This is the seventh in a series of posts about a trip to Europe in the summer of 2016
I had honestly never heard of the city Bratislava, or even the country (Slovakia) until we were planning this road trip. It happened to lie between Hungary and Poland and hence a stop became a must. It rained most of the time we were there, which was about 22 hours in total so my memory of the place itself is dotted with downpours. But will I go there again? Yes! In a heartbeat.
Ok so if you have been reading all the other posts in this series you should have a fair idea of the format of the average European city. Narrow, cobble stoned streets with ancient architecture, castles, cathedrals, squares (where mostly revolutions were fought), concert halls, numerous gelato stalls and alfresco cafes- all this comprise the ‘city centre’. The main city is outside of this, with proper roads and conventional housing. But since Bratislava is quite small overall, we walked from our accommodation to the city center in less than ten minutes. Here we stayed at Ambiente Serviced Apartments which were very very nice, exceptional actually. Modern, clean, spacious, well equipped. The day we got there, we had a very quick and hasty lunch since we were starving. I will admit it wasn’t the best of choices as just a few restaurants were places that offered much better fares. But to make that good we ended the meal with our gelato ritual (but of course), where I was quite experimental and tried the lavender ice cream. It was a strange and interesting experience. No it wasn’t like eating a bar of soap, lol. It was flavorful and involved a lot more than the taste buds, I kept sniffing it while having it and it felt unusually nice.
After a tiny and super quick essential groceries trip, we headed to the tourist office to ask about the walking tours (yes we have a strange fetish for these) and to our surprise, the tourist info people were very discouraging of them. We were told that they are not ‘government-approved’ and often give out not-so-authentic information. That made us all the most curious and we shot out from there to the main square and sure enough the tour was just about to start and we caught it in time.
Up until this point in this post, you MAY have noticed I have not mentioned the toddler even once. That is because he was behaving himself. And sure enough as soon as he saw us interested in something (i.e. the walking tour) he started hollering. One of us took him away from the crowd while the other listened. But then when he got too much (which was actually five minutes into the tour) and we got a few stares, we decided to abort the tour and keep strolling. Just then, the overcast sky made the decision for us and it started drizzling and that was our cue to head back. Exhausted, we took an hour long nap, while outside the drizzle turned to heavy downpour. Even so, we were relentless and had to leach out the one day in this strange city. After the nap (and a cup of tea for me) we got ready, strapped the baby into the stroller with the rain guard he detests, and headed out. Stopped at a department store and bought an umbrella which made life easier and again, within ten minutes found ourselves at the city centre. The cobblestoned paths looked ever-so-romantic in the rain and the sunset-less dusk.
The eateries were all full! In the pouring rain! And a little band was playing; a couple and a few people were dancing near a fountain in the middle of a square. THIS was what made Bratislava so amazing. The spirit all around. That, and the sumptuous shrimp risotto that I DEVOURED. Oh my. What memories. And the compact feel of the place with every touristy sight just ten minutes away. (Except the Bratislava castle which was a half hour drive away). The place is typically European for sure, but it has a really different feel. Its uniqueness is very perceptible. Before heading back to the apartment we had about five unabashed scoops of gelato between the three of us!
The next morning we strolled the city center again and covered all the major historical sights of significance (gleaned from the map of the walking tour), then packed up, checked out and then headed out to Poland, the last country on this exhilarating road trip. More on that coming up.