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A trip to Bratislava

Following some rather personally difficult times, I was recently whisked off to foreign parts by a friend who decided I very badly needed to get out of London for a while to get my head together. And so, a day after a funeral and one of the worst days of my life here in London, I found myself on an Air Berlin BAe-146 aeroplane heading, indirectly, for Bratislava, the capital city of the Slovak Republic.

Due to the hasty nature of the flying arrangements, my friend and I travelled via Mönchengladbach (that’s near Düsseldorf, in Germany). As it happens, that 30 minute stop-over allowed me to see something to delight any aviation enthusiast… an airworthy Junkers 52!

Ju-52...an aviation classic!

From Germany we headed to Vienna, where we were picked up by my traveling companion’s mother and thence a short drive across the Austrian border to Bratislava.

Although I was very keen on getting a break from my surroundings, given that my friend had never really described Bratislava fondly (having grown up under communism does have that effect), I must say I did not have very high expectations, given the grey and bleak preamble I had received (I suspect my colleague is in no danger of being offered a job by the Slovak Tourist Agency).

Blimey… I was really in for a surprise!

Although surrounded by the expected outer layer of ghastly public housing (but then are any major cities on the west not similarly blighted?), Bratislava’s inner city is simply gorgeous.

The Main Square and Old Town Hall

The inner city is almost entirely unspoiled by the pox of post war modern architecture, yet it far from being a moribund museum: it positively pulsates with life and exuberance. On my first evening, I saw one of the old main streets lined with sidewalk cafés, bars and restaurants, with a bright laser beaming overhead, originating from one of the old city wall’s bastions, striking a modern artwork suspended on a wire high above at the far end of the street from the bastion and being thus deflected down another street where it ended on yet another glittering suspended artwork.

City wall bastion and laser

But it quickly became apparent to me that there is more to this little gem on the Danube than splendiferous architecture. I had always thought that Amsterdam and Zagreb were locked in mortal combat to see which had the most beautiful women per square kilometer but now I realize that those two august cities were just battling it out for second place. I do not think I have ever seen as many extraordinarily attractive young ladies in my life. Bratislava is, to use the technical term, seething with babes.

Bratislava babe

Bratislava is pretty much the place that puts the central in Central Europe and thus to say it has ‘a lot of history’ would be rather like describing Mt. Everest as ‘rather large': true but misleading. Bratislava is super-saturated with history. On many regular houses one finds plaques commemorating events or people. I was delighted to see that a generation of communism failed to erase the memory of those Slovaks who went west rather than east to fight fascism, and did so with their Czech brethren in the British RAF.

A Slovak Patriot remembered

A Slovak hero remembered

But amidst the endless barrage of historical morsels to take in were the similarly endless procession of…

Bratislava babes

The sheers scope and sweep of Bratislava’s history does make it hard to absorb. Fortunately the city is fairly visitor friendly, with some nice little museums and fairly un-sanitised sights to clamber over.

Bratislava castle

There seems no shortage of people who want to keep the city’s history alive and some rather entertaining rascals seemed to take delight in noisily marching though the city’s cobbled streets with their drums and strange local bagpipes, bawling bawdy songs and firing off matchlock guns and thereby making the alarmed tourists spill their Café Lattes over their chinos

Historical re-enactment at the Bastion

I saw you looking at me enter my PIN number!

The Slovaks take queue-jumping at the cash machines very seriously

And then there are the other distractions…

More Bratislava babes

The locals were friendly (other than one old woman who worked at Bratislava Castle and who clearly had not noticed that Communism had collapsed and the capitalist customer is not the enemy anymore) but one must remember that the Lesser Carpathians are not all that far away, which does mean that you do occasionally run into vampires

Bratislava vampire

Fortunately the locals are very willing to share their expertise in dealing with such matters and they showed me a ‘quick-and-dirty’ way to ensure the safe completion of one’s meal without getting bitten on the neck.

Anti-vampire expedient measures

More to follow…

18 comments to A trip to Bratislava

  • bear, the (one each)

    Sorry to learn of personal unpleasantness, but am glad you made an escape for a while.

    You noted the blight of government housing surrounding the town, but how nice the innner city looked. Here in the States, “inner city” is the polite term for “slum”.

