Whilst in Vienna we discovered how easy it was to jump on a train to visit Bratislava in Slovakia and so we decided to make the most of the opportunity, particularly as it was another country that neither of us had been to before and it still felt quite exciting to be able to make these random, unintended decisions.
Buying tickets was a smooth operation due to the effiiciency and helpfulness of the Viennese ticket office and in just over an hour on a comfortable train ride (which was perhaps a little overheated) we arrived in this neighbouring country. With a ticket option to return the same or next day, we arrived with no plan other than to explore Bratislava.
When you arrive at pretty much any bus or train station, you are not usually entering a city from its best side and Bratislava is no different. (With more thought, I am sure I could list examples of picturesque train and bus stations in the best parts of town, but generally in recent experience, the stations have been to the edge and not in the most salubrious areas of a city.) So, although Bratislava looked a little drab at first, the more we walked, the more we discovered what this city had to offer – so much so that in the afternoon we made an impromptu hotel booking to stay the night so that we had longer to explore and enjoy the Slovakian delights.
During the morning, we wandered through the old town; there was a sense that there was more to see and if you ever travel anywhere with my husband, you always know that there will be no stone left unturned wherever you visit! I’m glad we continued to explore because Bratislava is a lovely place.
The old town was quaint and cosy mixed with an imperceptible feel of affectionate neglect – a bit like a favourite slightly worn sofa that has memories and history. It was comfortable to wander the cobbled streets in a city that didn’t feel the need to deliberately spruce up and ‘put on an act’ to attract tourists.
As we ventured further, we headed up the hill. At the top, Bratislava’s castle majestically watches over the old town and we battled icy winds to take a look. Whilst up there I was desperate for the loo. Luckily there were facilities, but unluckily there was an 80 cent charge. I scrabbled around in my bag for the correct change – unfortunately without success – and so I handed over a 20 euro note thinking (but not necessarily expecting) that perhaps I would hear a, “Oh don’t worry about it, have your wee for free”. But no. (And I agree, why should she?) Instead I watched this guardian of the toilets painstakingly count out the change and even dip into her own purse to salvage the remainder as the toilet coffers were insufficient. (Note to self: next time, carry change.)
Relieved and refreshed, we continued on to the more modern parts of Bratislava, which included a shopping centre. This was – as far as shopping centres go – lovely. Usually, I am not a huge fan of shopping centres (I dislike being inside), but with its high glass ceiling which let in copious amounts of light and with minimal people milling around, it was definitely ‘decent’. It even included a welcoming ‘Decathlon’, which I decided I had to have a look around. I had no intention of buying anything – not because I didn’t want to but because frustratingly I couldn’t fit anything extra in my rucksack.
After an injection of the retail world, we ambled along a path which bordered the River Danube. By this time the sun was shining and it was lovely to leisurely stroll along the river, especially having just made the decision to stay longer in Bratislava. This decision led to a relaxing evening, which, of course, included sampling the local beer!