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Bratislava

Passing through a really interesting city

sunny 5 °C
View Christmas 2012 on kmclean's travel map.

We stopped over for a couple of days here on our way to Vienna. It’s definitely a convenient location, but doesn’t get as much attention as some other cities in the area. I guess it’s pretty hard to compete with neighbours like Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Krakow, and Wrocław. It’s definitely not as beautiful as Budapest or other cities we’ve seen, but there’s a reason, and it’s still got a really interesting character. It’s only been a capital city since 1993 when Czechoslovakia split up, and before then it didn’t get much attention. Prague was maintained and dressed up as the capital of the country. Bratislava was badly destroyed and neglected during the communist era, and it shows. The old city was mostly torn down and replaced with pre-fabricated concrete buildings and highways were built all around the main sites.

Even though it’s not as typically beautiful as some European cities, there’s still a lot to see. We arrived in the evening on a train from Budapest and went to the Christmas market. The closer we get to Germany the more and more things start to look a lot like Christmas. The glühwein here was good, but the thing to drink is medovina, honey wine. It’s delicious but too sweet for me to drink by the cupful, like they serve at the markets. It tastes like it would be a delicious dessert wine, though.

The next day we headed up to the castle in the morning and did a walking tour of the city afterwards. It’s always a great way to get a quick overview of a new city. Our one full day in the city out to be a beautiful sunny winter day, which worked out perfectly. The castle was beautiful and the old city here is really nice. We also took a short walk out of the centre and saw the “blue church”. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and pretty interesting. It’s definitely a change from the cathedrals you usually see. There are lots of cute statues all around the city, and a lot of interesting historical pieces. The city hall has one of Napoleon’s cannon balls in it, to remember the time he laid siege to the city, and also a plaque showing a mark of the water level during a flood one winter that practically submerged the entire city. After the walking tour we were freezing, as always, and went to a pub to try out some Slovak food.

Eastern Europe isn’t exactly known for its food, but I have to say, I’m not a fan of the Slovak specialties. The flavours were very strong, which is the opposite problem we had in Croatia where everything tasted like plain yogurt. It can actually be a good thing, especially coming from Germany where things are generally very mild-tasting, too, but I think here it was just a little too much. They have garlic soup, which tastes just like garlic-y cream. It’s pretty tasty but a couple spoonfuls are powerful enough, a whole bowl was just too much. We also tried their famous potato dumplings (kind of like gnocchi) and potato pancake with pork and veggies. The pancake was actually delicious, a lot like a savoury crepe. The dumplings, though, were very, very cheesy (read: salty) and had deep fried pork fat bits on top. Those were also really popular in Hungary. A lot of meat in this part of the world. The plus side about Slovak food is that it’s so cheap you can try a bit of everything!

Overall Bratislava was a wonderful city. I think one full day is enough to get a sense of the city, but two or three would have been great to see a few things outside the tourist centre. It’s a perfect stopover on the way from Eastern to Central Europe since it’s so well connected and definitely worth a visit. I’m sure we’ll end up here again on some other cross continental trip someday.

Here are some pictures.

Posted by kmclean 20:21 Archived in Slovakia Tagged bratislava walking eastern christmas tour europe slovakia

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