Bratislava

September 1, 2008

We had three other people in our room, and two of them were snorers. (Not us!) So it was a noisy night; but we still slept reasonably well. We finally got up shortly after 8 am.

Hans Christian Andersen's statueThe hostel did not do breakfast, so we went off to find a breakfast place. We did locate a supermarket quite close to the hostel, but no cafés that were open. Several had signs saying they opened at 8 am on Mondays, but nevertheless they weren’t open. Finally we ended up in the Old Town, where we found a café that was open and providing breakfast. Both of us settled on waffles with maple syrup and whipped cream, and freshly squeezed orange juice. An excellent choice for breakfast!

On the way back to the hostel, we headed over to the tourist information office to enquire about the walk and the boat trip to Devín Castle. They told us there was a path along the river to the castle, which was 10 kilometres away. They also thought we might be able to take the tour boat one way, but weren’t sure whether it would be running on the weekend or weekday as today was a holiday. (This explained the closed restaurants.)

Slovak National TheatreA closer look at the brochure for the tour boat revealed that their high-season schedule had ended on August 31 and that they were now on their low-season schedule. So, no boats today. Probably. Anyway, our plan was now to walk out to the castle. We went back to the hostel to change into hiking boots and organize day packs. Finally we were on our way, which meant another trip down the hill to the river. If there were any boats today we had missed the first one of the day, so we proceeded with our walk.

Devín CastleThe walkway went under Nový Most and past some floating hotels. By now the sun was quite warm, but luckily the breeze along the river was pleasant. There was very little traffic on the river and also only a few birds. The first part of the walk was very pleasant, following the river past a construction site for an expensive-looking new building and behind some buildings which might have been schools. After an area of decaying infrastructure we turned onto a dirt path which headed slightly inland to follow sloughs which might have been old river channels. Before long we came to a kayak club, and here a bicycle path began. The bicycle path was quite busy, and after a while it joined up with the main road and ran along beside it.

Archeology at Devín CastleSoon the bicycle path petered out. No longer were we walking through woods with singing birds, now we were walking single file along a narrow road shoulder with cars and buses zooming by. This was the second half of our walk. Fortunately the whole walk only took about two hours. Upon arriving in Devín we could see the castle up on the hill, but could not find the entrance. After walking back and forth along back streets in the town, finally we found a directional sign. This led to one of the streets we had already walked on, but we doubled back and found a side road which led into the castle’s parking lot. Hooray, we had found it!

Guard post, Devín CastleBoth of us were hot by now, so we bought Pepsi and a bag of chips for our lunch. In the parking lot people had set up a sound system, so various types of music were coming out of the speakers. Neither of us could figure out what was going on, but probably it had something to do with the holiday. After finishing our drinks we headed up to the castle. The regular price of SK 130 was papered over with a hand printed notice saying the price was SK 40. Probably this was because we were now in “low season”. However it also meant that the displays in the castle would not be open.

The castle was situated on a promontory at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, and the views were great from the top. Throughout the site there were informational signs about the history and archeology of the place. Luckily for us they were in both Slovak and English (8 out of 10 for the translations). We spent a couple of hours climbing up and down and looking at the ruins.

Iron Curtain monumentAfter that we left the castle grounds and walked down to the confluence of the two rivers. Here there was a bicycle path and a conservation area which were full of people with children and picnics and so on. This was the Iron Curtain Greenway. The name was not at all ironic, because across the rivers was Austria. There was a monument there with broken iron rods, dedicated to the thousands of people who had died in gulags and forced deportations and other atrocities. It was eerie to realize that not so many years ago there would have been armed guards standing where we were standing, with freedom only a short swim across the Morava River.

By now it was after 3 pm, so having decided to take the bus back to Bratislava, we headed back to the parking lot. There was a number 29 bus there, but by the time we had looked at the ticket machine and figured out how much money we needed to buy tickets, it had left. It was an hourly bus, but the map at the bus stop said that the number 28 bus also served the main street of Devín. We had figured out that we needed two tickets at 18 SK each, and that the machines only took coins and that we only had 25 SK in coins. But in our earlier wanderings around the town we had seen another ticket machine and a booth with an attendant to buy tickets from. So we headed over there.

But now it was 4 pm and the attendant had closed shop, so we had a problem. We noticed that the ticket machine said that 18 SK was €0.60, and we did have a €1 coin. So we put that in. Nothing happened. We pressed the red “oops, give me the money back” button and still nothing happened. Luckily there was a craft shop in the adjacent shopping centre which was still open. The lady there spoke a little bit of English, and she gave us four 5 SK coins in exchange for a 20 SK note. Back at the machine, we cautiously put in a 1 SK coin and it started to make horrible noises. The green light went off, the red light went on, and a different message appeared in the little screen. No doubt it said something like “This machine is broken”.

Once again luck was on our side, and a man came by who spoke some English. He had some spare bus tickets which we bought from him. After a few minutes the number 28 bus arrived, and we got on. It was a double-length articulated bus but there was still only standing room. However, the bus ride was very fast and before long we were back in Bratislava. We walked up to the Hrad, where the craft fair was in its last hour. We perused the booths and finally decided to buy a handmade ornamental ceramic plate for 450 SK. (Not too big, we would still have to carry it all around the Tatras.) We took a picture of the lady who made the plate and then we were on our way to find a place for dinner.

We checked out several places in the Old Town and finally decided on one, the Prešburg restaurant. Paul had chicken pörkölt with gnocchi, which was very much like yesterday’s goulash, and Rosemary had Wiener schnitzel and Slovak potato salad, which was huge. She saved half of it for tomorrow’s lunch. The potato salad was good, being made of potatoes, onions, and radishes with some type of vinegary liquid. Quite different from our potato salad, as it didn’t have mayonnaise in it. We had already decided to go to the chocolate shop for hot chocolate, so after paying our bill we headed around the corner to the shop. Rosemary ordered classic hot chocolate and Paul had chocolate with tiramisu. The drink is served in a bowl with a spoon and is very creamy and yummy.

Artisan at castle, BratislavaFollowing this we went over to the Tesco to buy lunch stuff and also something for breakfast. It was interesting finding things in the store, but too bad we didn’t have more time to look around. Back at the hostel we had showers, organized our packs (yet again), and went to the kitchen to write our journals. The kitchen was the only place which had lights bright enough for writing. Bed time was 10:30 pm tonight and this time Rosemary was armed with earplugs (from the Delta Airlines toiletries kit) to ward off any snorers!

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