We had no idea what to expect when we first planned to visit the city of Bratislava. Knowing that Slovakia was under communist rule for some time and had become an independent country in 1993 (separating from Czechoslavakia), we had read lots about the Communist-type architecture and the small traces of that era left behind. But instead, we were happy to find a cosmopolitan city with medieval architecture and modern 20th century buildings.
Upon arrival, we were exhausted from the previous day adventures in Vienna and were so happy to be in our quaint Airbnb, that all we wanted to do was sit on the balcony and enjoy our view and the sounds of the chirping birds as the sun set. After a lot of lazying around we naturally got hungry, but given how late it was, the only restaurants open were the local pizza deliveries. Being pizza fans (especially Marco), we could definitely kill an entire pizza.
Have you ever tried to speak on the phone while the recipient doesn’t speak your language? With no hand gestures to help you out, you result in creating new vocabulary words, making different accents (all while still speaking English), in hopes of them understanding. Luckily a Margherita pizza is similarly and easily pronounced in most languages, but trying to pronounce Slovak street addresses on the other hand, not so much. After hanging up and after 30 minutes of ‘wait, so did that work, are they bringing us a pizza?’ our panic quickly vanished when the door buzzer rang. Our own Margherita pizza had arrived. The only slight problem was that it was a pizza for 4 instead of 2. I guess we sounded hungry. So ordering a pizza in Bratislava without speaking a word of Slovak: check!
On our last and only full day in Bratislava, we woke up early in order to see what we could, before we hopped on a bus and made our way to Budapest. Our first stop was the corner bakery. The bakery was located inside a tiny room that could fit a maximum of five people, and the pastries were displayed in plastic cases with Slovak descriptions. The lady behind the counter was very friendly but spoke very little English- to none. But luckily by pointing our finger we managed to pick out a slew of different delicious Slovakian pastries.
After breakfast, we took the tram down to the city center. We found it very easy to move around using public transportation, and if you have some extra time on your hands, you can just jump on the tram and just enjoy a ride all over the city. Bratislava, is another city in Europe that is built around the fast flowing Danube River. We walked the sidewalks of the Danube, as people jogged and bicycled on the paths, and boats floated down the river. Beside the Danube was the old city of Bratislava. The old city is paved in cobblestones, filled with history, houses an array of little pubs, restaurants, and a copious amount of different cafes and unique boutiques. We enjoyed going around the different cafes and pubs, trying some local food and beer, our favorite being Bistro St. Germain (their home made lemonade served with different garnishes will definitely leave you wanting more and more). If you venture out past the old city, like we did, you can find old abandoned Communist hotels, radio towers in the shape of upside down pyramids, beautiful parks, UFO bridges, and the panelak buildings; prefabricated high-rise urban buildings that were build during the 1950s under Communist rule and housed up to millions of people. Today the panelak buildings are a home to many different social classes.
The final part of our day included taking a walk up to the Bratislava castle, situated in the old city and on top of a hill overlooking the Danube. The castle was inhabited between the Stone and Bronze ages. It was so serene just sitting on a park bench surrounded by trees, in the backyard of a historical castle overlooking the moving city below. After a full day in Bratislava, we headed back home to finish up that extra large pizza of ours.
Bratislava is a charming city, filled with lots of friendly faces and a lot of history, and is an interesting day trip if anyone is traveling between Vienna and Budapest.