Backpacking in Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia; the name hardly conjures up visions of beauty, and is certainly not somewhere many people tend to visit, unless inter railing around Europe. However, this past week, Bratislava was were I choose to spend a few days backpacking with my youngest sister.

Teaching her to backpack: Helping my sister with her rucksack in Slovakia
Teaching her to backpack: Helping my sister with her rucksack in Slovakia

Cheap flights with the dubious airline Ryanair got us there on time, on one of those painfully early flights. I had packed light, with just a small day-pack, but this meant that I actually didn’t pack enough warm layers. I had packed for Winter weather in London, which was about 8 degrees warmer than Slovakia.

Stepping off the plane in Bratislava, I felt like I had walked into a large storage freezer, I knew I had not prepared well enough for this semi spontaneous trip.

Bratislava Airport
Bratislava Airport

It had been raining, and the weather was overcast, but we were intent on exploring as much as possible, and seeing what Bratislava had to offer.

We made our way out of the modern airport into the cold to wait on the bus. Our hostel (as always) had prepped us on how to get to them, spending as little money as possible.

A ticket on the bus cost 0.70 Euro cents.

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We boarded bus 61, and within 20 minutes, we were in the city, a quick change to tram number 3, and a few stops got us to our hostel: Hostel Blues.

Hostel Blues, Bratislava, Slovakia
Hostel Blues, Bratislava, Slovakia

Into to the warmth, to check in, and leave our bags in storage; we changed into warm layers (fleeced line leggings and jeans, and four layers on top, were all I had; the same clothes for three days – classic backpacker).

We were given a security tag, and a map of the city, with a list of places we should visit; there seemed to be a lot to see, but we knew we really only had the day, as we had planned a quick visit to Vienna the next day.

The sights of Bratislava in one day

5As we navigated our way through the wet, and virtually empty streets of Bratislava, and with the use of the map, we found what looked like the centre; having taken one wrong turn, we  located a tourist information office, to ask about how to get to the Blue Church.

The Blue Church is the name commonly given to the Church of St Elisabeth, due to its colour. It sits in a small neighbour area, on an unassuming street, but is rather beautiful inside and out. At the time of our visit, the actual church was closed until 2.30pm, so we couldn’t go inside.

The church of St Elisabeth (the blue church)
The church of St Elisabeth (the blue church)

Our next stop was at St Martin’s Cathedral. A cream coloured Catholic church, dated back to 1452, sat slightly on a hill near the centre, with a crumbling building, plastered with artwork next to it. The building itself took up a large space, and again looked magnificent from looking the windows (again it was closed). A small courtyard garden had intertwining trees, with autumn leaves still hanging on.

7Not far from the courtyard was Bratislava Castle; which is a key feature of Bratislava – a 15 minute up hill walk will get you there, and you get a fairly good view over the city; although the fog and overcast day didn’t help during our visit.

8You can choose to pay for a tour around the Castle, but by the time we had reached it, it was closing in an hour, and we decided to go against that idea. A quick walk around the courtyard and grounds was all we felt we needed.

A view from Bratislava Castle
A view from Bratislava Castle

Christmas Markets in Bratislava

I have been to a fair few Christmas markets  over the years, mostly in UK cities such as Leeds, Manchester and London; I always loved the European feel, and so was looking forward to going to a real European one.

The Christmas Markets in Bratislava run from November 21st to December 23rd, and are a rather small set up of stalls. Although the main streets of Bratislava were empty; it appeared that most of the city was within the square.

Capturing the Christmas markets in Bratislava
Capturing the Christmas markets in Bratislava

Warm alcoholic beverages, traditional sausages, cakes and candy apples, as well as bespoke gifts were available, all whilst listening to carols being sung by a Slovak Woman’s Choir. It felt very much like Christmas.

During our time wandering around the markets, we bought some traditional sweet treats; one was a Slovak pancake (much like a crepe), except less sweet, and a nut roll, which has shredded nuts, lemon, breadcrumbs, and rum; not topping my list of amazing food, but worth a try.

The UFO Bridge

After our time in the markets, we headed back towards the Castle, to the UFO bridge, also known as Most SNP, but often referred to as the UFO bridge, due to it’s design.

Our walk towards the UFO Bridge in Bratislava, Slovakia

My sister wanted to see it at night. It took us about 15 minutes to walk there. A small staircase led to an unassuming entry, with one chatty Slovak lady, talking and laughing with her two friends.

The regular price to get up to the observation area is 7 Euro, but I paid just 4 euro 35, my young looks often help, and I got a student ticket (although I didn’t ask for one).

We were the only ones up in the observation area, on such a wet and cold night, but there were great views, particularly of the castle.

A view of the Castle from the bottom of the UFO bridge, in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Slovak Food

Normally, I am quite a picky eater, but during my time in South East Asia, I found that I had to eat whatever was available to me, and so this has led me to try new things. I knew I wanted to try some Slovak food, so we sourced out a small place, off the main market square. It was quiet, with just one other table of customers. The owner was charming, and it was warm, so we sat in.

Earlier, the hostel had given us a list of Slovak food, we needed to try, so I ordered:

Cream of Garlic Soup (served in a bread bowl), which was a lot more tastier than it sounds, and not too over-garlicky)

Cream of Garlic Soup, served in a bread bowl, in Bratislava, Slovakia

The second dish, had a Slovakian name. However, after I wrote it down, I promptly lost it. The dish was pork, and Sauerkraut, with an additional ingredient, which again wouldn’t top my list of amazing dishes, but it was nice.

And that was about it, for Bratislava in one day. Although we returned from Vienna late the next day, and enjoyed cocktails and snacks at an amazing hang out called Urban House, we didn’t explore much more.

 

Cocktails at Urban House, Bratislava

Bratislava got me into the Christmas spirit, but I don’t think I will be in a rush to return to that city per se; perhaps somewhere else in Slovakia.

Have you ever been to Bratislava, or Slovakia. What were your thoughts? Any recommendations for a re-visit?

Jumping at St Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava, Slovakia

 

Photographs in this article, are credited to the very Talented Jessica Morrison from Creative Ink Pro

 

 

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