Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bratislava

Hello again! My first stop in Bratislava was to get to the hostel where I’d booked 2 nights.  It took a while to find the place, and when I finally did I wasn’t all too impressed.  The one I booked was rated Number 1 in Bratislava, so that’s not saying much!  The hostel was located in a pretty dodgy area (later I found out that it was pretty much prostitute lane), and not quite in the city center as had been advertised.  I was feeling a bit nauseous from the strong smell of urine outside my room, and the crumbs on the floor and lack of fresh air didn’t help either.  Sooo, long story short, I decided to pamper myself a bit and found a lovely hotel (the "Skaritz"), right in the center of the old town on the main street.  


This place was gorgeous, and I felt like  a  queen to have my own real super-soft bed, my own bathroom, and my own living space!  It’s amazing what a week living in hostels can make you appreciate… I was exhausted and nothing felt better than some peace and quiet in my tranquil room and a refreshing shower. 

After rejuvenating and getting some relaxation in, I took a stroll around the old town, loving every minute of it!  The pedestrian-only cobblestone streets and baroque architecture give the city a small, quaint atmosphere, and  lining the streets were outdoor restaurants and bars with a bustling crowd.  To make up for the larger than budgeted expense of the hotel, I went to the grocery store and picked up some fruits, veggies, and croissants for a cheap dinner in my room.








After a night of uninterrupted sleep it was easy to wake up in the morning and find my way to the starting point of yet another bike tour. For a while it was just going to be myself and the two guides because a group from the Hague (holland) didn’t show, but they finally arrived about a half hour late, so at least we had a full group!  I was a bit disappointed since it was a group of senior citizens, however, they turned out to be a lovely and entertaining group.  One thing I found amusing was that they definitely knew the history of Slovakia better than the guides who were 20-21ish, since they’d lived through a lot of the cold war / iron curtain events.  They probably taught the guides more than the guides taught us!






It was nice to get some exercise again and get outside the city walls.  We rode all the way to Devin castle, had some coffee /snacks, and then took a boat back to the starting point.  Near the castle there’s a memorial to remember all the Slovaks who tried to escape from the communist rule in the east to the west.  This spot is actually where at least 400 civilians where shot dead by their own government while they tried to cross the Danube to escape (that's Austria across the river).


The UFO observation deck - apparently the #2 thing to see in Bratislava.

After the tour I said farewell to my senior friends and headed back to my hotel.  On the way I bumped into another backpacking girl, about the same age as me, who was trying to find the hostel that I’d originally planned to stay at!  So we chatted for a bit – she’s from England – and I led her to the hostel and we made plans to meet up for dinner later that evening.  It was nice knowing I’d have someone to eat and walk around with later in the day.


Once back at my hotel, I took a quick shower and headed to this unique ayurvedic spa about 2 mintues away for an abhyangam massage and shirodhara treatment (huh??? yes, my thoughts indeed).  I didn’t really know what I was in for, but this was listed as the number 1 thing to do on tripadvisor.com in Bratislava, so I figured why not?  The massage was amazing, focusing on the major meeting points of energy in the body.  The following head treatment seriously took me into another dimension!!  Basically for about 45 minutes  the woman poured hot oil onto my forehead (the “third eye”) and I definitely found myself in a dream-like state, drifting in and out of consciousness during the treatment.  So weird!  But afterwards I felt so refreshed, calm, and rejuvenated – I sat in the “relaxation room” with some tea afterwards for about a half hour just to come back to reality!  Here's the website of the place if you're interested in learning more about it:  http://www.darsana.sk/en


 random statue

Following the treatment I met up with Helen (the english girl I’d met) and we found a nice restaurant to have a traditional slovakian meal.  I had the goulash which was pretty good, although I can’t wait to get back to Ireland and get back to eating my regular diet! i feel like i've had a meat overload on this trip...

During dinner a parade of manly men marched though the street waving flags and chanting things, all dressed in blue:  


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We had no idea what was going on so we decided to follow them to the main square  and found this:

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Yes, heavy metal screaming Slovak band in the middle of the square, tons of people waving flags, fire crackers going off all over the place – it was absolute mayhem!  Later we went to an outdoor hookah bar to hang out for a bit, and the waiter there told us that the celebration was because the Bratislava football team won the national championship.  So this was definitely not a typical night in the city center.  It was quite crazy to see all this and all the crazy Slovak manly men chanting and going crazy – another entertaining night in eastern Europe!




Helen and her hookah.



At the moment I’m on the train headed to Budapest, which will be the last stop on this trip.  Apparently there’s a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland again so hopefully my flight doesn’t get cancelled.  However, at least I’ll be in a cool city if it does!  That’s it for Bratislava - a short stay but totally worth it!

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