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Published: January 7th 2010
St. Michaels Gate
Statue of St. Michael (not Jackson) with the tower of St. Michael's Gate in the background.
They say it never rains, it pours, and it's certainly been like that this November with my travelling.
Just three days after arriving back from Milan, I was on another after-work, budget, Ryanair flight to Bratislava, Slovakia.
Davies and I must've arrived on the last plane to Bratislava, as the airport was completely empty. It was cold outside, shrouded in fog. We needed to find a ticket-machine to buy bus tickets, but none were to be found as the bus arrived. The driver points out a couple of machines that our eyes have missed before mercilessly leaving us behind. Grrrrr. Twenty minutes later we get on the next bus, rattling past IKEA and a big shopping mall into town.
After some difficulty finding our tram at the main train station, we hop onto it where it proceeds to take us to Obchodna - what seems to be Bratislava's main drag - where Hostel Vegas is located.
You had to like the idea behind Hostel Vegas, even if it is a little corny - each room is named after a hotel in Las Vegas and we got lucky with The Venetian, although it really was nothing like the real thing
. The bathrooms were really
Looking along the Danube towards Budapest beyond the UFO-like New Bridge
nice though. There seemed to be a dearth of guests too - the hostel was pretty quiet.
Slept in as usual the next morning, which was beautiful morning. Living in London I hadn't felt sunshine on my face in months.
The guy working at the hostel was quite helpful and recommended the Slovak Pub a few doors down for some local grub.
The Slovak Pub certainly had some character. The inside was almost completely wooden and had a post-medieval country house feel to it, complete with antlers on the wall. The place was chock full of locals, with mostly a young student crowd in the house - there was even a student menu with funny English translations such as "Poor Student Meal" and "Meal For Poor Student Trying To Impress His Lady-Friend". I'm sure the girls are suitably impressed.
Back in London there is a Czechoslovakian restaurant just down the road from my flat, where the specialty is a delicious wild boar schnitzel - so I was expecting some heavy fare. After a very nice tripe soup (the waitress asked me if I knew what I was doing - I did) to warm me up I was not disappointed
Built in 1781 for Archbishop József Batthyány. Surely it's not very nice to call the archbishop a primate?
by the lokše
that came out. Lokše
is a pancake made of potato-dough and it came served with hearty beef braised in a tomato stew. It was too much even for me. It did leave me though, looking forward to dinner.
To walk off the heavy lunch, we trudge up the hill to Bratislava's No.1 tourist attraction, Bratislava Castle. Not the most spectacular castle I have seen, it has to be said, and the whole thing was closed anyway for restoration. The best thing about the castle were the splendid views across the city and the Danube. From here we took some great photos of the UFO-like New Bridge, where apparently, there is a disco inside the spaceship. The old medieval ramparts leading down from the castle were very pretty, especially when combined with the late-afternoon sun and the late-autumn leaves.
At the bottom of the castle we come across St. Martin's Cathedral, the most historically significant church in Bratislava where eleven Hungarian kings were crowned.
Which then leads us to the old town - which is really, really pretty. As always, I loved how all the streets in the old town are pedestrianised, and the baroque palaces and
The most photographed sight in Bratislava apparently.
pastel coloured buildings in shades of green, pink and yellow, reminded me a lot of the Mala Strana part of Prague
. The parts of the old town that stood out the most had to be St. Michael's Gate; a really old cobblestoned area just to the west of St. Michael's Gate; and the main square where the old town hall and the Roland Fountain are.
Also of interest are three bronze statues, one called "The Watcher" where a man is peeping out of a fake manhole under a 'Man At Work' sign, another called "The Photographer" who snaps his prey while lurking behind a corner, and a man who is taking his top-hat off to someone.
A lot of the embassies are housed in some very nice buildings here, including the US and German ones, and the national theatre is a very nice building too. After the old town, there really isn't too much to see, so we went back to Hostel Vegas to prepare for a night out.
We quite liked the old Slovak Pub and since it was just a few doors down, we thought we might as well have our dinner there for laziness' sake. I
Closed for restoration and renovation.
started with the bryndzové pirohy
, which is pretty much the same as the pierogi
we had in Krakow
, and my main was the Slovak Grill where the waitress asked if I was sure I could handle it...come on! What came out was only a couple of shish kebab thingees, so it was easy - I later told the waitress I could've eaten two! And I could've.
After our tasty meal we then went to Krcma Gurmanov Bratislavy (aka KGB) for a drink. The pub was all KGB-themed and had a bust of Lenin at the bar and a framed picture of Stalin out the back. It was pretty cool. People in there were quite young, but it wasn't packed or anything. Beer was pretty cheap at about 2.50€ for a pint. It was weird to see all prices in Euros with Slovakian Koruna in brackets. Probably to guide the locals, as Slovakia have only adopted the Euro since the start of this year.
Suddenly death-metal music came on and in came some leather clad goths, including one that looked like Beetlejuice on a bad day. Things weren't really happening and it wasn't the most social of pubs so we decided
Where Roland's Fountain and the old town hall reside.
to go somewhere else. I know it was a Thursday night, but the whole town was dead
. You could hear a pin drop.
As part of our stay at Hostel Vegas, we got a free shot of Slovak spirit at the bar/club downstairs, so we decided to make use of it and have a drink down there. We also asked the dude at our hostel where a good club might be and he pointed us in the direction of two; Channels and Pucha.
Anyway, the bar downstairs was pretty funky - like the bars in Krakow it was underground and under old brick arches. Groups of young locals were smoking shisha, including one exceptionally good-looking girl. The Slovak spirit was some sort of cherry schnapps and it certainly cleared my froggy throat. Once again though, it didn't seem like the most social or happening place so we once we downed our drinks we thought we'd try Channels and Pucha. My persistent cough wasn't helping.
"You sound like shit", quipped Davies.
Channels was busy, if not going off but seemed to be pretty standard fare so we thought we'd try Pucha.
This was some club. From red carpet to white marble
St. Martin's Cathedral
Where eleven ruling monarchs were crowned between 1563 and 1830.
floors you were led down to a funky white-lit bar with leather couches in red and white. Once again it was under some brick arches, lending it an underground edge. Two girls seemed to be eyeing us up so we grabbed our drinks and went over to talk to them. They spoke no English though - and a flicking gesture is a pretty universal way of saying you're not wanted. How rude. The place was pretty empty so perhaps we should've stayed at Channels.
Anyway, we knew that nothing was gonna happen tonight - nothing had in fact really happened at all during that day - so we called it.
When I told a colleague of mine that I was going to Bratislava, she kinda looked at me funny and told me, "why are you going there? People just go there for the cheap flights and then go straight to Vienna". And unfortunately, my experience in Bratislava didn't uncover any evidence to suggest otherwise.
The nightlife was a particular disappointment as we had heard that it was pretty good. Perhaps we need to come back in the summer and on a Friday or Saturday night.
The old town of
Buildings Around The Main Square
I just thought that this was a nice picture.
Bratislava is very pretty though, and I would never discourage anyone from going anywhere - but there isn't too much to do in Bratislava during the day either.
Overall I found Slovakia a lot like Poland and the Czech Republic - the language is very similar to both, and the people didn't seem overly friendly.
So now we are going to where most of the people on our flight were heading to straight away - Vienna - which brings to a close a pretty uneventful stay in Bratislava. There isn't too much to say about the place - hence the title of this blog entry.
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