I loved Bratislava. From hearing from other people, a lot of people consider it this rundown, boring city that is completely pathetic considered it’s the Slovakian capital. I disagree. Maybe it’s because I grew up outside of Baltimore and have a greater appreciation for small cities with charm, I don’t know, but my favorite cities have always been the walkable ones. Austin, Stockholm, uh, Jersey City… Yeah.
Bratislava is about an hour train ride from Vienna, so it’s really easy to do as a day trip. Here’s a map for the geographically challenged. And because I like pictures.
I arrived a little before noon and had to get a coffee and mentally put myself back together at the Bratislava train station after having a “holy fuck I’m in Slovakia by myself” moment. I have a lot of moments like this, but this one was particularly big given my strong ties to my family’s Slovak heritage (I still have family in Presov) and my whole life Slovakia has just been a place on a map. Some people travel and can carry on like it’s nothing without ever doing a double-take. I am not one of those people. I grew up hardly ever leaving the tri-state area, so when I end up in Bratislava alone on a Thursday afternoon, I notice that.
It’s not that the sights are particularly fantastic, because they aren’t, it’s more about getting off the train and feeling like you were plopped into this Medieval world, rich with culture and history. I spent hours just walking into shops and wandering around the streets. You won’t find stunning architecture or landscapes but to me this city holds it’s own in personality.
In the Old Town was it’s own Christmas market, noticeably smaller than the markets I’ve seen in Munich and Vienna, but with similar goods and of course some Slovak touches. I was starving and freezing so went for a hot wine and a kraut-filled crepe which was amazing (or maybe it wasn’t? I don’t know, I was really hungry) and headed back to the train station.
I love that I had enough time in Vienna to do a day trip out. I have a hard time explaining why I loved Bratislava so much, but it’s probably similar to the same reasons I love Jersey City over Manhattan. It’s not world-class but it’s not gaudy, it’s not plagued with tourists posing in front of sights. It’s just a real city with people doing everyday things.
YOU GUYS! Duran Duran is playing on the 2nd, who is coming with?!