I woke up silly early – before Thomas had to rise for work – and let myself out to catch the 8:00am bus to Bratislava. This was a hugely busy bus, so if you’re going to make this trip ensure you book in advance. A lot of people do Bratislava as a day-trip from Vienna, so the first and last buses of the day are often full.
The guard who checked our passports at the border kindly stamped mine when I asked so I have another one for the collection. I disembarked at Novy Most (the new bridge, also called the UFO bridge because of the flying-saucer like structure on the top of it). I’m not sure if this was the stop I should have got off at, but the old area of Bratislava is small enough so I decided to explore a bit and try to find my hostel.
Wandering around, I discovered a nice little town on the whole. There’s a lot of history here and it’s very old-looking in a nice way. Cobbled streets, old well-maintained buildings, statues and so on. I passed by the St Martins Cathedral where numerous European kings were crowned for a few centuries and straight across the town centre before locating my hostel almost by chance.
This was their first day and they had literally just opened, so I dumped my stuff, grabbed a map, asked for some information and went on my merry way. I was informed that KFC didn’t have a branch (yay!) so I settled on McD’s for brunch (boo!) as it was actually one of the cheapest options in the area.
I found some of the main attractions such as the mayor’s office / town hall (with free wireless in the square outside) and the manhole man statue (complete with person dressed as the statue next to it accepting money) as I walked back to the bus station with the intention of catching a local coach to Devin castle. Only I found out there are no buses between 10:30 and 13:30. Beware therefore if you go there yourself and catch an early bus – you’ll likely get stranded until after lunch!
Instead, I walked up to the local castle up on the hill for a lovely view of… some flats. The nice stuff nearby isn’t easy to see from the top and instead you catch a sight of the newer parts of the city, which is a shame. The bridges over the Danube are nice, however. I’d like to point out, though, that the Danube certainly isn’t blue any more. Maybe it was when Mr Strauss penned his little ditty (the main music for the Elite game for all you geeks) but now it’s a rather murky brown colour.
Back at ground level, I returned to the bus station and waited for the Devin Castle bus. Which didn’t show. And there was no mention of it on the “arriving / departing soon” list. As such I stopped trusting the timetable and decided to skip the castle. A shame, but as it worked out it was a fortunate decision to make.
As I walked back into the town centre, I saw a bit of a gathering around what I think was the British embassy. A handful of consular cars with flags flying were outside and a gentleman in a suit collared me when he saw my Toon shirt. It turned out he was Brian Binley, the MP for Northampton South and he was there for some function or other. We talked for two minutes and I mentioned The Walk as I do. Without hesitation, he pulled a 1000 SKK note from his wallet and asked if that would help. It most certainly would! It’s roughly £20 or $40 and would pay for 6 months’ education for one of the Blue Dragon kids. I’ve already posted about this on the Walk page, but again I would like to publicly thank Brian for his generosity.
From there, on a bit of a high, I walked to the train station which is a bit of a hike. The heavens opened for a few minutes which was a relief from the heat to start with then far too much water to put up with within 5 minutes. It petered out and I reached the station in around twenty minutes where I enquired about my ticket for Budapest the next day. Note that the windows you see when you enter the station all have big “I” signs which will make you assume they provide information. They don’t. You have to go down a passage at the back to a specific office where they’ll print you off a timetable, but can’t give you prices. Then back to the front of the building to enquire on the money involved and purchase the tickets. What a palaver. Bizarrely, the quickest train was 40% of the price of the slower one so I picked that ticket.
At the hostel I repacked and showered then had a huge pizza and a Slovak beer (10% *hiccup*) for around £2.50. As it was cheap, I opted to walk the 30 minutes to a “nearby” cinema over the UFO bridge to see Zodiac which I thoroughly enjoyed. Even better, it was “bargain night” so even less than I was expecting. I also like the way you can reserve tickets online without paying for them, so no booking fee. Just turn up at least 30 mins before the performance. And Slovaks don’t talk in the theatre unlike the Brits.
The walk back was pleasant on almost empty streets with many of the buildings lit up. My dorm was full when I returned with a family from Brazil settling in. I said hello, goodnight and tucked myself in.