It’s a bit random out of all the places I could go to, but I found a really cheap flight to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, and I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. I arrived here yesterday morning and I’ll head back to Birmingham tomorrow morning to be home in time for my afternoon class. (Despite all of the travelling I’ve done, I haven’t missed any classes yet this year; my schedule is nice this semester because after my Monday classes finish at 5, I don’t have any classes until Thursday at 4.)
Bratislava is a strange mixture of real life and fairy tale. The princess in me focused mostly on the fairy tale aspect of the city. The first thing I did when I arrived here was wander through town until I found Bratislava Castle. Despite being extremely old, it looks new and pristine. (Construction began in the 9th century, and though it fell into disrepair throughout the years, it’s recently been renovated.) The clean white building was quite a contrast to the crumbling gray castles of the UK.
Slovakia has more castles than any other county in the world, and if I ever come back, I would love to see more of them. I’ve also heard that Slovakia’s countryside is absolutely gorgeous, so I would love to see that in the summer. From the castle, I had a great view of the New Bridge, which houses an observation deck and the UFO restaurant, going over the Danube. I could see the city sprawled out beneath me in a combination of red-roof houses and eclectic buildings. Because the city isn’t that big, I could also see the countryside beyond the city limits.
Now that I had an orientation of the city, I made my way to the historic city centre and explored the quaint, cobblestoned alleys that are flanked by shops, restaurants, and many, many cafes.
My favourite quirk is all of the statues you’ll find in Bratislava. And they’re not just boring statues of royalty; they’re the most interesting statues I’ve ever seen! There’s one of Napoleon leaning on a park bench, a photographer in the act of taking a photo, an eccentric man offering up his top hat (this one was based on a real guy who used to go around the streets singing and wearing his signature top hat), a man emerging from the sewers, a woman offering roses, a woman with scary red eyes surrounded by evil-looking birds, a random set of snakes perched on a rock, a man pointing in disbelief to something above (the building he is pointing to has a giant silver ear on the side—I’m not sure if this was coincidence or intended, but either way it made me smile), and I’m sure there are many others. It’s details like these that make Bratislava a fun city.
The official language here is Slovak, though there is a significant amount of people who speak English. The people here are very friendly, even with the language difference. When I was in the queue at the market, a woman in front of me with a very full cart said something in Slovak and then gestured that I should go in front of her since I only had a few things. Luckily, I know a few Slovak phrases, so I was able to thank her with a D’akujem. And when the cleaning lady came into my hostel room this morning, she was surprised that I said D’akujem to her as I was leaving, but she smiled and replied Prosím. A lot of the people at the hostel are from non-Slovak speaking countries, so they speak their own language as well as some English (that’s usually the language to know when you travel anywhere in the world), but the staff here probably aren’t used to seeing many people who speak any Slovak.
As is necessary in any new country, I paid a visit to the market for some pastries and chocolate; things are really cheap here, so I treated myself to a variety. In the bakery section, everything was labelled in Slovak, so I blindly chose what looked most interesting/delicious. I used the same method for the chocolate, though I knew roughly what I was getting based on the pictures on the wrappers. My instinct was good; everything turned out to be wonderful.
There is a huge coffee shop culture here, so I went out this morning to experience it for myself. All of the cafes have signs that advertise “coffee to go” for less than a euro, so even when the barista doesn’t speak English, they understand that simple request. I walked around in the chilly morning sun, sipping my coffee-to-go. I’m happy to announce that Slovak coffee is absolutely delicious.
It’s almost noon here, so I’m going to go find something interesting for lunch and then explore some more!
P.S. I’ll post more photos when I get back home!