I had decided that today I would go on a free walking tour of the city. We met our guide, Lucia, at 11am in a popular square. The walking tour was 2.5 hours and it was really fascinating! Lucia gave us a lot of history of the city- it was a very important city during the Velvet Revolution and was at one point the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Some of the highlights of the trip (I didn’t take pictures of everything):
- Hviezdoslavovo Namestie- a statue/square dedicated to Hviezdoslavovo who was a famous Slovak poet who made up his own poetic language
- Slovak National Theatre
- Hans Christian Anderson Statue- he visited the city once
- Black Plague Memorial- apparently these are all over European countries
- SNP Bridge- in Slovak Most Slovenskeho Narodneho Povstania which translates to Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, but is most commonly referred to as the UFO bridge as it looks like a UFO. It was built by the communist leaders in the 1960’s and they destroyed a lot of the old town in order to build it. It also features a restaurant in the UFO part in the middle of the bridge.UFO Bridge on the left over the Danube.
- Jewish WWII Memorial- before WWII there were some 90,000 Jews in Slovakia- after the war only a few thousand remained
- St. Martin’s Cathedral- gothic style church built in 1452 and features an 11th century cemetery in the basement
- Old Town Hall- this has been turned into the City museum
- Michael’s Gate- the only surviving gate out of 4 that used to exist- these gates were the only way to get into the walled city centuries ago
- Grassalkovich Palace- presidential palace- the president is the 2nd highest political figure in the country after the Prime Minister
- SNP Square- square dedicated to the Slovak National Uprising
- Blue Church- an art nouveau church that is painted blue but it’s real name is the Church of St Elizabeth
- Comenius University- the square in front of the university is the site of the 1968 Soviet Occupation and where a very famous photograph was taken of a man standing in front of a Soviet tank and snuck out of the country so that Western countries could see what was going on in Czechoslovakia (the rounded building in the middle is the university.
On the walking tour I met Muhammad, a guy from Israel that was studying in Romania and a guy from France. When the tour was over we decided to get lunch together and our guide recommended Flagship, which happens to be the sister restaurant of Slovak Pub where I ate the other night. So again, I had the potato dumplings with sheep’s cheese and bacon lol
Our guide had told us that this weekend was a festival called “Bratislava for Everyone” which is a kickoff for tourism season. During the weekend, all museums and cathedrals in the city are free so we decided to check some out. We went to the Bratislava City Museum which was in the old town hall and St Martin’s cathedral. The museum had some cool artifacts but it was pretty small. St Martin’s cathedral was pretty and they had an 11th century cemetery in the basement which was interesting. We also went up the Michael’s Gate clock tower which is also the weapons museum. The clock tower provides beautiful, 360 degree views of the city. Of course it was very overcast so it wasn’t as pretty as it could have been, but oh well. The whole day was FREEZING! Like in the 40’s which is not pleasant to walk around in all day with no sun in sight.
After the museums, Muhammad and I decided to go to Devin castle which is about a 15-20 minute bus ride from Bratislava. Since it was a Sunday the bus didn’t run very often so we had to wait a while. Once we got to Devin castle it was pretty much closed, but the guard let us go in. There were only like 6 other people there so that was cool. The castle is right on the Danube and is quite run down, but still really cool. Since the castle was actually closed, we had to wait for the guard to let us out and we ended up waiting with a couple from Italy. Once we were let out Muhammad and I made our way to the bus stop but then Muhammad saw the Italian couple get into a car and said he was going to ask them for a ride instead. It may seem a little sketch, but I was freezing and we’d have to wait a while for a bus since it was Sunday (see above). Muhammad stuck out his thumb like a proper hitchhiker and the Italians pulled over and asked where we were headed. When we said Bratislava, they told us to get it, which was really nice of them!
They drove us back to the city and then Muhammad and I got hot chocolate and tea at a café. I tried to order a waffle with Nutella (it was on the dessert menu) but the waiter said they had no waffles, only toast. So I said that was ok, thinking I’d get some kind of toast with Nutella. I wasn’t starving, but I wanted a little something. Well toast in Slovak apparently means grilled cheese cuz that’s what I got. No complaints here!! Don’t worry, there was no Nutella though 😉 Muhammad was born and raised in Israel Palestine but has been going to medical school in Constanta, Romania (on the Black Sea) for 4 years and has 2 more to go. Hearing about his home life both in Romania and Israel was fascinating. He choose to go to Romania for school because it was easier to get into, but definitely not cheaper. He says it’ll probably be difficult for him to get a job back in Israel when he graduates, but that’s his first choice. Brussels is his second. After our tea/hot chocolate we said our goodbyes and I came back to the hostel. When I got to my room, there was no one else there (a little weird since it was like 10:30pm) but I enjoyed the peace and quiet. Eventually a guy who is staying in the connecting room came in and then the girl whose bunk is above mine got back but that was all! It was my best nights sleep yet 🙂