Bratislava is another small town, at least relatively speaking, when compared to the usual European cities people hear about. Yet, it is still the capital of its country, even if Slovakia itself came about in 1993 (dissolution from Czechoslovakia, which just got out of Communist rule in 1990. Insane to me). And this’ll continue to show my ignorance, as I’ve never even heard of Bratislava before I booked this trip. But it’s featured quite well in history, as it was the coronation seat of 11 Hungarian kings and queens at St. Martin’s Cathedral.
But first. Once again, the morning after arriving in a new place, I hopped out to another location, this time over to Vienna, Austria, which was about an hr’s train ride (80 km or so). It’s awesome how you can just walk up to the station, grab a ticket, and away you go. (Not so for my other trips, but still).
Vienna’s not a small city. It’s the capital city of Austria, and was formerly the seat of the Habsburg empire and the Austro-Hungarian empire. So this place has had some deep history over the years. Interestingly though, they don’t have that many walking tours set up, and the tour guide said Vienna just recently allowed walking tours, so its still in its infancy. Alright.
I don’t know if it’s because I took German for 4 years, but I definitely feel more comfortable in German speaking areas, even if my German is nearly a decade out of practice. Also, German areas have Mezzo Mix, which is the most amazing soft drink (Cola kisses Orange is their tagline lol). And of course, Wurst. Thanks to T-mobile offering free 4G LTE speeds across Europe, and Yelp working in Austria as well, I found this awesome place called Bitzinger which served this amazing Käsekrainer sausage. (I just found out this morning there’s a place in dtLA called BierBeisl Imbiss that serves it. I have to go).
You can see the extent of investment from history as Vienna houses both Schloss Belvedere and Schönbrunn Palace. These are two large estates with gigantic garden grounds as well as ornate buildings as well. I only wish I had more time to explore both (same as how I feel missing out on being able to explore Château de Versailles).
Not sure why there’s a snowman, but we’ll go with it. There was also an Ice Cream festival going on in Vienna the Saturday I was there, and I picked up some free swag in the form of a balloon and a pair of sunglasses. The sunglasses served me well for the rest of my trip. The balloon.. didn’t last too long.
The walking tour I went on was probably my least liked one so far. The other 5 I’ve been on at this point (2x with same person in Gamester, 2x with same person in Brugge, and 1x in Brussels) all had pretty good English speakers, as these are English tours I’m joining. This one, the tour lady was from Uzbekistan, and had been living in Vienna for less than 2 yrs? I had trouble understanding her, and even her Austrian/German pronunciation was bothering me. And of all the walking tours I went on this trip (12 total), she was the only one to mention a monetary value for these free tours (you tip after, depending on your ability/worth of tour), which felt like a big faux pas. But whatever.
I think a recurring theme is that I just didn’t have enough time for my visits in any city, which is the nature of the beast when I try to fit in 7 countries and 11 cities in 15 days or so. While I flew into Bratislava, I only gave myself like a half day here, based on what I read and people’s comments about how tiny it is. I maybe could’ve done a full day here, and definitely could’ve used more time in Vienna.
Bratislava is the first city on my Central Europe swing where I saw a weird melting pot of new buildings, deteriorating buildings, and graffiti tagged indiscriminately between the two. For example, they have this smurf church (official name is the Church of St. Elisabeth, affectionately called the Blue Church) in Bratislava that stands right next to a completely abandoned hospital with broken/smashed windows and open/torn down walls, with just the right touch of sprinkled graffiti around the grounds.
The walking tour I went on gave me a brief glimpse into Slovakian history and the town, and then it was pretty much time to catch a train onto Budapest. Bratislava was a pretty simple town, with much of what’s to be seen of the old town pretty centralized. Sad to say, but this felt more like a checklist of city/country than anything else. But thanks Bratislava.
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