Yay, Happy Birthday to me.
Today we are making a luggage free day trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. Caught a train from Hauptbahnhof main station in Vienna for a very short one hour train trip stopping only a few stations to Bratislava. Both Vanessa and myself had been to Slovakia, although I had just driven around Bratislava.
It was a somewhat chilly morning on our arrival with the remnants of yesterday's snow still dotting the pavements causing quite a slippery surface. Don't know how the joggers managed to actually run on the dashed stuff.
About a half hour walk for us from the station to the square outside the Carlton Hotel (which is apparently the best hotel in Slovakia)to join our traditional walking tour in a new city. Didn't think we would make it because of me being so slow on the ice paths. Need not have worried as our guide Annamaria was still talking to the small group as we puffed up to her.
Gave us the usual speil about how the tour worked etc. and then a bit of information on the Carlton Hotel before we made our way to the Slovakia National Opera House just a rotation and hop step and jump across the park. At present they are performing "Beatles go Baroque" which sounds somewhat intriguing to say the least.
From there another short walk to the Old Square and an amusing little bronze sculpture of a man called Cumil (pronounced Chewmill) or The Peeper. He and several other statues were placed in the city in an effort to make it livlier for visitors. You apparently cannot visit Bratislava without taking a photo of Cumil. Rub his head and he guarantees you will always have enough money. Poor Cumil has for a couple of decades now had people trip over him, run over him with cars and once was even beheaded by a car. Now he has a warning sign next to him that a man is at work!!! A little further up on the corner of the square we came to another of these lively sculptures of a Monopoly like man with top hat. Not as cute.
Heading into the main square we could see the now empty market place where the Christmas Market was set up. Only the drinking/eating tables still there around the fountain. Some interesting features in the square pointed out by Annamaria. Very expensive real estate mainly occupied by Embassies and some businesses. One beautiful Art Nouveau building was hoarded up and looked a little sad. Apparently it was damaged by fire which started in a potato stall back in November during Christmas market. It is okay though, it is owned by an insurance company. Let's hope they get their claim for insurance damages paid out quickly so they can restore it.
We also saw a clock tower which had several unusual features to it. Firstly, it had a golden half globe under the clock which apparently used to show the phases of the moon but for some reason does not work now. Also lodged in the wall of the tower is a Napoleonic cannon ball. When Napoleon bombarded Bratislava during his March across Europe in the 1800s he based himself on the other side of the Danube River and peppered the town with cannon fire. Quite extensive damage was done to the town and after it all settled down the very generous mayor of the town told everyone who had suffered damage from the bombing to place a cannonball on their house and they would receive financial help.
Not to miss out, apparently every householder made their way down to the riverbank where the now gone Napoleon was set up, retrieved themselves a left over cannonball to somehow fix to their homes. Next morning, almost every house had a cannonball, although not all of them suffered damage. Not dissimilar to today when the government offers people a handout. They take it when they don't really need it just because they can.
Also on the clocktower was a white plaque which showed the depth of a huge flood 150 years ago when the market square was waist deep in waters from the Danube. If there are heavy rains in Germany, there is almost like a tidal wave comes down the river and poor Bratislava cops it. Apparently, it almost happened again in 2010 but they managed to erect a metal wall to deflect the oncoming tidal wave.
Next the tower there is a Catholic ChurchNext the tower there is a Catholic Church, In 1600s it was taken over by the Lutheran Church but is again a Catholic Church. There is also a Monastery nearby.
Moved on to the Main street where would could look up towards St. Michael’s Gate which was the northern gate to the city. This of course was dedicated to the archangel Michael. As you walked through the gate to what was outside the city walls, you crossed over a bridge spanning what was the moat of the city. There used to be a drawbridge there in medieval times but now replaced with a permanent bridge but the empty moat is still there.
Next stop was at the Revolution Square where there were some typical Soviet style statues which are always depicted with small heads but huge hands to show that the workers were more valuable to the State. It was in this Square in 1992 after 10 days of uprising that the Soviet government resigned and it was the end of Communism in what was then still Czechslovakia. Apparently, no one was killed during this “Velvet Revolution” with over thousand people crammed into this one small square with people taking out their keys and jingling them enmasse to declare they wanted to open the door to freedom. Annamaria was able to recount stories her parents had relayed to her about those days as she was only 3 years old at the time.
