I wake up to Spittin Chicklets again and MacKay piling potato chips into his face like a madman. Is he so into the podcast that he’s forgetting to breathe between handfuls? Or super worried about the Brat still? Either way it’s pretty early to be hoovering chips. I suggest we go up to the breakfast lounge with our leftover Chinese food so we’re not just tossing it when we take off.
The dining area in Wombats is super nice too. Lots of tables and comfy spots to mow.
I think you can get tickets for breakfast at the front desk and hit the continental on the cheap. But we liven up the morning by throwing the spicy eggplant in with the honey chicken again. So good.
We pack our things up and make ready to split town. Austria is an awesome place but it’s pricey and we’ve still got lots of trip left. We’ve also been here a few times already and are itching for something new and hopefully grittier. Less polished and pristine, a little more out of the way.
We drop off our key at the front desk and I slide into the bar to get a pic before we leave. Wombats City Hostel is getting top marks. They’re cleaning it up for another round. I wonder how that pub crawl went last night.
We walk back over to the Hauptbahnhof. Sucks a little more than on the way to Wombats since this direction is a long slow incline almost the whole way. “Ok, fuck this. That’s the last time we walk 30 minutes with our bags across town”, “Agreed. We’re both a little sick and Uber isn’t that expensive”, “It’s just a waste of a shower and energy.” Hmmm I think we’re both a little sick and cranky today.
We check on train times and there’s one at 945. Nice, won’t have to wait long. The train ride is only an hour and a half to Bratislava from Vienna. Unfortunately, like the train to Vienna, we get a repeat performance of a dude talking on speaker phone super loud and annoying the whole train. What’s with people?
We get off the train in Bratislava and the station is a 45 minute walk to Hostel Blues that I booked yesterday. Ok, definitely not doing that with our bags. We grab a cabbie outside the station and show him the address on my phone. “Do you speak English?”, “No. Deutsch?”, “No, no German”, “Rushki?”, “Nope. English only, sorry.” With some zooming in and out and triangulating off neighboring streets and landmarks he gets things figured out.
From the train station it looks like we’re maybe on the outskirts of the city. Sparse buildings, hotels and car dealerships mostly. The cabbie points at the radio and is giving a vigorous thumbs up. He’s playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album. “Yes! Perfect.” Positive Mood +500.
Soon we come to a bridge over the Danube with a flying saucer looking tower in the middle. From here the old town starts to come into view and it is instantly impressive. Up on a hill West of the road we’re on is a wonderful, all white, Baroque castle with an orange roof and spires. It looks down at the similarly colored roofs of a medieval town with a Gothic church spire rising high to balance the adjacent castle. Ok, this looks dope. Getting pumped. Goodbye cranky pants.
All of the sudden the cabbie does know a bit of English and he’s pointing to things as we pass. “Parliament. Castle. Bridge. Danube. Historic center very nice. 500 meters and 500 meters. That is all. Bratislava small. Very good”, “That’s great! We’re excited”, “Yes. You will enjoy. You can walk all places.”
We get dropped off outside of Hostel Blues and thank the cabbie as we exit. We get buzzed in and the girls voice through the speaker tells us to come up to the second floor. There’s a nice big open room with dark brown wood tables and a long front desk. Murals of famous blues artists are all over the walls. Interesting motif for a hostel.
There’s a cute girl at reception who gives us a big smile and tells us that we can’t check in until 1 pm. “But did you want to hear about the town?”, “Yes, for sure.” She pulls out a map and tells us about some free walking tours around Old Town and to the Castle. Everything is about 5 minutes away. She tells us there is another castle West of here called Devin Castle that is partly overgrown and writes down which bus to take.
“Maybe do the ruined castle tomorrow, yes? The Ugliest building in Europe is here”, “Haha what’s the ugliest building in Europe?”, “Old Soviet radio tower. Very ugly. But worth seeing. Also UFO is here and it is 8 Euros to go up. Good view of Danube and Old Town from there. Maybe not worth it in my opinion. Good view from castle too”, “Ok great. That’s a lot of stuff.”
