We woke early and assembled together for breakfast in the rather curious dining room. It was spotlessly clean and everything was laid out with fastidious precision and it was obviously overstaffed because there was barely time to settle down at the table before the attentive waitress was serving tea and coffee and takingfood orders. There wasn’t an extensive choice but it was ok if you like ham and eggs so we all choose our favourite way of preparing them and enjoyed a good start to the day.
The sun was shining and it was a perfect autumn morning and we walked back down the hill towards the main road and the city. The hotel was in a residential part of the city with some rather grand houses that I can only imagine was where the old communist leaders of the state used to reside. They had extensive grounds concealed behind high walls and fences and one that was in the process of being demolished revealed the remains of a substantial underground bunker.
The leaves on the trees were turning to various shades of yellow, red and bronze and there was already a fair covering on the footpaths and on the side of the road. At the main road we turned right and started to climb towards Bratislava Castle at the top of another hill. Along the way Micky spotted a dog waste bin and whipped out his camera to take a picture and begin his collection of Bratislava street scene photographs.
The castle was situated in a commanding position overlooking the River Danube below and we took up a position on an elevated viewing terrace with good views over the city and the countryside beyond. Bratislava is situated in southwest Slovakia, within the Bratislava Region and its location on the borders with Austria and Hungary makes it the only national capital that borders two adjacent countries. From where we stood we could almost certainly see both of these near neighbours and probably the Czech Republic as well because it was a clear day and it is only sixty-two kilometres to the north.
This was our first view of the famous River Danube, which at two thousand eight hundred and fifty kilometres is the second longest river in Europe after the Volga. It is the twenty-ninth longest river in the world and flows through nine countries. It starts in Germany and runs like a European timeline through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Ukraine before it finishes its journey by discharging its waters into the Black Sea at the Danube Delta and on route it passes through the four capital cities of Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. It was flowing quite briskly through Bratislava today and its appearance was brown and muddy and disappointed those in the party who were expecting to see the sort of Blue Danube that inspired the composer Johan Sebastian Strauss to write his famous waltz.
Turning away from the river we walked through the castle gardens and returned to the city at a square outside of St Martins Cathedral and made our way into the attractive old town area of the city. The whole place had a pleasant clean atmosphere that was almost certainly down to the absence of heavy traffic that appeared to be excluded from the city, and electric trams in preference to diesel belching buses. This was all very pleasant and in the warm sunshine we strolled through the streets and squares past the Slovak National Theatre and the Slovak National Gallery and back again to the Danube, this time at ground level. On the way there we passed by various pieces of humorous street art, these are statues that attract the crowds but surprisingly not the vandals. They wouldn’t last long in England, that’s for sure.