Monday, April 6th
I've been wanting to cross of Slovakia and Czech Republic from my bucket list for some time. As we're nearing the end of our time in Europe, I finally get to cross it off. I've also been wanting to travel with my friends Carrie and Emily. Two birds; one stone.
We set out Monday morning on a 6 hour road trip. Our goal was to make it to Bratislava before a 3pm free walking tour. With 3 stops for gas and vignettes, we still made it on time! We even went through about 4 snow storms. At times, I could only see the car in front of me because the snow was coming down so hard...in APRIL! I have to say, I was also pretty impressed by my driving ability in snow and through the city.
Our hotel was very close to the city center, and one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in - LOFT Hotel Bratislava.
The Grassolkovich Palace was just around the corner from our hotel on our way to the city center.
St. Michael's Gate
This is the last surviving tower of the city wall.
Kilometer Zero - Marking the point from which distances are measured in Slovakia.
I <3 Bratislava.
Michalska Street with Carrie
Hviezdoslav Square (don't ask me to pronounce this. It doesn't sound anything like it looks.)
We found our free tour guide in front of the National Theatre. She was so sweet, but I couldn't always understand her while she was trying to shout over the protesters in the background. She really could have used a megaphone.
I did hear that Slovakians are very used to being confused with Slovenia. Our tour guide asked how many people have mistaken the two, and nearly everyone raised their hand. She said not to feel bad because even George W Bush confused the two. Oops!
This is Cumil, or "Peeper." He's been run over by two different trucks. Word has it, if you rub his head it will bring you good luck. If you touch his nose, it will bring you fertility.
I'm not sure what plugging his nose will do. :)
There were about 100 people gathered around this statue when we first arrived. There were 3 large tour groups walking past it. We waited 5 minutes and it completely cleared out.
Main Square - (Glavne Namestie) - Go ahead, try and pronounce that one:)
Napoleon did more damage to Bratislava than either WWI or WWII. He marched in with his canons and blasted the city center. Can you spot the canon ball?
There was an Easter market set up outside the main square. We kept getting wafts of incense. I finally found where the smell was coming from.
As we stood here, our tour guide described some of the Easter traditions in Slovakia. The morning after Easter, men go in search of women in their family or good girl friends. They either dump water on the woman or they whip them with a branch. Although it doesn't sound like it, it's actually meant in fun. In return, the woman gives the man a ribbon. The men all compare how many ribbons they've received at the end of the day. In some rural parts of the country, the men don't dump a bucket of water on the women, they throw them in the river! I couldn't imagine! It was still SO cold this time of year!
Our tour guide also mentioned that each Christmas, Slovakian families throw nuts in the 4 corners of their kitchen to bring good luck for the coming year. She said, luckily her family was still in good health, since her dog would eat all of the nuts each year.
Another Christmas tradition was to buy a live carp 5 days before Christmas. They would place the carp in their bathtub, until Christmas day. (Which also meant that no one in the family could shower for the 5 days leading up to Christmas.) Our tour guide named her carp "Lucas" every year. She became very attached to Lucas every Christmas. On the 5th day, the family would tell her that Lucas had to go spend time with his family on Christmas. She later realized the Lucas was the Christmas meal. Haha!
Bratislava has been proud to have one of the narrowest buildings in Europe. Amsterdam has THE narrowest, but Bratislava has always said that they had the narrowest Kebab place...until Amsterdam turned their narrowest building into a kebab place as well. Doh! They just can't win. :)
This marks the Royal Way. Unfortunately, many of these gold crowns have been stolen by tourists.
An hour into the tour, we decided to venture off on our own. The tour was supposed to be 2.5 hours, and we only had that afternoon to explore. We decided to visit the castle, while we still had sunlight.
Someone here doesn't like BO. Tell us how you really feel, Slovakia.
We found it!
...View from the castle. I never imagined seeing modern wind mills on the horizon in Slovakia, but we could understand why they would have them! It was SO windy there!
19 Hungarian Kings were crowned at this church - St. Martin's Cathedral.
UFO Bridge. Yep, that's what it's called! We have the communist era to thank for this lovely eye sore. They have a great restaurant on top. Unfortunately, it was closed because of the long Easter weekend, but we still had to get a pic. :)
I want to think that this was painted because of Easter week.
We headed back to the main square to take some pics of the other statues. This one is depicting one of Napoleon's soldiers. "Oh, heyyyyy there soldier." I got a pic riding his back, but my eyes were closed. You'll just have to imagine it:)
This statue, Schone Naci, was made in memory of a local homeless man. No one realized he was homeless until after he passed because he was always dressed up, and handed beautiful women flowers.
There was also a "paparazzi" statue near the main square, but we could NOT find it! I searched for about 15 minutes and finally gave up. They must have moved it.
We were pretty frozen by that point, so we ducked into the Kaffee Mayer cafe on the square. I tried their macchiato which was a sweet cappuccino. It was so good, and warm.
We had made reservations at Modra Hviezda(ranked #8 on trip advisor) as we left the castle earlier. (Short backstory: Carrie asked to make the reservation at the restaurant. They asked for her name and a time. There was a short pause after she told them her name, then they said they needed all of our names. I laughed. Clearly, they were flirting/being silly. Emily proceeded to give them her name. Hahaha! (She didn't get it) I rolled my eyes, and told them "Barbara." I don't know why, but it was the first name that came to me. And it's probably more believable than my actual name. Haha!)
The reservation was for 7:30pm, but we were hungry and wanted to go to bed early; so we headed over around 7. They greeted us at the door. "Hello, Carrie, Emily...Barabara." Haha! I had a delicious duck meal including: duck pate, roasted duck, and some delicious dessert that did not include duck. Haha!
Last fall, Nick wanted to see Vienna again instead of visiting Bratislava. (They're only 45 min apart)
I REALLy wanted to cross off a new country, but he didn't think it would be worth it. He was definitely right. I was glad to cross off another country, but Bratislava could have easily been seen in a couple hours. I was glad I got to explore it with two new travel partners!