I last visited Bratislava in 2007. It was high summer, stinking hot and my friend and I, backpacking at the time, arrived rather reluctantly. Not that it was Bratislava’s fault. Bratislava is a beautiful town – was then – is still. The problem is that Bratislava was tainted with a string of uneasy events that occurred prior to us arriving. And it was too soon after the shortcomings of Budapest (also not Budapest’s fault). So my friend and I found ourselves unenthusiastic, and we only stayed two nights, skipping the third in favour of Vienna.
So 11 years later, I was excited at the chance to return – redeem it – find the magic in the place that I had missed that last time. Hubby had never been there, which is surprising when you realise how close it is to Austria. You can literally see the Bratislava (Hrad) Castle looming on a distant hill, and you’re not yet over the border.
Our reason for this two night adventure, however, wasn’t to sweeten my previous visit, nor was it for a holiday – we went to Bratislava to get hubby’s eyes lasered. But that’s another story, and not mine to tell. My eyes are perfect (stubbornly refusing to go to the eye doctor).
We arrived in Bratislava early evening, checked into our city central hotel (Austria Trend, and yes, I highly recommend – great pillows and comfy beds), and headed out for dinner. Both hungry, we wandered into the first traditional pub-type place we saw – and what a great pick. A huge beer hall over two levels, the place is in an old traditional building filled with dark wood and all kinds of paraphernalia. It was relatively quiet, but I could just imagine what it might be like crowded with people when it wasn’t early on a Wednesday night in winter. On our waiter’s recommendation, we went for the shared platter – cheese, knödel, cheese, cabbage, knödel… did I mention cheese? Oh, and some bacon for good measure, of course. Because in Bratislava it seems you can’t go very far without eating meat or drinking beer. The food was delicious, hubby sampled the brewery beer and I drank ridiculously cheap red wine.
Hubby was picked up early the next morning to go to the clinic, so I was free to wander around the city for the day, rugged up in gloves, beanie and coat. It was also raining – the kind of rain where it’s too heavy not to take an umbrella, but almost not heavy enough to warrant having one.
Meanering around the old city digesting breakfast, I was pretty surprised to see other tourists. I mean I’m not saying it was swarming with them, but I was expecting it be to quieter. The temperature ranged from 5-11 degrees that day – so not frozen, but certainly that awkward phase between winter and summer, where weather is unpredictable and it’s still too cool most days to sit outside.
After my initial exploring I took off on a sightseeing run, because there was a bridge I desperately wanted to run over and a park on the other side. Bratislava, as an old town, is beautiful and a great size, but a run requires going further afield. I briefly considered the castle, but decided to keep it cruisy, and running along the Danube is something I don’t do every day.
Following the run, and checking in on hubby (he was fine, about to go in for the op), I headed up to HARD CASTLE (ok ok… Hrad Castle), trying desperately to recall memories from my last trip. It was warm work walking up, albeit quite windy and cool at the top. The view across the city is stunning, and I kept getting random flashbacks of a warmer time, with many more people, and us always on the hunt for ice cream.
By mid-afternoon I realised I was cold and tired – I’d been to the old town and back about 6 times by then. So I picked up something random from a bakery, found a juice joint and headed back to the hotel to warm up (and check on hubby). He was doing well, just tired, though he did perk up and enjoy a walk in the city with me (the fresh air is good for the eyes they say – an oxygen shower, they say). Wanting something quick and dirty for dinner, we opted for the Scottish pub and I had a delicious rack of BBQ ribs, which I absolutely can’t find anywhere near where I live now.
The next morning (Good Friday) was a public holiday in Bratislava – thank goodness – since I was the designated driver. After a short delay to cross the border we were back in Austria and on the way home. I plan to return to Bratislava one day, probably in high summer – to sit outside with a cocktail and see the bars hopping again. One day. One day.