The Danube is a navigable European artery and there were a lot of cruise boats on the water that make the daily journey either west to Vienna or east to Budapest but they didn’t look especially exciting so we were glad that we were planning to use the railway tomorrow instead. It was mid morning by now and time for refreshment so we walked back from the river and after the girls had walked past and rejected café after café, all of which that looked perfectly acceptable, we finally found something that got the collective seal of approval and we enjoyed drinks at a pavement café in the sun in the old Town Hall Square.
There were a lot of fine old buildings around and some more street statues including a Napoleonic soldier and a guardsman. Most of these buildings had been quite recently restored after the departure of the Russian occupiers and the communist regime and they were in marked contrast to other areas of the city that haven’t been tidied up yet.
After the drinks break we walked out of the centre and through some of these streets as we took a circuitous route around the old town and through the commercial and the shopping districts. There were a lot of people with Tesco carrier bags and the reason why was along one of these main shopping streets because there was a large Tesco supermarket. If only I had brought my clubcard with me I could have popped in and made a purchase. Actually Tesco is one of the major supermarket retailers in Slovakia and has nearly fifty stores across the country, which it swapped with Carrefour in 1996, giving in exchange its stores in Taiwan. That’s a bit of a shame really because although I am a fan of Tescos in the UK when I am in another country I prefer shopping to be a more authentic experience.
We lost our bearings somewhat as we walked around, Micky took more pictures of litter and graffiti and eventually we found our way back to a busy street in the old town with restaurants serving al fresco and as it was time for lunch we selected a traditional establishment and with seats in the full October sun we enjoyed a leisurely meal of generous proportions off of the extensive Slovakian menu.
Bratislava flourished during the 18th-century reign of Maria Theresa of Austria and for a short time became one of the most important cities in Central Europe, the population tripled and many new palaces, monasteries, mansions, and new streets and neighbourhoods were constructed. This didn’t last for very long however and Bratislava started to lose its importance under the reign of Maria Theresa’s son Joseph II who didn’t share his mother’s passion for the place and gradually it slipped behind Vienna and Budapest in importance. As a result of this the City is quite small and compact and all of the sights are quickly seen.
We needed to save some for a second day in Bratislava so this afternoon we decided to walk out of town to locate the train station so that we would be fully prepared for our journey to Vienna on the next day. It wasn’t very far out of the city but a walk always seems longer when you are unsure of the distance or the final destination but eventually we found it and satisfied ourselves about timetables and travel arrangements and returned back the way that we had come past the Presidential Palace with some untidy looking guards in pseudo medieval uniforms and back to the hotel for feet up and a rest.
In the evening we went back into the city and being more confident tonight of the geography and the environment we walked back through the main square and compared the menus and the prices before we decided upon a back street hotel restaurant that served good food at reasonable prices and we enjoyed a second hearty meal of the day. Later we returned to the city streets and then to the castle gardens and its good views over the Danube, which actually looked even better tonight, the water was an inky black and nicely illuminated by street lights on both banks and by the gay coloured lights from the cruise ships passing by below.
On the last leg of the journey back to the hotel we had to tackle the hill again and Sue and Christine surprised us all by setting a blistering Usain Bolt sort of pace that was impossible to keep up with. There was simply no holding them back and the rest of us could only watch impressively as they left us trailing behind and disappeared into the night.
There was no bar at the hotel, which was disappointing so it was an early night in preparation for an early start and the trip to Vienna tomorrow.