Cheryl Smith's sabbatical 2011 travel blog

Going through the Gabcikovo lock

First siting of Bratislava

The waiting tour buses in front of a building whose name i...

The still empty, but recently restored palace

Overlooking Bratislava

City clock

A Hurdy Gurdy player

Napoleon was everywhere in Europe it seems!

The 'new' old town hall

For those who know how, have a go riding

Street art

Street art from another view & later a mime artist set up...

Helen taking the hat from the statue

OK, I got over my bad attitude and Monday was a sunny new day on the Danube River. We enjoyed the journey in the morning and the scenery did not disappoint nor did the experience of going through our first lock at Gabcikovo. Watch the video. The boat (barge? ship? not sure what to call the vessel) docked at 1pm in Slovakia and we jumped on our tour buses with our receivers strung around our necks ready for the tour. First we had a drive around the city of Bratislava including a view from the highest hill overlooking the river. We could see Hungary to the south and Austria to the north as both borders are walking distance. Next came a walking tour of the city centre.

Our group had a lovely tour guide who wasn’t quite so bad with the data dumping – she had some stories and a sense of humour. Watch the video. Like Hungary, we could see the damage done during the communist era and how hard the citizens have worked to restore many to their former glory. Where the windmills stand now there once were several chain-linked fence marking the Iron Curtain border between the east and west. Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire Bratislava was a suburb of Vienna and the two were connected by streetcar, that’s how close they are. Must have been hard to see the iron curtain go up blocking entry to Austria.

The separation in the 90’s from the Czech republic was called the Velvet Revolution as both countries that once formed Czechoslovakia agreed to shake hands and go their separate ways peacefully. The Slovak Republic has taken some bold political actions such as introducing a flat tax of 19% -- corporate tax, personal tax, value-added-tax are all the same rate. The country is also a big producer of cars (who knew?), has a 93% high school graduation, free university education, is a member of the EU, uses the Euro currency and has a fairly robust economy. All of that is evident walking the city streets and driving through the suburbs where the million-euro houses have been built. Good for them I say. I’d go back for a longer visit one day, I left with a good impression of Slovakia. (see, I did learn something from my tour guide.)

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