following a weekend in vienna, we decided to take a day trip to bratislava.
bratislava is an intriguing city. it’s had several pasts and is trying to carve out it’s future. to the outsider, bratislava is cheap beer and a punchline thanks to movies like hostel and eurotrip. our tour guide was understandably sore about the latter.
let’s first sort out that bratislava is in slovakia, NOT SLOVENIA (a point our tour guide spent a good ten minutes clarifying). it is the country’s capital and a windy two hour catamaran ride from vienna. as usual, some trip advisor reviewers had less than stellar reports about the twin city liner from vienna to bratislava but we had nothing but a good experience. we bought our tickets ahead of time, which proved smart because soon after we arrived a large tourist group followed. so if you can, book ahead!
since we only had a less than a full day in bratislava, we figured the best way to see and learn about the city was to do a tour. easy research found us be easy tours, a free walking tour in english that runs 2.5 hours, twice a day. our guide, martina, was excellent. her passion about her city and country was evident and it really made for an exciting tour about a city and a country i really knew nothing about.
slovakia has only been its own independent free state since 1993. it often loses out to its former conjoined twin, the czech republic, as a place to visit for a glimpse into slavic past and present (and, let’s face it, cheaper for tourists than a lot of europe). as we learned, during the time of czechoslovakia, prague was chosen to be the city to represent the history of the region and bratislava the modern, future city. that means prague holds all the old, medieval buildings and bratislava is covered with the often cold, grey, block buildings that we associate with soviet communism.
a main goal of mine in every place i visit is to try the local cuisine because food is delicious. martina suggested a restaurant that serves traditional dishes and drink and after the tour we went to find it. despite the rain and hangry feelings that could have led to us giving up, we eventually found the popular slovak pub.
holy is-this-ever-dense-this-is-how-people-can-drink-tons-of-beer-but-oh-so-conforting kind of food. the bryndza, or sheep cheese, was saltier than goat cheese and had a real nice zing to it. ordering the platter allowed us to try it three ways. the dumplings were different than i expect but when beyond expectation in taste. i could eat that every day until i exploded. the garlic soup tasted how i hoped it would and it was just what we needed after getting lost in the rain. plus, the bowl is edible, as all dishes should be. i want to see that be a top chef challenge: make everything you need to serve your dish, edible! for drink, we ordered kofola. being under soviet rule, not allowed access to western brands, kofola was developed as the coca-cola alternative. martina recommend we try this typical slovakian drink and obviously we had to order it. it’s less sweet and more herbaceous than its american rival.
we didn’t have enough time to imbibe and so i cannot report on that and that is one thing i regret. then again, despite what they might say, beer is beer, and there are worse things we could have missed experiencing. heresy, i know. I KNOW.
we also got to experience public bratislava transit! it was fairly uneventful, with the hardest part figuring out where the bus stop to the airport was and navigating the ticket machine. we luckily had help from a nearby hotel, who gave us excellent instructions. the bus had an airplane icon along side the written destination, which obviously made it easier to confirm we were on the right bus. after this, it was the standard get to the airport, check-in, security stuff. then it was a farewell to bratislava and a hope that we meet again!