Since we were going to be near water in Vienna, I was determined to go on a boat. Then we discovered that there are regular boats between Vienna and Bratislava… and Jan had never been to Slovakia (I’m pretty sure I was there with my grandparents on a European tour as a teenager, but it was only a stop for lunch and I remember literally nothing!).
On the advice of Steven, who had coincidentally been in Bratislava the day we met up with him, we decided to take the train there and the boat back. He also recommended a free walking tour (the kind where you give tips at the end), which he had taken and enjoyed. The tour was at 11 and we wanted to buy tickets for the boat back first so we decided to get the train at 8:20 a.m.! The train journey takes roughly an hour and, unsurprisingly, I slept most of the way! On arrival in Bratislava, the first thing we did was take a bus into town (public transport was included with our train ticket). It was immediately apparant that we weren’t in Austria any more:
To be fair to Bratislava, we did see some more modern looking buses driving around, but we managed to get on one of the old, shabby ones 😉 It turned out we could have actually walked into town from the station, but whatever. We were there now, and it gave us plenty of time to find a bank, get some money out, purchase boat tickets and then find the square where the guide was supposed to be waiting. The tour was very interesting, but loooong (a little over 2 hours), especially in the hot sunshine. I tried to stand in the shade whenever I could, but it wasn’t always possible and I ended up sunburnt. *Sigh* On that same day, it was actually raining in Vienna 😉 Here are some random photos I took on our walk around the city. The first few are from before we met our guide and the rest were taken during the walk (the statue of Hviezdoslav was the meeting point for the tour).
The second to last stop on the tour was my favourite! Apparantly the guides like to take groups there because otherwise no tourist will ever find it! Our guide kept telling us she was taking us the “the blue church”, and once we arrived we understood why:
She wasn’t lying about the blue! It’s real name is the Church of St Elisabeth (Kostol svätej Alžbety in Slovakian), and even though it looks like it might be Russian Orthodox, it isn’t (we asked). It’s actually a Catholic church, built in the Hungarian Art Noveau style. Next to it is a secondary school built in the same style (designed by the same architect)… our guide assured us that most schools in Slovakia, don’t like that, but more like the abandoned communist era hospital opposite the church… a horrid, spooky-looking concrete monstrosity (sorry, no picture).
After the walk, we wanted to go for lunch (and I desperately needed a drink, having finished my bottle of water about an hour earlier!). The tour guide had recommended a place along the route that was toruisty but inexpensive and with good food, so we and another German guy from the tour (who it turned out lives just down the road from Karlsruhe!) decided to go there. We were told to try Bryndzové Halušky, a type of potato dumpling with sheep’s cheese and bacon. Jan and I went for a sharing platter which included that, a dish with the same kind of potato dumpling but served in a cheesy Sauerkraut mixture and Bryndzové pirohy, semi-circular dough pockets filled with the same sheep’s cheese. All very delicious! The bacon was extremely crispy, but also melted on the tongue.
By the time we’d found the restaurant again (we’d walked quite a bit after passing it), ordered and eaten our food, and paid the bill, time was getting on a bit, so we ended up heading straight for the boat without heading up to the castle or seeing the cathedral. According to our tour guide, we didn’t miss much not seeing the castle itself (apparantly it’s empty inside), but the view from up there is good. Oh well, some other time…
Our boat left Bratislava at 4 and took an hour and a half, leaving us with plenty of time to head back to the hotel, drop things off, grab the concert tickets and head out to see Pearl Jam…
**I am counting Vienna and Bratislava as my June 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge.**