Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 137: Bratislava

We only stayed in Bratislava for one day, which it think is pretty much the ideal length of time to enjoy this fairly small capital of Slovakia. With only 400,000 people, it's quite small for a capital city and so we managed to see pretty much everything in one afternoon.

For a small city, Bratislava can look pretty modern. Visitors can go up this tower on the bridge. 
We arrived at our hostel around one o'clock, where we discovered that, despite having booked two beds in a large dormitory, the hostel had upgraded us to a private room. Definitely a big point in favour of Patio Hostel!

The roofs of Bratislava

The first thing we did was walk up to the castle, which also gave us a lovely view over the town. While we didn't go into the castle (everyone said it wasn't worth the €4 entry fee) we walked around the grounds and enjoyed the architecture. I also had my picture taken with a couple Asian women... not sure if they thought I was a Slav, or if they thought my uber-pale skin was interesting!

One of the central squares- much less grand than Budapest!

After the castle we walked down to the main square, which was the meeting point for our walking tour. That was definitely the best way to spend the afternoon in Bratislava. Our tour guide, a young woman doing her master's degree, was friendly, interesting, and informative, and she really gave us a good sense of Bratislava. She'd show us little things that we never would have noticed, like a chipped spot on the town hall where a plaque used to be marking how high the water rose during a flood. It was also fascinating to learn about Slavic history, especially the relatively recent anti-communist revolts.

Menu at the restaurant we went to- some great student deals!

On the walking tour, there were only two other people, a guy and a girl. Both were exchange students from the US, one studying in Paris, the other in Madrid. After the tour, Kayla and I went out to dinner with them and enjoyed some traditional Slovak food- very carb-heavy and smothered in cheese sauce, but absolutely delicious!

The castle

And that was Bratislava. Short, but sweet. It was neat to visit a country that was so small and had such a turbulent history, but such hope for the future. Its customs could sometimes seem backward (they have a special day where guys throw girls into a river and beat them with willow switches... apparently that does something positive for the girls, but I don't remember what) but it feels like a country that's experiencing a fresh start. I'm excited to see, in the coming decades, how it grows and changes.

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