We walked from the central rail station to the old town in Bratislava late in the day on Monday the 5th and saw many beautiful buildings, some crumbling a bit as is the case with parts of eastern Europe. We passed the imposing presidential palace in an odd area of mixed development that, although it seemed fairly well maintained, it also looked abandoned. This morning, we saw palace guards at the entry, so it must be a 9-5 establishment.
Once inside the area of the old town, besides a fair number of Chinese tourists (who seem to be dominating the tourist landscape all over Europe), we took note of some of the trendiest and most distinctive gift shops, restaurants and bars we have seen in Europe. And, obviously very pricey in design. But during an evening walk, we saw many expansive restaurants nearly empty. The front desk clerk at our apartment said that October is off season, and this time of year, it is a week-end place.
Except for a little Tuborg in Copenhagen, we tried our first beers at at the House of Beer, a great bar, with brick and stone arches, and what looked like a father and son working the front. The beers, served as half liters, were accompanied with salads of fresh tomatoes, cukes, peppers and a nice dressing. All of that for three persons, including a platter of french fries, was less than 16 euro.
Everything about Bratislava seemed inexpensive. We even splurged for a taxi ride back to the airport, maybe a couple miles, and slowed by traffic. The cost for three of us and our luggage was 5 and a half euros.
Bratislava has its castle fortress on a hill overlooking the Danube and the old city. We didn’t get inside the castle because it opened an hour later than we had been told, but we walked the grounds. Many travelers have told us that inside there isn’t much to see since the Castle is actually 1953 vintage after being completely rebuilt following a fire. We were told that it was a great photo spot for the Danube and old city, but a lingering fog Tuesday morning before our departure spoiled that . But we enjoyed the quiet, uncrowded walk up to the castle and the grounds, some of which are closed for some major construction work.
After the usual walk around the old town, admiring the architecture, we found a walking esplanade that had large interesting photos displayed as part of a competition. On the way up, we went to St. Martins Cathedral, an imposing Gothic structure that was the coronation church for many Hungarian royals. St. John the Merciful is buried there.
The old city has been maintained in generally great shape, and there are some grand buildings, with all kinds of architectural details and statues that house cultural events, including the Opera.
We walked along the Danube and viewed several river cruise boats tied up. The adjacent park had free open wifi, which, for some reason, was compliments of the Taiwan government.
We saw a T shirt there that said “Been there, done nothing”. That was not quite the case in Bratislava, but doubt we would return and definitely don’t see this city as a priority for a European traveler. It allowed us to collect a country and provided a nice break on the long rail trip from Prague to Budapest. If you are in the area, it’s worth a day, but don’t go out of your way to visit.
We left just before noon on Tuesday for Budapest with the requisite yellow Billa (Czech and Slovakian grocer) shopping bag, with some train food.