This weekend, it was time to go to Bratislava. Two of our colleagues from the Master’s are there for their internships and because we are trying to visit as many of our mates as possible, we decided to head east.
Our original plan was to take the train or the bus from Prague, about 4hrs trip to Bratislava so it’s quite manageable. The good thing about living in the Czech Republic is that you truly are in the heart of Europe and can easily access several countries from here. And Prague is the hub of transportation in the country; you have frequent busses and trains to all destinations. The down side to Czech transportation is that trains are more often than not late…
This time though it was us who were late (for reasons independent of our will) so we had to change to plan B, taking the car. The high way from Prague to Bratislava is quite bumpy (nothing compared to the so called Romanian highways, but still a bumpy ride). In fact the highway is “affectionately” called the Tankodrom. For one thing, because the Russians could easily use it to bring their tanks here, in case the Czechs decided to rebel again like in '68. The main reason for this nickname is that the road is, bumpy, quite bad pavement, not really a pleasure to drive. To je skoda! It's a pitty. The scenery is really nice. (Didn't take any pictures, to busy driving or doing something else, besides, it's bumpy, doesn't make for clear photos, but take my word on it: Prague-Bratislava is a pretty nice trip. Scenery-wise. And you can visit Austerlitz.)
Once in Bratislava, at about 10 o'clock in the evening, we started looking for our friend's street. And although we had both visited the city before, it wasn't easy. Poor indication and maze-like streets behind the communist buildings in the neighborhood.
We went out that night and I can tell you that there is night life in Bratislava, people going out to clubs and bars, having a drink, dancing. Quite fun. Our friends were telling us that people usually go out of town during the weekends so it may seem deserted. Nevertheless there were things to do. I had a Bloody Mary in a lounge bar near Michalska Brana, the famous rendez-vous place in Bratislava (Picture form last November).
The next day we went to see some Siberian tigers in a reserve about 30 km into the Slovakian countryside. It was in a part of the country with a strong Hungarian minority. The countryside resembled a bit what I already knew from Romanian and Hungarian countrysides so nothing special here, plains, lots of grass, some trees, crops, the works. This is one of the tigers, and us...
In the afternoon, we visited Bratislava. It really is a little city, as it's logo goes: Little big City. When I was here last time, in November, I basically went on foot from the main railway station to the main bus station and I practically saw all there was to see. I did profit from a local guide this time so it was a nice experience.
There were certain places on my list of things to see. I always make up such a list in my head when I go somewhere and I always document myself in advance as to what is interesting to see.
So my list included the Radio building, an upside down pyramid; the big square with Napoleon's statue on a bench. Here you have the pictures to prove that we were there. Les lapins cretins a Bratislava.
Bratislava's old town has been restored and is really a pleasure to visit it. Beautiful houses, restaurants, bars. It's a bit like I'd like Bucharest to be. Maybe in a few years... It has nothing of Prague's grandeur, but you can see an effort in attracting tourists and in keeping them satisfied that the got what they came there for.
There are things to do and see, such as a very interesting exposition on India, Nepal, Tibet and the Himalayas at the National Museum, really well taken care for and interesting.
The city's arhitecture and the some times a bit strange statues that you find in the streets are another attraction point. A good excercise of marketing for municipalities (Bucharest should take notes). I don't think Slovaks particularly like their capital, it does have a small town feel and look, but they have managed to attract tourists here (Twin Cities campaign with Vienna is a good exemple of marketing).
The only thing that could spoil a tourists trip, in a really, really bad way, is the lack of service. Going into pizza places, book stores, at the museum, the staff will not always be very friendly. Even the police are not nice (gave as a ticket for parking in the wrong place, but there aren't many parking places either). The Czechs are know for lousy service, but the Slovaks could posibly be worse.
All in all, Bratislava was a nice gettaway for the weekend and it was a pleasure to see our friends again. Felt a bit like back in Cluny. Looking forward to our next get toghether.
And a last picture in the series: The Silly Rabbits do Bratislava.