She also goes on to recommend some traditional Slovak restaurants and what dishes to get. She gives us a little print out of these. “And here is a coffee place too. It may be too girly for you, but I like it. Called Mondieu”, “Look at his girly hair, he’s gonna like it”, “Au mon dieu! Monsieur!”
Well that was a ton of information. Not bad for a girl wearing a ‘New Hire’ button. “We’ll leave our bags and see how much we can see before check in”, “Great. Have fun, I will see you later.”
We get outside and reference our new map. “Well, where to?”, “Dunno. Everything seems pretty close. Old Town?”, “Sure.”
Not too far from Hostel Blues we come to Laurinská Street. The main gate of the town’s fortifications used to be here. A lattice anchored on ropes symbolizes the former Laurinc Gate which was destroyed by none other than Empress Maria Theresa (whom we met at the Imperial Crypts in Vienna) in the 18th century because the walls were limiting the cities growth. This marks the entrance to Bratislava’s Old Town pedestrian zone and the place looks incredible already.
Straight down the street we find the cafe that Check-in Girl was talking about, Mondieu. Nice spot, not too girly at all. We have a seat outside and kick it with a couple of cappuccinos. Man, Bratislava is super pretty.
It’s just getting on noon. Lots of time to explore the city and maybe get up to that castle. We enjoy the drinks and just watch people go by for a bit. Still a handful of tourists about but not nearly as crazy packed as Vienna was.
Alright, let’s keep trucking. Whoa, the Slovakian National Theatre is stunning.
There is a large open walkway under a canopy of colorful trees. Statues and fountains here and there. Lots of people just having a pleasant stroll. Seems like mainly local folks. This is Hviezdoslav Square, named after a Slovak poet and cultural leader of the 19th century, Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav (say that five times fast).
I can’t get over how nice this city is already. A welcome change of topography from the high rises of Munich and Vienna. The cabbie was right, this does feel like the perfect size.
We zig around the corner and find the gothic spire we saw from the cab on the way into town. This is St Martin’s Cathedral. Construction began in the 1300s. Apparently this cathedral houses the remains of Saint John the Merciful who died in the early 7th Century (suck on that Kaisergruft).
A zag after this puts us right in the middle of Old Town. A few more picturesque pedestrian streets of restaurant patios, bars and shops. Yep, this place is feeling amazing. Glad we’ve got a couple of days here, Bratislava is a major hit so far and it’s only been about an hour.
Straight down the walk is Michael’s Gate, the only city gate that has been fully preserved. It was built around 1300. This is the second of four gates in the city. The Laurinc gate, named after St Lawrence, is the one we came through down from Hostel Blues. There is also a Fisherman’s Gate down by the Danube, and a Black Gate on the West side.
And there he is, St Michael with his Flame Tongue sword +5. We’ve been seeing a lot of this guy on this trip.
Through the gate and out the other side sets us on a path back towards the hostel. So that’s Old Town. Perfect. There’s another old Baroque style church across the street. This is the Old Cathedral of Saint John of Matha and Saint Felix of Valois.
“Up to the castle?”, “Sure. Or we could go back and check in”, “Might as well keep the case going, it’s right over there”, “Yep. Let’s do it.”
The Capuchin Church and Monastery sits on the outskirts of Old Town leading up to the main castle.
We continue up the hill and cross a bridge over the road we came in on, looking back at St Martin’s and that UFO atop the bridge over the Danube.
The road on the way up to the castle has some good looking bars on it and a bunch of random shops. “Whoa check out this heavy metal shop. They aren’t fucking around!”, it’s easily the most metal shop I’ve ever seen, “Damn. That’s intense. Wait. Is this.. an infinity room.. gallery? Some Yayoi-type shit?” There’s a glass door to something called Gallery Multium. “I dunno. Let’s investigate.”
We open the door and instantly get sucked into a golden wicker void