After our Sachertorte we made our way into the city and we investigated those parts that we had not already seen when we had walked around two days previously. We walked along the main street of Panska with its charming street statues and then into one of the city’s main squares at Hviedoslavovo, that was one of the few places that seemed to retain a communist aura of public open space and grand statues to commemorate Marxist achievements for mankind – not surprisingly therefore there weren’t very many of them. Also here was the American Embassy in a grand old building but surrounded by high levels of security including impenetrable fences, concrete bollards and police on duty in heavy duty guard rooms.
We walked back to the river and then retraced our steps but today continued a little further east in search of things we had previously missed. First we looked for the Art Nouveau Post Office but this was in a serious state of disrepair and hardly worth the detour and then on to the Blue Church, which really was worth seeing. It was designed in 1907 by a man called Ödön Lechner who was a Hungarian Art Nouveau architect and whose favourite colour was obviously blue because the exterior is painted in various shades of cobalt, sapphire and sky with an indigo roof and blue-black windows. And the theme was continued inside as well because again the predominant colour was a vivid sky blue that gave a pleasing and cheerful ambiance to the building.
This was a slightly untidy part of the city compared with the old town and this suited Micky well enough because it provided plenty of opportunities for photographs of litter, graffiti and badly mown grass. We were all getting into the spirit of it now, especially Sue, who was encouraging him all the time by forever identifying new photo opportunities for him. At one point he was challenged by a local resident who was curious to know exactly what he was doing, but he was able to satisfy her that this apparent curious obsession with grime was a genuine interest in street scene. We were all really looking forward to seeing the prints when we returned back home.
Bratislava really is quite a small city with a population of about four hundred and twenty-five thousand, which makes it roughly the same size as Bristol, which is only the sixth largest city in England, so after two days we had pretty much seen all of the sights that there were to see and by now we were beginning to go over old ground.
We returned to the Town Hall Square and revisited the café/bar where we had celebrated Tim’s departure the day before and we settled down for a final drink. After yesterday’s red wine conversion there was simply no stopping Christine now and she was ordering it at every opportunity and sure enough she was straight in with the red wine order here again. We sat outside but the sun continued to stubbornly refuse to break through and the weather seemed to be changing a little now and a definite chill began to descend to the extent that the girls had to call for blankets from behind the bar. This is a rather charming and hospitable central European way of looking after external customers and after a moment or two of confusion that included a mime from Kim to explain what she wanted the waiter produced three Lincoln green blankets that enabled us to stay here for a while longer and enjoy the early evening in the city.
Finally it was time to say goodbye to the Old Town and find somewhere for a final meal in Bratislava so we retraced our steps through the centre of the city and decided to return to the Slovakian restaurant where we had eaten on the first day. It was much too cold to eat outside today though so we were forced to select a table in the interior. Because we had laughed at the size of his starter the previous evening Micky refused to order one today, so we all went straight for the main course and Christine ordered a red wine and an intravenous drip and we each had a hearty meal of liberal proportions and I had a final Zlaty Bažant. The only down side to this restaurant was the constant attendance of huge numbers of tiny little fruit flies that were attracted to the vinegar bottle and especially to Christine’s personal vat of red wine.
After dinner there was still time to spare so we walked some more and tried to find a way onto the city walls but we found our way blocked by road works so had to abandon the idea and finished up instead in a lively little student bar with the sort of prices that I like and which made us regret not having discovered it a couple of days earlier. It was one of those central European shabby chic sort of places with a relaxing and a welcoming atmosphere where you could quite happily spend an entire evening in conversation with good friends and get completely drunk. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for that and fairly quickly we had to leave and return to the hotel to collect our bags and call for a taxi to the airport.
The flight was full and there was the normal chaos that you associate with a Ryanair departure gate with everyone, the girls included, jostling for position ready for the mad dash to the aeroplane. Micky and I stood back and had a patient and cunning plan; we let everyone rush through the gate and get on to the airport bus and then we wandered sedately through and took a position by the bus door that allowed us to get off first and then on to the plane before anyone else and casually choose whichever seat we preferred. This worked a treat and we were amongst the first on board and selected our seats and reserved others for our travelling companions who were stuck in the skirmish on the bus and quite late arriving on the plane.
In 2004 as part of the enlargement of the European Union eight nations were given access to the UK’s jobs market and these were the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, known as the Accession Eight or A8 countries. I knew this but what I didn’t know was that after Poland and Lithuania the greatest number of migrant workers coming to the UK are Slovakian. This probably accounted for the fact that at least 80% of the passengers on board the flight were young Slovak men who would soon be working for a living on the farms of South Lincolnshire.
A young man sat next to me in the aisle seat of the aircraft and I was soon aware of a most unfortunate odour. Some Eastern Europeans it seems have bodies that are unfamiliar with the sociable benefits of soap and water and there was a stale smell of someone who sleeps in his clothes. To make matters worse he was quite pale of complexion and the aircraft steward brought him a supply of brown vomit bags ‘just in case’. I knew that if he threw up then I would too and Kim was most uncomfortable about the situation but fortunately he managed to hold onto the contents of his stomach for the duration of the flight and I just about managed to put up with the body odour without requesting the use of one of his bags.
The really bad news is that after going to the trouble of taking all of those street scene pictures Micky managed to delete the lot while transferring them from his camera to a memory stick via his printer. We were all thoroughly disappointed by that as you can imagine.