Another short walk over treacherous tram lines and ice patches on footpaths, we came to St. Elizabeth’s Church. It is said that there are over 50 shades of blue paint used on this Church but I was not about to count them all. Yes, it was also blue inside the church with blue Christmas lights shining as well. We also had a look at a small memorial rock and mosaic which had been placed in front of the church as a memorial to all the legally aborted babies in Slovakia Roman Catholic.
One last stop on our tour at another square outside the Bratislava University before our tour was ended. Once we had asked Annamaria a few questions and thanked her for a very informative and brilliant tour. We made our way down to the not so blue Danube River to take a distant peek at a Soviet era spaceship building on a bridge. It now has an obvservation deck and restaurant up there.
Made our way back to the Revolution Square area where Annamaria had recommended Flagship Restaurant for traditional Slovakian food at more reasonable prices than those being touted down near the touristy area.
What a meal we had. We ordered a Slovak banquet for 2 which included Bryndzové halušky or small potato dumplings in sheep cheese sauce with a side of bacon for us carnivores to sprinkle on it. The feast also included pierogi (or dumplings) with the same bryndza sheep cheese in them and sour cream. The third dish of the feast was Kapustove which consisted of cabbage. dumplings and onions once again with bacon on the side for sprinkling on top. Vanessa chose a millet dish which resembled couscous with sundried tomatoes through it. All dishes very heavy and lactose laden but utterly delicious. I think I should be able to replicate them if I do an armchair travel session at the nursing home. Don't think I will try to replicate the garlic soup presented in a cob loaf of bread. It was just pure garlic bits. We all had to have some because no one would be able to survive the garlic breath of the others if we hadn't.
To accompany our lunch, Eloise chose the local beer Zlaty Baraz while we all had a glass of Kofola or Soviet Coca Cola. It was actually very nice with a feint hint of sarsaparilla to it from the herbs apparently used. It certainly wasn’t as sweet as Coke and quite refreshing.
Of course we had to try some traditional desserts and our waiter recommended Bratislavsky Rozok which came either with poppy seeds or nuts. Couldn’t decide which so we had one of each. Judge for yourself what you think they look like! Wasn’t so keen on the poppy seeds but the nut one was quite nice. Like a sweet bread with filling. All in all the Slovak food got a thumbs up even from the vegetarian.
Feeling somewhat full, we had about 45 minutes before we wanted to head back to the train station for our train back to Vienna. Took another walk down through St. Michael’s Gate and had a look in several souvenir stores for something to remember Slovakia. Found myself a beautiful wooden winter scene which will make a great Chrissie decoration and will look good in my new bookcases which I took delivery of literally just before I left. Have seen some beautiful little Nativity scenes which I also got. As we were about to walk through the Old Square again Vanessa spotted some beautiful earrings in a store window. When we went inside we discovered it was a craft store and the lady was the owner and made a great percentage of the goods being sold in her store. Eloise found me another little Nativity in there and Vanessa made a few purchases as gifts, very pleased knowing that they were actually handmade and true Slovakian souvenirs.
Made our way back up to the street where trams ran up to the train station and hopped on for the 10 minute ride back to the main station. Well in time for our train and before we knew it were heading back to Vienna for our last night there.
As it was my birthday the girls had wanted to take me to see an English screening of Mary Poppins Returns but we got back a little too late for the early session and the later session was not until 8.30. Way too late for this old chook and we had to do a couple of loads of washing to tide us over for the rest of the trip hopefully. Made a quick stop at the Sock store at the station in Vienna and got myself a pair of merino tights. Have been wearing two pairs of normal tights and merino socks against the cold but my boots not overly comfortable with so much covering. Hopefully these will work a little better as we head into much colder weather through Hungary and Serbia.
Back near the apartment we are lucky to have a Hofer supermarket which is our Aldi. Made a quick stop off there to stock up on soya milk, munchies and muesli and fruit for next couple of days. Got a couple of catalogues for you John Boy cause we all know how much you love Aldi.
Because we had such a huge lunch, we got a couple of 60c Hofer pizzas for dinner and settled back in for the night of journal, washing and organising for our move on to Hungary tomorrow.
Exciting for Eloise as this is yet another new country for her.