Bratislava… a place to chill

Bratislava… a place to chill

2019

26 September, Thursday

The first meal is often the simplest and most functional. Burgers and chips (i.e. fries … hranolky) at “Café Studio” on Laurinská. The first pub was Čierny Pes (the Black Dog), a proper Slovak bar where the young waiter was thrilled with the big tip. The bill for half a dozen drinks was less than thirteen euros so letting him keep the rest of a twenty was hardly the shirt off my back.

It was down the narrow cobbles of Na Vŕšku then to the Irish Uisce Beatha, which has a reassuring “No Stags” sign on the door. The barmaid (L.) was a pretty and polite Slovak brunette with an Irish ex. Pretty and polite and honest.

27 September, Friday

It’s hard to spend money here. After breakfast at “Re-Fresh” at the far end of the street below Michael’s Gate, the bright morning meant a sweaty climb to the Castle. At least the shop had a couch. I bought some postcards to justify the seat. Upon descending we stopped at a place (J. J. Darvoben) beside the cathedral. The woman smilingly corrected my chléb (Czech) to chlieb when P. wanted some regular bread to go with the toast on the platter my two companions shared.

It was in the afternoon when I got most of my photos and spotted the only English stag in town. Bratislava lacks the snottiness of most capitals, probably because it’s a relatively new one. Meandering, photo-taking, was an essay in relaxation, exemplified by the boy and girl in a courtyard playing chess with pieces almost as big as traffic cones.

The late afternoon meant a siesta. Later we ate in the book-lined cellar bar of Pod kamenným stromom (‘Under the Stone Tree’) on Sedlárska, just off Hlavné námestie. We drank again in the same two pubs as the night before. A Chekhovian young English lady with a dog was sweet to me before she left Uisce Beatha. She had already told J. that having the dog was useful for getting chatted up.

 

 

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Trenčín, Slovakia

Trenčín, Slovakia

28 September 2019

I got out of the Bratislava hotel by ten and walked up to the Hlavná stanica. The day got wet for a while. It was only a tenner for the hour on the train northeast to Trenčín. The seat numbering on the train was tricky but at least all the Slovaks seemed confused too.

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I got there around one so I had something to eat at a place called Speranza. It was the only place in the quiet old town that had half a crowd outside. A cheesy beef and potato dish on a menu entirely in Slovak ensued but at least I know words like that.

Then I went to the plush Hotel Elizabeth and checked into luxury for a night (€82 is cheap for four stars). The chap mentioned raňajky (breakfast) and bez (without) so, by way of confirmation, I just said, Bez. On the way out again, to do the Castle, I saw the Roman inscription on the rock of the hill outside the windows. There’s a back landing used as a viewing and info gallery. Carved by men of the II Auxiliary legion in 179 AD, the message was only rediscovered by a local clergyman in 1852.

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The Castle was a steeper hike than the one in Bratislava but that was also after two nights on the beer. When paying in, I found the pretty woman of the two seemed to take a shine to me, complimenting my effort in Slovak and then emerging to help scan the ticket at the barriers outside. I was already ready to melt but then saw the climb went on. And on. Still, after a cooling-off period, I did the top tower and all. Mátušova veža. The top of the castle. The narrow stairways and doorways up there proved no obstacle to the young and ignorant. Twice, when I stepped back to let someone in or out, the twenty and thirty somethings would pass my shoulder and drive on regardless.

A lone black goat was grazing on a grassy enclosure between ramparts. A Japanese couple got snapped (by me) while filming it. I’d got it too, just below where I was standing, while doing a three-sixty of the scene, but moved the camera away to give it some privacy during a call of nature.

On the way back down, I again passed the restaurant (Pod Hradom – ‘Under the Castle’) with the wedding party. I’d paused within earshot, out on the steep, damp lane, while climbing those steps and cobbles, just to listen to a Slovak folk song (kind of Jewish, I thought), which was accompanied by an accordion. There’s a big synagogue in the old town.

Back at the hotel I slept for an hour to catch up on that and then I went to the Lanius Pivovar for an evening meal: a fine steak with grilled veg for less than twenty and a couple of beers for an added fiver. I called it a night at half past nine. Wrote some notes and went easy on the mini-bar. A bath soak would begin a long day before nine in the morning, before three trains, then a flight, then a 200 km drive home.

