Bratislava-Petrzalka – 520 miles into the trip
Day 4 – and, frankly, it’s too hot to blog – too hot to breathe – let alone travel to Bratislava, but needs must when you have promised to cover every station en route from Berlin to Milan. And this blog won’t write itself, so here goes.
Mind you, this leg of the trip nearly never happened because of the mysterious and unhelpful cancellation of the regular 10.16 train to Bratislava this morning ‘because construction’. Of the train, the track, the station, the entire city of Bratislava, we have no way of knowing. There is an alternative train at 10.45 which goes not to the Central Station but to Bratislava-Petrazalka, from which ‘there is bus to centre – probably’.
‘There is bus to centre – probably’ is not a sentence on which you can plan a tightly organised day trip from Vienna.
But as I am here right now, tapping away, it more than probably did go all right.
And here’s a useful travel tip. If you ever find yourself at Bratislava-Petrazalka ‘because construction’, you simply jump on the number 80 bus outside, jump off again when the angry bus driver shouts and points at the ticket machine, buy a random ticket because it’s all in Slovakian and who knows, watch Angry Driver drive off laughing maniacally, get on the next number 80 and get off ten minutes later in the centre when everyone else gets off.
Do & see
On the hottest day of the year in Europe so far, I fondly imagined that climbing to the heights of Bratislava Castle would reward me with a refreshing breeze that would play around my limbs like gaspy little breaths from a cavorting angel. It did not. By the time I got to the top of the steps, I dripped from every orifice and found that breathing was no longer a luxury I could continue to take for granted. But the views! They really are quite magnificent, and while the blindingly white castle itself promises the dubious enticement of a ‘Furniture Museum’, the grounds, walls and battlements are a delight.
The main old town streets in Bratislava are a bit Prague-y and Stag Party-y – there is the Loch Ness Scottish Pub next to the Dubliner Inn, for example – and that is not what I was in the mood for. But a block back from the Danube are the shaded riverside gardens, with a row of cafes and restaurants that have a more genteel vibe. At the Verne I was talked into tying the Hungarian goulash and dumplings, much against my better judgement, it being now 35 degrees and rising, but it was surprisingly The Very Thing, and a bargain €6.49 to boot. No one sang ‘Wonderwall’ or tried to snog the waiter, and afterwards I walked slowly under shaded trees as far as the cathedral and contemplated an ice cream. Only contemplated. I’d just had a summer injection of goulash for chrissake.
In the shade of the cathedral, this charming cafe was just the place to sit out the rest of the afternoon before the train ride back to Vienna. First, they sell homemade lemonade by the litre, which is exactly the amount you need if you’ve just had goulash on the day that temperature records tumbled across Europe. It’s part antique shop, part cafe, and – only a short walk from the central bars – is rather amazingly olde worlde and simpatico.
And that’s it from Bratislava – a simple day trip (just an hour by train) from Vienna, and worth it if you really feel the need to knock off another European country, though there’s a whole lot more to it than just the over-touristed Old Town. Like this great post-Communist tour you can do of alternative ‘sights’ like Europe’s largest housing estate and the Soviet-era TV station.
I am out of here, next stop Ljubljana, see you there!