Sir Gregor Comes to Bratislava
To me, heading to the train station at 4:30 in the morning ranks somewhere between eating kale from a dirty baby diaper*, and swimming off the coast of Cape Code in a bacon flavored wetsuit. Sometimes though, the best train is the early train, so we packed the night before and headed up the Danube painfully early to visit another capital city, Bratislava.
We arrived feeling a little ho-hum about the town, but after breakfast we checked into out fantastic hotel, the Acadia, and our spirits were quickly lifted. This is an old style hotel, quiet as a bank vault, with fantastic service and a sauna and dipping pool that’s exaclty what every fatigued travelor needs. The best part, for me at least, was the doorman/concierge. He misheard me when we intoducded ourselvses and called me Sir Gregor, instead of Gregory, our entire stay. Obviously Gregor is a much, much cooler name than Gregory. Sir Gregor could easily own a castle in Eastern Europe, while Gregory would own an ice-cream store, at best. Sir Gregor is a Bond villian. Gregory has a stamp collection. You get the idea.
Bratislava offered us a more relaxed and leisurely pace which came as a welcome break from the whirlwind of the previous few days. Winding through the cobblestone old town, popping into shops and bakeries proved to be just what we needed. In the afternoon we had a late lunch at the UFO tower restaurant on the Most SNP bridge which connects the charming old town with decidedly less-charming soviet era residential housing and industrial area on the other side of the Danube river. The food was forgettable, but the views and uniqueness of lunch on top of a peculiar bridge restaurant was pretty memorable. We strolled by Bratislava Castle on the way back for the night. It’s an “old” castle that was rebuild from the ground up in the 1950’s, which means it didn’t really warrant much time, but it is perched on a hill that overlooks the SNP bridge and UFO restaurant so it’s worth a quick stop.
Most SNP Bridge and UFO restaurant:
Bratislavan food was pretty typical eastern European fare, with the only thing really notable being lots of local honey and a crescent shaped pastry called a Bratislavský rožok. It’s usually either poppy seed or filled with nuts (the one I liked – Mike and Martha love poppy seeds and really liked that one) and it’s pretty damn good. Here it is intact, and then being delightfully devoured:
In the morning we hopped on a bus out to Devin Castle, a structure that, like most in Europe, has been destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed again a number of times over the years. It’s not far outside of the city but feels like it is, surrounded by fields and quiet countryside. The castle itself decorates some of the currency here, both new Slovakia and older Czechoslovakian bills, and though it’s pretty mellow by Euro-tourist standards, that mellowness was just what we needed. One could blast through the castle grounds in a half hour or so, but we took our time and strolled the grounds, admiring what was left of the centuries old fortification and taking some indie band album covers photos like this one:
Refreshed, revived and reinvigorated, we headed out to Austria where our journey continues.
Where we stayed: Acadia Hotel
How we got there: Frightfully early train from Budapest
What we did:
Old Town Bratislava
UFO restaurant/Most SNP bridge
*I really hate kale.