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

Dr. John Flynn

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19th June, Sunday

Bratislava near nine, Sunday night. I’m in a café, the Papillon, off Hlavné námestie, the main square in the old town, with a pot of tea. The kitchen’s closed but there’s a terrific downpour outside and I’ll have to wait until it stops, to find food, which will most likely be of the fast variety. The Earl Grey (“Early Grey” on the menu) is nice, actually, and I wasn’t that hungry to begin with but must eat something before bed. Up early, I’ll go around the Staré mesto (old town) again and maybe get into some churches. At the Hotel Tatra I managed to sleep a couple of hours in a big room. It’s a four-star and makes a change from the box room at the Strasser in Graz.

The Schlossberg hill is a genuine attraction in Graz and I’m glad I checked the city…

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Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

Soaked in Slovakia – 24h in Bratislava

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2016

19th June, Sunday

Bratislava near nine, Sunday night. I’m in a café, the Papillon, off Hlavné námestie, the main square in the old town, with a pot of tea. The kitchen’s closed but there’s a terrific downpour outside and I’ll have to wait until it stops, to find food, which will most likely be of the fast variety. The Earl Grey (“Early Grey” on the menu) is nice, actually, and I wasn’t that hungry to begin with but must eat something before bed. Up early, I’ll go around the Staré mesto (old town) again and maybe get into some churches. At the Hotel Tatra I managed to sleep a couple of hours in a big room. It’s a four-star and makes a change from the box room at the Strasser in Graz.

The Schlossberg hill is a genuine attraction in Graz and I’m glad I checked the city out but there is something in the tone of the passage in the Rough Guide, just before the reference to the UNESCO status of the centre, which itself is almost dutiful, that suggests the writer wasn’t impressed either. There are no quays there, despite any such street names, as both banks of the river are thick with trees, in an unkempt way. There are no lamp posts either. The street lights hang from criss-crossing wires that turn up in every photograph.

Smooth Criminal has come on the Michael Jackson CD here. I can move on. That song always puts a pep in the step.

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11pm bed. I headed back around ten, through the rain which had eased a bit at best. It’s unlikely to be a whole lot drier in the morning. I got some novädzi gúlaš at a place near the Papillon where a young-ish American with long hair slicked back behind his ears was wearing sunglasses. On a rainy night. At an unlit table. He ignored both waiters who thanked him as he departed.

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I passed an English stag party near Michael’s Gate. A couple of them were shirtless on a rainy night, outside a pub. Some of the trams made an eerie, whistling sound in the wet. The wheels were whining.

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20th June, Monday

On the plane, a baby has just stopped crying. Now it’s off again. I got f*cking soaked this morning, trying to get some more Staré mesto photos. Vytáte do Bratislave. Welcome to Bratislava. It started so well, when I was peering through tall railings at the presidents of Switzerland and Slovakia inspecting a guard of honour at the palace.

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On the far side of this row I can also hear a young American couple. As soon as I got aboard I could hear the fella tell the wan that French contained a lot of German. Non. The breakfast room at the Tatra was a large hall that could take any large wedding reception. In a break in the rain then I headed off in the short blue plastic mac but it was no use in the next deluge. I had no time to take shelter.

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I had to get back to the hotel to check out at eleven. I decided not to change any clothes and I got a taxi to the airport. My Polish pal from the flight out was standing outside the terminal, with his Slovak relation (M.). He called me over. As I stood talking to them I knew I’d have to change something. The t-shirt had to go but I decided against putting on the pair of shorts because who knows what Dublin will be like? By the time we got on the plane my pants had dried, anyway. The row in front is all fat gypsies – the American girl even tapped a gypsy kid who appeared from somewhere behind, with a camera, to tell him they didn’t want their pictures taken, even by accident (girl, get over yourself) – but the row in front of the gypsies is a young family of Dubs who quizzed an unenthusiastic steward about chicken nuggets (“No”) and food allergies (“Just cheese then”).

Passing through security earlier I found a young Slovak beard wasn’t happy with my little toiletries bag. The elastic band wasn’t good enough for him. He said he wanted a re-sealable bag, which my one was, originally, but I just told him to dump it if it meant hassle (for me). Then he told me to take off my shoes. I was only carrying wet socks. Then he asked about my pockets. No one had ever told me to put my little credit card holder in the tray but this f*cker did. When we got through, my Polish pal told me they were bad in Slovakia for hassle like that and added he always got quizzed, going in and out.