Bratislava, Slovakia – Downtime in the downtown

Our miniature adventure in Central Europe reached its climax in Bratislava, Slovakia. We used our final day as an opportunity to stroll the city’s old town and relax with several glasses of sickly hot chocolate.

We welcomed into Bratislava by rain, which made for a less than exciting trek to find our hostel (particularly as many of the roads have similar names and I am not very adept at reading signs when water is scattered on my glasses).

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Eventually we did find our hostel and were very happy to find it warm and welcoming. The receptionist gave us time to dry off before introducing us to the hostel customs. The hostel had its own Slovakian themed bar offering us a free shot of Borovicka upon arrival (a reminder if our great hitch to Vienna).

We were sharing a room with a lone traveller from San Fransisco. We invited him to join us for a drink in the bar below, to which he obliged. However, once we had ordered our beers and found a seat he decided to sit on a table away from us without a word of explanation. We concluded that he was odd.

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After a Slovakian beer we were suitably dry enough to explore the city. Armed with our obligatory map we first climbed steps towards the castle overlooking the Danube river and the city’s gracious old town. From there we descended towards the cobbled streets which formed the origin of the city.

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Bratislava’s old town is not significantly big, unlike Vienna, and could be explored on foot in a very short space of time. There were several street reminiscent of this found in Belgrade and a cafe culture to match. Kate and I decided that we should embrace this culture by stopping off in a coffee shop. We both selected a speciality hot chocolate from the menu. The kind of hot chocolate that is served alongside a glass of water due to its richness.

The day was quickly turning into night. As it did so we put away the map and wandered aimlessly around Belgrade, giving us an opportunity to reflect on our week.

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As it became dark we navigated our way back towards the hostel as we were running out of Euros and were fully aware of the discounted food available at its bar. There we sat for the remainder of the evening drinking Slovak beer and eating traditional food (naturally consisting of pierogi). We retired to our bunk beds to find our American friend preparing for bed too.

Since our flight left around midday we made sure we were up and about by 7 to do some additional day light exploring. There was one particular place that Kate wanted to see more of in the old town: a traditional cafe run by a very friendly old lady.

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We arrived at the cafe before 8 and hadn’t accounted for the opening times. As it was shut we had another stroll around the old town before deciding to take our time in a cafe overlooking the central square. We were greeted with a groan there and were tutted by a waitress when we got up to order after a few minutes of waiting (we were the only customers…not surprisingly). We didn’t stay long, but as we were sat we realised these were the first unfriendly people we had met in the whole week. Central Europe is a friendly place.

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Once it had opened we visited the old lady’s cafe to find her absent. Instead a very welcoming young lady, perhaps her grand daughter, served us pancakes and provided us with some souvenirs to take on. It was a nice, if a little sickly, way to end our time in Slovakia.

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Our route to the airport had been planned, but we soon realised that we were €1 short of the €1.80 we needed to get there. We searched our bags for any change but weren’t able to find any. We took the liberty to tell our story to the receptionist who gave us €1 from the till. We felt a little like peasants, but we clearly gained her sympathy.

It was a 25 minute journey via 2 buses before we arrived at Bratislava airport where our trip would end in a Ryanair flight.

In many respects our hitch hiking adventure from Warsaw had gone beyond my own expectations. I loved how Kate had embraced being beside the road with no inclination of fear or anxiety. She has certainly been a great travel partner and I hope she has enjoyed it as much as she seems like she has. I loved how every hitch provided us with something to laugh about afterwards, and I also loved how everything turned out perfectly according to time and, to a certain degree, budget.

Everything about this week has been great and in stand by my view that hitch hiking is the best way to travel.

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