A Brief Stop in Bratislava
December 20, 2013
Yesterday morning we got up pretty early since we wanted to catch the 9:25 train to Bratislava. Unfortunately, even though we were at the station in time, we didn’t see the listing for our train’s platform number. I asked customer service – which is notoriously apathetic in Budapest – and he told me that our train was leaving from Track 3. So we bought some breakfast and rushed over to platform 3. No train. We waited awhile – it’s possible that it was running late, right? – and a train did finally show up. We got on; no one else did. So Zach asked one of the train operators if it was going to Bratislava and of course, it wasn’t. So we had another two hours to kill before the next train to Bratislava. We were both pretty upset because there was no explanation for our missing the train – we weren’t late, we had asked where it would be, and still we weren’t on our way to Bratislava. So we ended up sitting in a rather depressed train station restaurant with tea and coffee until the next train arrived and we could board. This time we were out looking at the board at least 30 minutes before the departure so that there could be no room for error. Thankfully, everything worked out and we left Budapest at 11:25.
Leaving for Bratislava
It was a pretty brief train ride, but it was made extra special due to a “happy hour” in the dining car. We bought a couple beers with our remaining forints and arrived in Bratislava 2 hours and 40 minutes later.
Once in Bratislava we stored our bags at the station, bought our tickets to Vienna, and headed out to the city centre.
Walking toward the city centre
They look like toy soldiers
Bratislava Castle above the city centre
We decided to get a bite to eat and some hot drinks so we went to a café I’d read about in an NYT article. In the article it was described as a place you might expect to find in Austin, TX or Berkeley, CA so of course, we wanted to check it out. Štúr Cafe (pronounced Shtoor) was a nice place and definitely had a little bit of an Austin vibe – small and cozy with antiques littered around the café, top hats as light fixtures – it fit the bill. We sat downstairs and realized that we had left our Slovak language guide in the locker with our bags! Thankfully our waitress spoke excellent English and we were able to order. We ordered some drinks – latte and chai latte – and then Zach had a bacon and mushroom quiche while I ordered a local specialty – an open-faced sandwich with bryndza which is cheese made with sheep’s milk. The color reminded me of red pepper hummus and it was spread on nice, thick pieces of bread. It was a little tart, salty even, but quite tasty.
After heading back out into the cold we tried to visit a couple of museums that we had read about; unfortunately our late arrival caused us to miss the last tours in both the Clock Museum and Hummel Museum. So instead we went to the Christmas Market and indulged in a few different types of mulled wine – a white wine, honey wine, and red wine and bought some gifts for others and ourselves. We also ate some type of nutella pastry – kind of like a crepe, but rolled up and drizzled with nutella. We walked slightly further to another square where the market continued and then up to St. Martin’s Cathedral. Directly in front of the cathedral is a highway which was designed during Slovakia’s communist days. When Bratislava was the capital of Hungary (while the Ottomans occupied Budapest) 19 Hungarian kings and queens were crowned in the cathedral. Unfortunately it was already too late for us to go inside and take a look around. Plus we had decided to catch the 6:43 train to Vienna so we needed to get back to the train station.
I wish we had been able to stay longer. Bratislava has a gorgeous city centre and if we had arrived earlier we could have seen and done a little bit more. Hopefully we will make it back to Slovakia sometime.
Christmas Market before Štúr Cafe
As night falls
There’s a cannonball from one of Napoleon’s sieges to the left of the window
Eating a delicious nutella thing
Christmas in Bratislava
St. Martin’s Cathedral