I close my eyes and see many shades of grey, cement, broken sidewalks and stone everywhere; yet I feel a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. These are the two impressions I am left with after my days in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
The monotonous scenery is a lasting result from the communist era and is primarily offset by the Bratislava Castle, sitting just above the Danube river. Although since the 1990’s the country has seen significant economic development, it would still baffle you as you walk the city streets, buy $2.00 bottles of wine from the grocery store and chat with locals. The ‘New Bridge‘ or more commonly known as the UFO bridge, added an observation deck less than 15 years ago to bolster tourism in the capital.
The people met along the way in Bratislava, both local and travelers made this trip absolutely memorable. Those working at our hostel, Hostel Possonium, took me out for a local night on the town, recommended great tattoo artists and tipped us off on a solid band (from NY, apparently ‘a big deal’ in Slovakia) coming into town during our visit. Local fans we met at the show never let our beers go empty or let Bry run out of cigarettes. New friends from Brazil, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, US and of course our Aussie girl Gemma provided endless companionship and good times. Without a doubt, the friendships forged in Bratislava have stuck around and I’m beyond thankful. ♥
In a matter of a few days in Bratislava, it’s safe to say many adventures were had. Attempting to get a tattoo appointment prior to hitting renowned Budapest baths was high on the list and took about 36 hours to accomplish as specialized artists, cost and proximity in walking distance were taken into account. Thankfully, after negotiations, multiple cancellations and an early morning after no sleep, Axli at Body Gallery hooked it up for €30; two Rag N Bones Man songs later, I had a perfect little plane to commemorate my family name (Tejani = In A Jet backwards) and my current travel escapade. We look pretty bummed below, but blame it on crappy coffee, sleep deprivation and impending pain.
The eventful morning turned quickly into an afternoon quest for the ruins of Devin Castle, a 20 minute bus ride just outside the city. Rich in history, it’s one of the oldest castles in Slovakia, erected originally before 900 BC and destroyed during the Napoleonic war in 1809. The ruins sit just above the Danube river and makes for an awesome day trip – admittedly a picnic would have been a great option, but alas, there was plenty of options to grab a beer at the base of the castle after an archery lesson. Our extremely tall Brazilian friend, Pedro, joined us for the day before heading towards Vienna that evening.
Although Bry and I were happily prepared to rest up and relax for the night in the cave of the hostel (note: photo of bloody bathtub from Hostel movie above), things did not go as planned. Chilling in the cave chatting, we happened to meet lead singer of the Nat Osborn Band, having a drink just before their schedule show that evening. A bit of travelers’ obligation kicked in and we got off our asses to attend, leading towards a night in a basement of a bar to a morning atop the city, finding a religious grotto, adorned with candles, flowers and even an offering of a lamb carcass (no joke). If that sounds like it moved swiftly from a concert to an effigy, it did. A wild night with dedicated local fans to this band had so much energy and passion for their city and warmly introduced us to a Slovakian plum liquor, Slivovitz. These fans and the band shut the bar down sometime around 3am and we swiftly found out Uber is fickle in the city and our only option was to walk back. By sunrise, I was hiking up the city to the Slavin War Memorial that I happened to miss, being distracted by the scene described at the grotto. I researched as much as I could to find information about the matron statue for details, but all searches came up short. It was a unbelievable way to end my time in Bratislava before heading to Hungary the next morning.
Na zdravie! – Ciara