Dec 28, 2013

Trip to Bratislava

Yes, this post was due a couple of days ago, but if you go to Bratislava, you will understand why I had taken me this long to write. I actually started to write the entry in my Blackberry, but later on I realized I have no idea how to upload things from my Blackberry to my computer. Indeed, smarphones are too smart for dumb people like me. And they are not helpful. Predictive features? Yeah, not for the smartphones. You seem to need a PhD on Artificial Intelligence so that you are worthy of interacting with them. (Okay, I know my BB wants me to sign up and do all this "protocol" so things can get synched up, but I would love if it would have done the simple stuff without all that electronical or digital red tape.) I'm currently at my favotite place in the world, about to run out of battery in my laptop, while nursing my second Black Magic. Boy, this cocktail should be available everywhere in the planet!

But back to Bratislava. Oh, and prior warner, this post won't be as complete and fabulous as the ones my friend Trish usually does. She's an expert in traveling, and I am not, so bare with me.

Anyway, in order to celebrate our aniversary - kinda, because everything was booked for New Year - my boyfriend and I decided to go spend three days (the usual extent of our holidays, as I tend to get bored too fast) in Bratislava. We did had other options in mind, but when it came to deciding on the destination, Bratislava was not only the most affortable, but also  the best place, considering that it wouldn't mean an extenuating trip, such as Munchen would have... which was the place I really, really wanted to go to (because Meise is too far, and I would have spend all my time with a friend of mine and not my boyfriend, and that wasn't the point of it). Neither of us knew much about Bratislava, so I did some research to know what was there to be seen, and quickly found something that caught my attention: the Grassalkovich Castle. By itselt if may say nothing to you, but for me - having visited the Royal Castle of Gödöllő more times than I care to count, I knew it was a castle that had been built by the noble family that had built the castle that later became one of the favorite places of Empress Sissi. So yes, I had to go there and see it.

Our trips usually don't involve much planning, as we go, get to the hotel, and either start with a nice, refreshing bubble bath or raiding the minibar (that would be me, of course). However I knew I wanted to go and see the Castle. And next time we did. Yeah... don't make that same mistake. The Castle seems to be the private residence of the President of Slovakia, so it's not open for the public, though they nicely fill the streets with informative signs telling you how really beautiful it is inside. Too bad you can't go in and see it.

Well, there are really nice churches, but they are all very, very small. Much like the churches in Sofia. Very ornated but only one small room, that would hardly make 20 square meters, to my rough calculations. You enter, pivot, exit, and you have seen the whole thing.

There is the Hrad Castle, a nice place where the ticket must be paid in cash, and the lady tending the cashier is really pissed at all the tourists. The walk to the castle is quite easy to be made, you can walk it in 20 minutes comfortably, going pretty much around the hill. Through the walk you notice that there's hardly anyone on the streets. Where are the Slovakians in the middle of the day? Not many cars and nrealy no people. Stores are empty as well, and many are strangely luxurious, like too luxurious to belong there, do you know what I mean? Like finding a Carolina Herrera store in a University District: it doesn't mean that there won't be people there with enough money to buy stuff in there, but rather it's not the place for such a store. To be more specific, you really don't expect to see a high fashion shoestore, with shoes that normal people would hardly use or even think of spending on right next to a Tesco or a Spar (or a Walmart, in American terms). Now you get what I mean? It was down right off.

But let's go back to the Hrad Castle. This castle is quite nicely mounted on top of a hill that looks over the Danube and Bratislava, getting quite a magical air through the day, either hued by the hazy lights of dusk and dawn, or sparkling in the crips light of broad daylight. If you are a silly Western child like me and you thought you could pay the entrance with a card, then don't sweat it - there's an ATM 50 meters down the road from the main entrance. But what do you get for your 6€? Well, three floors of... um. Well, there's one floor with big photo signs telling the history of the castle and also a little bit of Slovakia. There's like half a floor dedicated to historical documents where you can see all sorts of old, preserved documents, including old books and certificates (like wanderer certificates) complete with their many hanging seals. Then there's a floor with portraits of a whole bunch of people. Nothing but portraits, and then there's another floor dedicated to an exposition called "How time is measured" and includes calendars and all sorts of devices and old clocks. For many people, this part of the exposition could be terribly boring, but for a filofax enthusiast it's kind of exciting to check these old calendars, and wonder abotu what life could have been in those days when calendars didn't really had any space for you to write down any appointments. No to-do lists, no sections, no alarms set, no deadlines written in, no days divided in hours, no decisions about whether you need a "page per day" or a "week on two pages" to be able to keep all things going on in your life organized.

Then there was an exposition I didn't understand very well. It showed a collection of things, but non of them belonged to the castle or even to Slovakia, or there was any particular explanation at what they did there.

The souvenir store had nothing that would relate particularly to the Castle, save for some magnets, which I sadly lost somewhere. There aren't many souvenir stores, but even in then you hardly see much "typically Slovakian" stuff. Yes, you can get the t-shirt and the postcards, but if you wanted to get some embroidery, dolls dressed in typical costumes, or anything you could call "traditionally Slovakian" you would be looking for a long, looooooong time.

However, one GREAT thing that needs to be acknowledged is the food. Yes, it could be pretty much German, or quite Austrian or even very Hungarian, but their cuisine is FA-BU-LOUS! It's one million calories packed into a hearty meal, it's two years of severe dieting, but it worths it!

Bacon, sour cream, sheep cheese, handmade noodles, it's too delicious for words. And you'll need to bring a friend to help you eat the portions they serve you! So be warned, NEVER enter a Slovakian restaurant alone! This is a battle of Man vs Food where Food will always win, unless Man comes with reinforcements. And not only it never looks little  - it's almost as if a nuclear cuisine sized portion would be considered a national offense - but it doesn't matter how big the dish looks like, when you eat it you realized it's far bigger! For instance, we tried a dish of "samples". Samples won, because the two of us couldn't battle with it! But it was delicious :-D

So, what to do, what to go see in Bratislava? Well, try and find out how the tramways and trolley buses work, and tell us about it, because we couldn't figure them out. Also, go, look around, walk a lot and prepare all day for food.

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