Bratislava and Modra
Is there anything to see in Bratislava? On the plane departing Prague I met a kind Slovakian Lyudmila and asked her a similar question. From a countryside town Bratislava was understandably not as interesting as the countryside, with its mountains and beautiful nature. From a few couchsurfers, I met at a couchsurfing meeting, the city was okay a bit small particularly when relatively huge Vienna is a short trip away and its more illustrious neigbour – Prague a bigger draw. But I have to say I like Bratislava a lot.
It is small, its old town is small, it may have less sights in number, but the relative peacefulness compared to the far bigger tourist draws like Prague or Budapest are what appeals. Bratislava has a nice atmosphere and nice people, whether that be Slovakians themselves or expats living there. The city has a warm feeling and I extended my trip by two days and not just because of my lost passport (read Poprad) but because I like the town. The people, the cafes, the architecture. There is plenty to do and if you run out well you have the rest of beautiful Slovakia, Vienna is just an hour away and Budapest is not too far away either.
Walking in the Old Town is nice even if there may not be a must see attraction in of itself there are plenty of museums and architecture to see. The most photographed place, apparently, isg the Men at Work statue popping out on a street. However there are also views from the castle and particularly beautiful views from the monument at Slavin.
Built by the soviets as a monument and cemetery for their war dead it is a towering monument set in a peaceful park and an Orthodox cross presumable erected later and the communists were ardent persecutors of the Church..
The area is in beautiful parkland but it is the views from here which are really beautiful. It is described as a romantic place and it is. It is calm, peaceful, with beautiful views and while it does attract some couples and the place was not crowded and best of all no tour buses on site.
However what is also attractive about Slovakia is the food. Here it is both cheap and nice – a perfect combination
Slovakia may have been ruled by the Hungarians and then Germans and then Soviet controlled but they have retained a rich cuisine. I owe a lot to the first Slovakian I met: Lydia. After walking in the Old Town she introduced me to the Slovakian Pub which may sound touristy but isn’t. It is Bratislava after all. The food is nice and genuine.
I tried Halušky (It is a dish of sheep cheese, potato and bacon) there. Apparently many foreigners don’t. But give it a try, it does tastes nice.
Lydia also took me to the couchsurfing meetings after showing me around. Having attended there twice I could say it definitely was not a waste of time with a very friendly atmosphere mostly of Slovaks and expats (particularly from Poland), and some travellers. Both meetings and people there were great. In the first meeting they moved from the cafe to a pub with a beautiful view of the castle and its surroundings and most surprisingly it was also inexpensive. Unfortunately I don’t have the name.
Kofola not CocaCola!
Another thing to try is the ‘Communist era coca-cola’ Kofola. Actually manifested in the Czech Republic but from the precursor to Slovakia and the Czech Republic – Czechoslovakia it way created as an alternative to the capitalist Coca Cola. Many Slovaks say it tastes better too and I have to agree although I am not sure it is any healthier. However it is considerably cheaper than Kofola and can be found almost everywhere and at cheap prices. It is worth trying even just for the experience. Its price and non availability in the UK made it my drink of choice. Like Hungary homemade lemonades were everywhere and of varying choice but what was also nice was the pierogi and the ice cream. Cheap Slovakia is great for food healthy (and tasty) or just tasty!
Vierka and I tried to visit Devin Castle near the border with Austria but because of the recent flooding we were beaten back by the swarms (and I am note exaggerating) of hungry mosquitoes! They were everywhere even in the bar-restaurant where we sheltered. I didn’t return to Devin in this trip.. hopefully next time.
At night there are plenty of places with cafes and yes, ubfortunately drunk British stag party travellers make it here too (the cheap beer a major attraction for them that many show no interest in the culture at all, as I have been told) but I didn’t see anything out of order during the trip just sometimes strange costumes.
Speaking about costumes, on display were the eminently more sensible Slovakian traditional ones. There were several folk events going on and so it was a good time to visit.
Extending my trip in Bratislava actually turned out to be a great decision. I decided against going to Pecs in Hungary this time and extend my stay as I liked the atmosphere. Oh and I had to apply for an emergency passport with mine either lost or stolen. But I was also able to meet Veronica who was very kind and warm person.. Had I not stayed I would not have being able to meet with her being out of town. She had recently injured her arm but she showed me and some Italian visitors around the town in the evening and a nice restaurant / bar. And the next day I met her again where we say a firework display and walked around the town.
Using Bratislava as a base I also visited the small town Modra (famous for its wine) on a Sunday.
A mistake as most shops except ice cream cafes were shut even the churches (although probably they were open before for mass/ service).
There was little to see on a Sunday and a few museums were around but no English content. Modra is probably a nice small day trip from the capital but avoid Sundays.