Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day trip to Bratislava

Bratislava is but a short jaunt from Vienna, about an hour and fifteen minutes by train. Hubby has been. I have not. And so, on the advice of a friend who lived there for 2 years in the early 2000s, and to satisfy Hubby's urge to go back and see how the city may have changed since Slovakia joined the European Union, we embarked on a small day trip.

Before leaving, we checked the weather. It called for 19 degrees and a mix of sun and cloud. Perfect weather for wandering around, right? WRONG!! You see, we neglected to check out the wind speed. And it was 'effin windy. Meaning that I was grossly underdressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and the thinnest hoodie I've ever owned (you get what you deserve when you buy clothes at Costco...) So I admit it, I was a wee bit grouchy as we set out from the Bratislava train station to begin our exploration.   

We arrived at said train station just in time for lunch. Good thing - because Hubby did some research and discovered that the Slavic Food Festival was kicking off that very day. Double bonus - it was on the grounds of the Bratislava castle. Two birds, one stone, and all that jazz. So up and up and up and up and up we climbed to get to the castle. Jesus! No one told me I would get altitude sick by visiting Bratislava! That was one steep hill, which had the advantage, I guess, of lessening my feelings of guilt resulting from missing my morning run. 

It also earned me a beer and a slab of pork roast, followed by cake and chocolate covered fruit. Delicious! So delicious that we forgot to take a pre-eating pic with the hats. Oops:

Please don't judge me for the grease stains left on the plate...

After wolfing down our lunch and freezing our asses off drinking cold beer at high altitudes, we wandered over to the castle to take a look. After seeing the palaces of Vienna, I must admit that I was not blown away. But then I realized that this was built in the 1300s, serving primarily as a military fortress and not as a symbol of imperial dominance. Consider me now suitably impressed. 

Although there is a museum in the castle, we weren't really feeling all that museum-y, even though it would have given us an opportunity to warm up. Instead, we began the stroll down into old town, through windy cobble stone streets. Which would have probably been a lot more picturesque were it not for the graffiti littering the walls. Art or vandalism? You be the judge. 

Once we arrived back down to an altitude with oxygen, the sun came out and it got warmer. Still, we ventured inside to take a look at St. Martin's cathedral. Far less opulent than St. Stephan's, but featuring some of the most impressive stained glass that I have seen. We spent half an hour wandering around the cathedral (have I mentioned how much I love cathedrals). Here are some pics:

The pipe organ:

The pulpit:

I'm not sure what this statue commemorates, but I found it rather striking:

The altar:

Beautiful stained glass:

A sign telling women to cover up their cleavage. This is a church, after all:

With my soul thoroughly revitalized and my body suitably warmed up after the refuge from the wind, we explored Old Town. It is so charming and quaint. Hubby says that the last time he was here, it was the Christmas season, and so the markets were selling holiday wares. I imagine that would be lovely to see, even though I am not the biggest Christmas fan. During our stroll, we stumbled upon St. Michael's gate, the public square, and a lovely coffee shop. 

Wandering through the streets:

Of course there is a pair of legs hanging out of a building. Doesn't every old town have this?

St. Michael's gate:

No Ottawa, but Toronto is only this far away:

Me in the public square:

Enjoying a coffee in a café just off the square:

After refueling with coffee, it was time to make our way back to the train station, but not before taking a peek at the opera house:

Yes, there is ways an opera house. 

All in all, it was a lovely, albeit brisk, way to spend a day. Just like the pamphlet says, I am now a Bratislover. 

And I've added  another country-knotch on my belt.