Sunday, October 18, 2009


Kirk arrived in Vienna from Prague via train and we stayed in the posh Intercontinental Hotel, which we got for a steal on Priceline. There are deals to be had there - and my husband is getting super savvy at working it. Five star luxury for motel prices ain't bad!The next morning we ventured from Vienna to Bratislava, Slovakia - just for the morning. Sounds far away and communist, doesn't it? But it's only a 45 minute train ride from Vienna.
My first impressions of Bratislava weren't the best. I thought it looked "far away and communist" indeed. And after experiencing other Eastern European gems I was expecting this city to really shine. Graffiti was my first impression. And then there was this ---
--- cannonballs in exterior walls of buildings everywhere. Very unusual. These cannonballs remain from two attacks in the 1800s by Napoleon Bonaparte. They made for an unusual scavenger hunt around town. See if you can find the cannonball in the image below! Here's a hint!
Rick writes that "in the 20th century Bratislava became the textbook example of a historic city whose multilayered charm and delicate cultural fabric were destroyed and shrouded in gray by the communist regime. The communists were more proud of their ultramodern suspension bridge, New Bridge, than of the historic Jewish quarter they razed to make way for it. Now the bridge and its highway slice through the center of the Old Town, and the heavy traffic rattles the stained-glass windows of St. Martin's Cathedral."Bratislava stands for the "City of Slavic Brotherhood" and used to be part of Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic + Slovakia = Czechoslovakia).
Rick also writes that "Slovakia is the West Virginia of Central Europe - poor, relatively undeveloped, but spectacularly beautiful in its own rustic way." I found it an apt comparison. Slovakia gives more adventurous travelers the opportunity to feel the pulse of a nation that's still struggling to transition into democracy - and yet is stable and safe enough for a comfortable visit. I was impressed with the Art Deco style in the rejuvenated Old Town.
One cool part about Bratislava are the cartoonish statues stationed all over Old Town. Most of these date from the late 1990s, when city leaders wanted to entice locals back into the newly prettied-up Old Town. We had a grand time striking poses with these whimsical friends as we discovered Bratislava.
Connor twirled and danced around Old Town Square. We had more Japanese tourists ask to take photos of our daughter. I am not sure if it is her charm or her unusually white blond hair that draws them in.
At lunchtime we found a tourist trap spot on the main drag. We indulged in local specialties: Kirk had the local beer, Zlaty Bazant, and I had bryndzove halusky (sheep's cheese). Let's just say Kirk made the better culinary choice!
I am not sure I would say that Bratislava was a "must see" destination on a European Tour with limited time. But it was a glimpse of another country and another culture for us. I am glad we went to check it out. This city is another that will certainly continue to grow and prosper in the years to come. It was exciting to see its 'coming of age' now.

No comments: