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Travel: Bratislava





A surprising trip.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the capital of Slovakia, a central-eastern nation and member of the EU.

I only spent 4 days staying in the city and 1 of those days was spent visiting the neighbouring Vienna capital of Austria.  But the few days in which I spent in the city were amongst of my most eye-opening and enjoyable of my European visits.

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Bratislava and the territory now called Slovakia has a long and colourful history over its many centuries of existence.  it was once part of the larger nation of Czechoslovakia between 1918 to 1939 and 1945 to 1992 and after gaining permanent independence back in 1993, Slovakia has been a member of some of the largest multi-national groups Europe has ever seen.

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All of this is evident from the Architecture that litters the city when walking around the capital, from its inclusion into the USSR from 1948 to 1999 as part Czechoslovakia, to its time as the silent member of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1867 to 1918.  Differences in its architecture styles from its monuments to its historical buildings tell the tale of the city and nation as it progressed through history from its earliest settlement to modern times.

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Visiting the Bratislava Castle located at the highest point in the old city allows for a vantage point that truly gives you a visual idea of its history.  From the old historical city in the innermost part of the city, surrounded by ex-soviet concrete buildings that were built during its time under USSR, to the modern multiplex tower blocks that pin against the horizon over the river.

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When it comes to culture, the Slovakian clearly display a more traditional one that you would expect from an eastern European nation, they are warm, polite and inviting people that take great pride in their work and lives.  I remember no incidents in which I felt unwelcomed, in fact quite the opposite, on several occasions I felt fan mobbed for being from another country, something I most differently was not expecting.

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One of my most favourite memories of Slovakia has to be the food, it is good… like REALLY good.  After taking a 2 hour walking tour with a local Slovakian girl who did an excellent and impartial job of running down Slovakia’s history even including some of its less than favourable past deeds, we were recommended a local restaurant to try and sample some of the local cuisine.

Clearly favouring the glowing endorsement we decided to give it a try, unfortunately for me and my waist line the place turned out to be one of the most unexpected and surprisingly hidden (literately, you had to go practically underground and through a building to find it) gems we would find on the trip.  The food it served was just fabulous, good portions and strong distinct flavours, my first dish was a Red Cabbage and Pork stew.  It was so spicy and full of flavour that I had to ask for several glasses of water just to be able to finish, but I was glad I did.  Over the next 3 days I would return to have the same dish a number of times, because why not!

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During the day there is many museums, monuments and parks that can be visited.  Much of our time was spent wondering the many city streets viewing random, shops and tourist hot spots.  We even spent half a day in one of the city’s major shopping centres that had only recently been built.  Convenient and regular city trams and buses make travelling around the city quick and easy and if memory serves correctly is for the most part free, paid for by the city council rather than the citizen or visitors with the except of the trains of course.  With a wide selection of shops, businesses and boutiques you will be forgiven for getting lost down any number of the city streets while you drift in and out of any number of store fronts.

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While I didn’t go to Bratislava for the nightlife, there is clearly an active late night culture that flows throughout the old city, numerous bars, restaurants, coffee shops as well as ice cream parlours stay open late into the night serving customers and clientele wondering about the busy streets.

One of the reasons for our stay in Bratislava was ironically due to its regular and fast train links to Vienna, staying in Bratislava and travelling westwards to Vienna offered a much cheaper option than staying in Vienna and travelling eastwards to Bratislava to see both cities.  This we found offered us the best value for money and allow us to experience 2 European capitals in 1 singular trip.

Overall I really enjoyed my trip and wouldn’t mind returning during the summer months where I would expect the city to be even more lively, if you get the chance, take a trip.

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