B and I train it over to Bratislava bright and early in the am. Her dude is going to meet us later that night. The train ride from Vienna to Bratislava takes about an hour or so. The double decker train is empty or at least out level is. Feels kind of lonely. We arrive to the lonely train station that is more in Petrzalka than in Bratislava. We try and figure out where we go to catch the bus. Finally we make our way to the street. As we are waiting some Brits come over and ask us which way Old Town Bratislava is, we had assumed we were standing on the proper side of the road- we weren't. Good thing Brits ask questions. We make our way over to the proper side and get on the bus heading away from Petrzalka and the many communist era buildings that are located there. Did you know that Petrzalka housing estate is the biggest communist-era concrete block housing in Central Europe? Nor did I. They now try and paint the concrete housing bright colors to make things look a bit more chipper.
The bus finally lands at our stop and we get off walking through the Old Town's cobblestone streets with our suitcases. That wasn't fun. When we arrive at our delightful hostel 20 minutes later I am so thankful I can FINALLY ditch the luggage. B, her man, and I are sharing a 3 bed single. Nice, except for the bathroom shared with 4 other rooms.
After the luggage drop we head out to the city. Cute place, tight streets, no real car traffic. Lots of cafes and tourists. Street performers abound.
The other thing I notice as we walk is the amount of graffiti marring the old buildings. Sad.
We climbed a top the tower that you see in the picture above, St Michael's Gate, and got some fabulous views of the city. The gate is the only remaining gate to the city and was built in the 14th century. I pretty much had a heart attack when trying to walk out on to the skinny cat walk. I plastered myself to the walls and used one hand to hold on while, I walked step by step around. My fear of heights is out of control. I mean sweaty palms, fast shallow breathing, trembling, one hot mess. I'm sure the other people out there gave me the stink eye for being such a baby. Of course B had no such problem. She was cool as a cucumber. FYI if you ever go it costs money. They charge you 9 euro to see the weapons museum and that price includes getting to go out on the balcony. I'm pretty sure most people skip the weapons and go straight to the view.
After checking out the view we decided to leave the Old Town area to check out the sights. There weren't many. We did find Grassalkovich Palace where the Slovakian president lives. We even got to see the changing of the guard. What an absurd production that was; horn blowing and marching all for the 4 spectators watching. I'm not sure how often this goes down, but however often it is not many people care. The palace was built in 1760 and was rather gorgeous. There is apparently a large public garden behind it, but we missed out on this.
A little more sight seeing went on as well as some eating. Bryndzové halušky is the national dish of Slovakia and it was delicious. Basically it's just gnocchi covered in a sheeps milk cheese sauce and topped with bacon. I got mine without bacon. Still awesome. I have dreams about that gut bomb of a dish.
About this time jet lag started to catch up with me, as well as being with someone for a week straight. Keep in mind I'm a single girl and am used to being alone. It's hard to be around people all the time. I just needed a little me time before I turned into a raging biotch. I took a nap while my friend went out.
Later in the night we walked about the town some more (pretty much saw everything you could see in the tiny historic area), had a drink at the street festival that was going down, then popped into the cutest library pub I ever did see. It was this tiny little place with a couple of cafe tables and flowered window boxes outside, and a couple of tables and bookcases filled with books in. The bar is actually a part of the owners flat that he opened up during the weekends. He had some jamming music playing and had a small menu of a couple of beers and wines. The windows and door were wide open, the furniture was mismatched, the lighting was fantastic. If this place was in my 'hood I would never leave. I mean it was that amazing. It's the kind of place a person dreams of owning.
Finally we had dinner at the fanciest restaurant in Old Town. The prices were outrageous for the area, but in reality only set me back $30 or so for an entree. While dining al fresco we observed numerous young people dolled up in their finest. I'm assuming most were headed to one of the 5 million clubs that dot the area. The funniest thing was these girls in their 5 inch stilettos trying to not to break their ankles while walking over cobblestones. I had flashbacks to my college days of walking along River Street in Savannah on my 2 inch heels. Not quite the same, but still tough. After heading back to the hostel, we past out only to be woken at 5 am by some young foreigners discussing their night and heating up their breakfast. The joys of staying in a hostel.
The next day we headed over to Bratislava castle. It was pretty disapointing. Slovakia spent loads of money rebuilding this castle, but I felt that it seemed like a brand new place with no history. I would rather have seen the ruins of the orginal built in the 9th century than the stuccoed shiny castle of today. The only positive was the views it offered. You could see Old Town Bratislava, the Danube, and the massive housing estate of Petrzalka.
After seeing the castle we headed back over to the hostel to pick up our suitcases and head back to the train station. On our walk we saw the headquarters of Slovak Radio. The building is super cool looking and this pictures does not do it justice.
We made it to the train station just in time to grab a sandwich and catch the train back to Budapest. I wish I had taken a picture of how massive this 1.5 euro cheese sandwich was. It was probably the size of my head and a 1 inch thick piece of fried cheese was nestled inside the gigantic bun. B and I both lunched on the one sandwich. I have to make note that most of the random street food I get on international trips tends to be the best and most memorable. It is always the worst calorically, but always tastes the best. The sandwich looked like the one in this blog post: http://yarbogpragueblague.blogspot.com/2011/02/fried-cheese-sandwich.html#!/2011/02/fried-cheese-sandwich.html .
We arrived back in Budapest at about noon, went back to B's flat, regrouped, and then headed out to one of the famous turkish baths, Széchenyi Spa . Sadly I didn't have my camera so I have no pictures, but here are some that I found from around the web. I'm mean look at the pics below. How amazing right?
I was so glad we saved this for the end of the trip. You pay 3550 forints ($16.30), which covers admission for a day. Some people get in for free because they have a prescription from a doctor saying the medicinal baths are necessary for treatment. Kinf of awesome! Leave your stuff in the locker room and then head to the outside pools. There are 3 pools; a lap pool, a warmer pool (38 C), and a slightly cooler pool (32 C). The warmer of the two has a fountain and streams of water that you can position yourself under to allow the water to massage you. The cooler one has a weird circular pool in the middle that you can get in and the current spins you in circles. Kind of odd. It's hard to get out once you are in the current, I was flung against some random as I was trying to leave. Inside the building are multiple hot tubs (of all different sizes), saunas, and steam rooms. They are all different temperatures. So you go into a hot sauna/ steam room, then get in the hot tub, then take a cold shower, and rinse, wash, and repeat. They even had some ice dunk pools that you get in. Coming from a blazing hot steam room and dunking in ice water is an interesting experience to say the least. Feels quite nice. Sometimes the water is cloudy and sometimes it smells like sulfur, but that is due to the "natural" composition of the thermal spring water.
After the baths we were pretty wiped, but managed a side trip through Heroes' Square. Heroes' Square, circa 1900, is a major concrete landmark that is chock full of statues. The statues are of leaders of the seven tribes who founded Hungary and other main Hungarian historic "players". Surrounding the park are gorgeous old homes, most of which are now embassies.
After this sight seeing tour we again head back to the flat and then out to dinner at a Thai restaurant. It was surprisingly good. I kind of wish we had gone more traditional, but it's what my hosts wanted so I wasn't going to deny them their favorite restaurant. Bedtime came early as did the morning when I had to catch a cab back to the airport. The flights home were uneventful. All of my seat companions spoke english and/ or didn't ask me to open things.
I hope you enjoyed my re-telling of my one vacation in the past 10 years. If you want to see more pictures of my vacation (not really that many more, but still) then click HERE. Be back next week to give you the deets on my brothers wedding spectacular, which is this weekend.