  • The panelaks around Bratislava have NOTHING on those of Brno. Talk about Blade Runner-esque…

    And yes, Bratislava is gorgeous… be sure to check out the Pharmacological Museum. Lots more interesting than you’d think…

    I’ve been putting up some of the travelogues I wrote in 1999 about Bratislava and other cities on WikiTravel. For example:

    http://www.wikitravel.org/article/Bratislava

    By the way – that site is very cool overall. Open source, collaborative travel info. Yes, someone has to write the initial entry, but then everyone else can jump in and ruthlessly edit…

  • Welcome back, Perry. I’ve missed your blogging. I hope the trip allowed you the break that you needed and I look forward to future instalments with details about what you discovered in Bratislava.

  • Zathas

    Bratislava has clearly improved since I was last there, in the spring of 1990. I remember clearly — and the slides I took then back me up — the whole place being enveloped in the foulest, grayest, most dismal layer of chemical-smelling smog I have ever seen, smelled or coughed up. Most likely the Soviet era industrial plants nearby have gone out of business in the intervening years.

  • Tony

    Sorry to hear you’ve had a bad time Perry, I enjoy your blogging and look forward to reading more once you’re recharged.

    Bratislava looks like one mighty speccy place and yes, the lasses look geet sexy! (looks over shoulder for own lass…phew, not there ;)

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I was in Slovakia last June/July for an Outward Bound School programme. Bratislava struck me as a great place. Pity our schedule only allowed two days in the city.

    One of these days, I’m going to go back and really enjoy the sights on my own time.

  • John

    Perry,

    Sounds like you had a fab time. I had not heard of your recent bereavement – I am truly sorry.

    On a totally different note – did you get my invite?

  • Perry,
    Too bad about your problems. Glad you and a friend (Adriana? say hi, please) made it out to a great little city.

    Too bad you had to see them digging up Hviezdoslovovo Nam. near the Carlton in order to get a parking garage entrance that doesn’t point like a cannon at the American Ambassador’s office.

    After 12 years here, I remember “the Armpit of the Danube” (Let’s Go Europe, 1990) and am really glad it’s better and better. Even the panelak projects would be a whole lot better when they discover the beauty of watering the grass.

    Check out Hayek.sk for some little activity of libertarians here.

    Also, there is now a direct Blava – London flight with Sky Europe, 49, 69, 85, or 119 Euro (prices dependent on how full).

    Cheers, come again.
    From Slovakia,
    Tom

  • My beloved (who is Slovak) has been niggling me to go to Slovakia with her to visit for years.

    Looks very nice, maybe I will finally go get that passport!

  • The Last Toryboy

    And is that the infamous Laser I see in that picture? she told me about Bratislava having some sort of laser art in the middle of town but she told me they got rid of it…

  • There are two prominent lasers… one you can see in the picture, the other is a nightly ‘laser light show’ in Roland Square. Both are very cool.

  • Ein interessanter Bericht über Bratislava. Besonders die Fotos sind gelungen – leider sind es viel zu wenig Bilder !

    Viele Grüsse
    Klaus Martin
    webmaster http://www.bratislava.de

  • (Link)Ein interessanter Bericht über Bratislava. Besonders die Fotos sind gelungen – leider sind es viel zu wenig Bilder !

    Viele Grüsse
    Klaus Martin
    webmaster http://www.bratislava.de

  • Dear Perry,

    I am very thankful to your post, I ‘ve been preparing some notes on Bratislava as I plan to visit anytime soon and your blog helped me to find what’s interesting. I have also used Bratislava Apartments and Hotels website before, but there are mostly some reservation options on hostesl, pensions and hotels.

  • Rasto

    Hi Perry
    I´m happy that you like Bratislava because i am from this city.

  • Eva

    This was first time i´ve heart few nice words about our capital from foreign visitors. Good to read….

  • Alex Chambers

    We got back a week ago from Bratislava. We booked our accommodation via http://www.bratislava-apartments.com. My g/f found the website and it was, frankly, the best accommodation option we could have ever found. The owner was friendly, welcoming and helpful. The apartment was spacious, elegant, and very, very homely. Having eulogised about our holiday in Bratislava to work colleagues and friends it is highly likely that they will visit this lovely city in the future. It was a great experience through and through.

  • Aleksandra

    Don’t forget Split, Kyiv, Budapest and Belgrade girls. Do you have any usefull blogs to recomend since we will move to Bratislava in early march and we will like to know more about the place?
    Thank you
    Aleksandra from Belgrade