had lived in Slovakia most all of her life, and she told me of the times when it was a Communist country. I suppose I just can't comprehend what life would be like living under this type of leadership, and thankful that I did not have too. After maybe an hour and one half to two hours, the last stop was the UFO bridge. The UFO bridge, also called the New bridge or the Bridge of the Slovak National Upraising, is the most notable bridge of Bratislava. And not only because of its height but mainly because of its top part which is in the shape of a space ship. This "space ship“ is actually an observatory deck and serves also as a restaurant. As we had to walk there, I was a little bit worried about my guide, for she was starting to breathe a little heavy already. She was probably seventy years old or older, and the bridge was a little bit of a haul to walk. There is a pedestrian lane beneath the actual road overhead (the bridge itself is 430 meters or a little over 1,400 feet long). It was safe I felt, however just a bit of a walk.

This bridge is the 7th largest hanging bridge in the world. You can get a panoramic view on the whole Bratislava from the open-air observation deck on top of its UFO-shaped cupola. You can get up to the top by an elevator or stairs which are located in its "legs“. I rode the elevator. The ride takes about forty five seconds. When the elevator ride was over, I exited the door to a small reception area where a friendly young lady showed me which stairs to take to go up to the deck. After a small walk up some stairs, an open-air outlook place will appear in front of you. It is not a real big observation deck, but it is 360 degrees where you can see all sides of Bratislava. There are also some neat facts listed on the walls about other tall towers around the world. The view was spectacular, and I took some nice photos from up there. Really enjoyed this. I did go into the restaurant area, however I did not eat there. I really just wanted to see it.

After an hour or slightly more at the UFO bridge, I felt as if I had seen all I wanted to see, and I walk back in the pedestrian walkway underneath the bridge back to the Old Town area. I walk around the city a bit more, and go back to my hostel area. I just hung out around this area the rest of the evening. The next day would be my last day here, and I planned to just walk around taking as many photo opportunities as I could.

The last day in Bratislava was a rainy day, and I just took it easy most of the day. I walked a good bit, and I went to many of the same sights that I went to before just to see one last time. I was going to take a day trip via bus to somewhere, however I decided against this seeing the weather was not so good, and I just really did not want to go somewhere with it raining. On this day is when I took some of the photos of the statues and historic places, for the crowds were not as large. I go back to the castle and sit on a bench for a while just to relax, and I also hang out around the hostel chatting with other travelers. Bratislava is definitely a wonderful city to visit. You can see and do so much in a short amount of time. I really enjoyed my time here, and I hope to have the opportunity to return some day.

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