Bratislava, Slovakia

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:

Bratislava

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).

I wish my school had looked like this!
I wish my school had looked like this!

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.

Bratislava
It may not look like much for two people, but it was extremely filling!

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.**

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Fun at Das Fest part 2

First I have to get the two bad things about today’s trip to the Das Fest out of my system, then we can go back to the fun.

So, bad thing number one. The man at the entrance stole my water!! As far as I was aware people are allowed to take their own water in on Sunday morning for the breakfast. According to this man no drinking water is allowed in at any time. You have to buy it there. I wouldn’t mind buying it there so much, but they only sell fizzy stuff and I hate, hate, hate the taste of carbon dioxide. Extremely sulkily I watched as he threw my water bottle in the bin. Then when we got in I saw at least 3 people with bottles of water much bigger than mine. I know for a fact those bottles weren’t bought at the Fest becasue a) they don’t see big bottles and b) even if they did sell big bottles they certainly wouldn’t sell Vittel. Taking my water away was just plain mean!

Bad thing number two. I had to use a port-a-loo. I’m now officially traumatised. AT least it was still fairly early (around 12:30pm) so it was clean and had toilet roll, but still. It was horrible. For one thing it was on a slope so the whole time I was in there I felt like it was about to tip over. Then there was the fact that the door was sooo hard to shut, which made me wonder whether I’d ever get it open again. The thought of being trapped in a port-a-loo for ages is not pleasant! But I survived, I managed to do what I went in for without actually touching the toilet (eeew!) and the door did open again when I wanted to come out. Still traumatised though!

Now back to the fun. The day started with the classic breakfast… everyone brings along something to eat and has a picnic on the grass while an orchestra plays classical music on the stage. A nice experience, although the lack of shade in front of the stage is sooo not good for me. I’m now sunburnt despite making use of the free suncream DM were giving out. And I used the highest sun protection factor. Curse my pale skin!
After breakfast we headed down to the river to see the duck race. This year 7,000 people bought a duck (or rather a ticket to represent a duck). Seven thousand ducks floating down the river looks brilliant! If you ever get a chance to see a rubber duck race definitely do. Neither of our ducks was among the first 25 to reach the end, so we didn’t get a prize. But we do still have a chance… the fasted 200 ducks win something, but only the first 25 prizes are handed out then and there. Tomorrow a list will appear on the internet so I can see whether we’ve won one of the smaller prizes. And if not, well it’s all for charity.

Once the duck race was over we headed back towards the main stage via a tap in the ground that we had spotted on the way down to the finish line. The tap produces drinking water, so I refilled the bottles of fizzy water that Jan had bought during breakfast. There’s no way I haven’t drunk enough water today!
Back at the main stage a band called Soundnugget were playing. The name has been bugging me all week. I knew I’d heard it somewhere before but couldn’t think where. The answer came to me yesterday… I read it all the time on one of the posters down in our bar. They played at one of our residence parties a few years ago. I missed them the year they played here, but today at the Fest I got to hear them and they’re actually pretty good. Young lads, in their early to mid 20s. They sing in English and are very enthusiastic.
The band who came on next we weren’t really bothered about seeing, and Jan wanted pizza, so we wandered off towards the so-called “sportpark”, bought pizza and went in search of the freestyle frisbee show. We found a few people doing stuff with frisbees, but nothing that looked like an official show so after watching some skateboarders doing tricks and stopping for a while to watch some random sport involving people juggling skittle shaped things on a volleyball court, the idea being that each person had 2 white ones while an orange one was passed from person to person, we headed back towards the main area. DM had a little tent where you could print out 5 photos from your camera for free so we took advantage of that before heading back to my place. Now Jan has gone home and I’m drinking gallons and gallons of water and praying that the sunburn isn’t a sign I’m going to be ill later. I get sunstroke soooo easily and I have to work tomorrow…