James Went To Bratislava

Gosh was it two weeks ago already?

It was probably the holiday I was least ever looking forward to.  Prior to going away, I was tired, not always my usual joyful self, feeling unhealthy and particularly worried about money.

Typically, I booked the trip away and then lost my job a week later.  But the show must go on – no point in wasting booked flights and I certainly do not let people down.  I really wasn’t up for it – until the Friday afternoon when I started investigating and making a plan.

One obligatory airport beer and super-expensive sausage sandwich later, I was flying with the wonderful Ryanair, and my half-decent sister.

First impressions of Bratislava from the airport were just of your average mid-wealth European city, it was well-spaced out with the usual offices, industrial areas, shopping areas – plenty of Soviet-style apartment blocks (probably built better than the cheap new-builds in the UK) – I’m not sure many people live in houses within the centre of large cities in eastern Europe.  Most looked much nicer than this – but I just wanted a photo of the icicles.

It took 30-40 minutes to get from the small airport to the centre, changing bus once.  We found our apartment – this small house in the grounds of a ‘mansion’ – not quite a mansion as you would imagine, but tall and fairly grand buildings near the centre.  Our hosts were pleasant – the little house had two bedrooms, large front room, kitchen, bathroom replete with bum washing hose – the whole place seemed to have been recently and stylishly renovated – very modern.

Plus it had underfloor heating – quite amazing.  And yes, it was cold.  The highest temperature we saw recorded was -4’C – though the lowest was only -6’C.  Thankfully quite a bit less cold than it had been in previous weeks!  And we saw snow – a very, very fine snow that was sadly impossible to build snowballs with to throw at the Presidential Palace.  But we had a fresh covering by the last day.

It being cold meant that we were fairly limited on options.  Walking around was fine, but there was a limit to enduring the cold before a beer was required.  It wasn’t really possible to do any trips anywhere, or go to the nice gardens that were advertised.  Had we been there a 3rd (unnecessary) day, then we would have gone to Vienna – which is surprisingly only €15 return on the train, and just over an hour.  Or you can get the bus from the airport for €1.

Our two main cultural visits were to the castle, and a museum of clocks.  I cannot say that the museum of clocks, basically a converted 3-storey house converted with no other visitors, and some old clocks in cabinets.  Clearly someone has a passion for clocks.

The castle looked beautiful from a distance, but get up close and one realises that it is a rather disappointingly modern building.  Built in 1953 if I recall correctly – rebuilt, to be exact.  There was a museum that we could have gone into, but having already spent €0.80 on urinating, I declined to spend any more of my very limited funds.  A pleasant walk around in the light snow, with great, albeit rather misty views.

The old town was where the heart of the action was, as is the case in many cities.  Many very nice buildings, lots of small bars – we even found a proper hipster bar which was blatantly inspired by Shoreditchy type places.  Though €2.99 for a beer – twice the price of other places.  They did a fine healthy breakfast though – and it perked me out of my hangover…or was that the breakfast beer?

Beer was good.  Always tasty, normally craft beers.  I must move off this topic quickly as I am really missing beer right now.

I made a good effort to try some of the local cuisine.  I tried the Bryndzove Halusky in our first restaurant (no I didn’t remember how to spell it), which was dumplings in a bowl of melted sheep’s cheese, with some bacon on top.  Very, very strong!  Tasty at first, tiring by the end.

I also tried veal escalope which was apparently a thing over there – nothing special.  And the klobasa – their version of chorizo, but not a patch on it.  It did take a while to find said sausage.

My eyes did light up when I saw a restaurant selling steaks for €13.50.  Until I sat down and realised that it was €13.50 per 100g.  So steak is nearly twice the price in Bratislava as London.  Oops.

Did I mention beer?  The cheapest beer we found was €1.50 – the days of 30p pints are long gone in Bratislava.

I liked Bratislava.  I’d recommend it in the same kind of league as Lisbon.  A much better place to visit than boring Brussels, but not a patch on Berlin or Barcelona.  I do tend to go to a few places beginning with B.

People were mostly friendly – though it was so, so quiet.  Eerily so, in the cold and snow.  Though it was explained to us that it was due to it being the end of January – many people we saw tended to be tourists.  There was nothing bad at all about the trip.  My sister was top-notch company too – we rarely ran out of things to talk about.

There were signs of quirkiness too, from little statues and figurines, to areas of street art – quite a bit in fact.

Although it was good to get out of the cold – arriving back into England at 6’C was a feeling of luxurious warmth.

The trip did me some good too.  Once I got over the extensive amount of beer I had drunk, I was reasonably re-invigorated and have generally been back to my positive self since.

It might be a while until my next trip away though!

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