Getting a sprained knee weeks before you travel is something I’ve never imagined. Blame my addiction to yoga (which is also totally my fault!). Regardless, I’ve managed to still go away. By this time, my knee was almost healed.
I decided to do a day tour in Bratislava because I thought, it would be nice to have an idea of the city whose country used to be the other half of Czech Republic (remember when it was Czechoslovakia back then?). Like maybe, there’s a slight similarity with Prague, and if there’s a good comparison among the two. It’s along my way anyway, which is pretty convenient.
Looking for the city map and the travel info desk from the vendors in the station was almost useless. I was a bit surprised when they had no clue, as they’re in the central station where visitors are supposed to arrive. It was a good thing that someone knew where the info desk is. It was empty when I arrived, so I accidentally missed that one out.
When you have a map on the hand, it’s so much easier to get going. It was time to walk to the old city where most of the must-see structures are. Along the way is this beautiful blue church (Church of St. Elisabeth) which reminded me of the gingerbread house and of Gaudi’s in Parc Guell. Unfortunately, it was closed. Couldn’t really understand what was written and there was no one to talk to. Just to share, I’ve had this tradition of visiting a church and making a wish if it’s my first time (I call it the free wish), then knocking on its door before leaving. It is said that your wish would come true every time you do this. It doesn’t hurt to do it, you know. 😉
Church of St. Elisabeth, also known as the Blue Church
From here was a few more blocks to get to the old town, where most of the must see structures are. Upon arrival, I was a bit underwhelmed by how bare square number 1 (Hviezdoslav square) is, even if the town hall was here. Except for that bike, which I thought was interesting. It was my first time to see one of that kind, so, that was something. I didn’t realize yet that there were two squares here, not until I walked a bit farther to the other one.
On the other side is a bigger one, square number 2 (main square), which appeared to be quite busy at daytime. Either they’re setting something up, or dismantling something down. Couldn’t figure it yet at that time, so I decided to move forward again because it was a bit handful to see the mess inside the square.
While walking around the old town, I can’t help but overhear a local tell her friend that the feel of the city at night is way different that how it is at daytime. “The restaurants become discos and it’s way fun,” something like that. I tried to imagine, but I didn’t believe her. That’s something that I would be happy to see for myself–next time!
A lot of restaurants circle the old town, and so does a variety of interesting statues. Here’s my favorite, the paparazzi.
One of the most notable site, I believe, is Michael’s gate and tower which is said to be one of the oldest buildings in Bratislava. Also, below it is a compass diagram that is almost unnoticeable if you only look straight ahead and don’t check your steps from time to time.
Just outside the old town was the National Theatre in front of a large pedestrian road where shops, restaurants, and benches invite visitors to look around and get some much deserved rest. I took a break after being able to walk in almost every street (include the part where I go round and round and round) and see the must see (but only a handful of) structures in the old town. I was surprised to find out that it was still early and that I was able to go around in a short period of time! Although I knew that what I had covered was relatively small, I felt like it should’ve eaten all my time already because of how it drained my energy. Maybe I felt tired because of the flight earlier, or maybe because of my knee.
Slovak National Theatre
I had an internal debate if I should go back now and go to my next destination or if I should try to look for that castle uphill and take it from there. I chose the latter. I wasn’t satisfied of not seeing a lot and leaving early on. I can’t go, not just yet. And so, I decided to endure and use my remaining energy to see the Bratislava castle.
Leaving the old town was a breath of fresh air. There were a lot of interesting things that I didn’t expect to see on my way out. There was some kind of photo exhibit at the park located before heading out to the highway. It’s refreshing to see such kind of displays. If this was done in my country, it has to be under surveillance 24/7, otherwise it will get stolen or vandalized.
Finding a few murals/street art around the highway is something that I didn’t expect as well. It looked really nice and I respect how the people here have maintained it that way. These things are always a delight to see, especially that the ones I see in Manila have become dirty and those in Dubai are almost hidden (by that I mean, I’ve only seen one at a warehouse-gallery, albeit there are already a few that are said to be more visible since early this year).
A few sites I found before I arrived uphill made the so-called hike worth it, despite the knee pain. From the Danube River, to a replica of a synagogue (it was destroyed during the Communist era), and to the views along the path of the hike.
It’s a shame though, to reach the top, only to find out that your main destination is closed! For some reason, the Bratislava castle was closed. I didn’t bother to know why. Maybe because at that time, I was eager to go back and move on.
Something that I do appreciate upon reaching the top is having a panoramic view of the city.
The Novy Most (new bridge) over the Danube river and the UFO on top of it
City view from the castle: Bratislava and the Danube river
I headed back to the old town to grab some lunch before my intended departure to my next stop. I took the shortcut to the bus stop from the old town and halfway through it, I went back because I realized that I won’t make it and would be really early for the next trip.
Another surprise welcomed me upon arrival at the main square. Apparently, the mess earlier that morning was them setting up for the afternoon’s Danube Fest. The stage showed traditional performances and there was a variety of food, drinks, and services provided in each tent. Their take on tourism promotion.
Tired and quite full, I felt like there’s nothing more for me to do albeit it was still early. Bratislava, I saw less of what I had expected and more from what I didn’t, kind of a nice trade-off.
Notable Places that could be seen are:
1. Old Town, where the two important squares are located (Hviezdoslav Square and the Main Square). It’s where most of the old structures are as well.
2. Michael’s gate (also located at the Old Town) and the compass diagram.
3. Slovak National Theatre
4. Bratislava Castle
5. the UFO
6. Surprise! Surprise!!! Murals/Street Art scattered at the highway–if it’s still there!
1. The Danube Festival in Bratislava caught me by surprise when I went there last September (first week of, year 2012). From my research, it happened again this year in the first week of September. For those who want to check it out, I guess same period next year, right?
2. Beer is cheap here. From what I recall, a pint is around 1 Euro or a bit more.
3. Prague is a different story. Just saying!
**Want to read more about other festivities? Read other posts on Festivals that might interest you**