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Friday, September 12, 2014

6 Hours and Some Scary Moments in Bratislava, Slovakia on 9/7

We’d decided to visit Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital and only a 70 minute bus ride from Vienna, for the day. The ride only cost us 12 euro each round trip, about $15 but another 4 euro to get to and from that bus station. What a deal to see another country for a day! Neither of us knew really anything about Slovakia before going so we boned up the country a bit. Here’s some info if you’re interested; if not, just skip it of course.

Separation of Czechoslovakia into 2 countries:
In many ways, Slovakia is considered the ‘West Virginia of Europe’– relatively poor and undeveloped but spectacularly beautiful in its own rustic way. With about 5.5 million people in a country the size of 19,000 square miles (about the size of Mass. and NH combined), Slovakia is one of Europe’s smallest nations.

After the former Czechoslovakia gained their freedom from the communists during 1989’s ‘Velvet Revolution,’ the Czechs and Slovaks began to think of the future. The Slovaks wanted to redistribute power to give them more power in the union but the Czechs balked and relations gradually deteriorated. When the Slovak nationalist candidate fared surprisingly well in the 1992 elections, politicians took that as a sign that the 2 peoples wanted to part ways and pushed through the peaceful separation of the now independent Czech and Slovak Republics. The people in both countries never actually voted on the change and most opposed it but the ‘Velvet Divorce’ became official on 1/1/93.

Craftsmen Days: While waiting for the bus, we were lucky enough to meet2 lovely Viennese women, an older mother and her 50ish daughter who were traveling to Bratislava for the day specifically to visit the Handicrafts Market and Fair just held on the weekend. How lucky again we happened to be at the right place at the right time because I especially love them and Steven enjoys them to a lesser extent. Loved seeing all the Slovakian crafters demonstrating their talents.

Craftsmen Days: While waiting for the bus, we were lucky enough to meet 2 lovely Viennese women, an older mother and her 50ish daughter who were traveling to Bratislava for the day specifically to visit the Handicrafts Market and Fair just held on the weekend. How lucky again we happened to be at the right place at the right time because I especially love crafts fairs and Steven enjoys them to a lesser extent. Loved seeing all the Slovakian crafters demonstrating their talents.
The mother had a lovely smile and laugh but she didn't like smiling for photos.They had been to the US including Vegas; every European we met last trip and this one seems to have been to or can't wait to go to Vegas when in the US.
I just wonder who loves gingerbread!!
This woman sold eggs beautifully covered with embroidery as did the woman below.


Reminded me of the scene in the movie 'Ghost' with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.

Men and their cars: another car show but a smaller version of the one we'd seen in Torun, Poland earlier this trip.
Weird seeing the sign only in English.

The musicians were playing in front of the Slovak National Theater built in 1886.

Saw lots of people lined up at this food stall in another square so we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Found out it's a Slovak dish served with 2 types of pasta: one served with curd cheese and the other a potato mixture. See photo with Steven below eating it. I had a good bit of it too. It was SO cold that day we wanted anything that was the slightest bit hot!

Back to the craft stalls below after our bite to eat. These stalls featured weavers almost exclusively. Thought of you, Darlene, natch, here! Glad to hear your weaving is going so well; can't wait to see how much you've done in our abscence.

Found this fun to watch for a bit especially knowing I would never have the patience for such detailed work, let alone the eyes.

Slovakian Dancers & Musicians:
 I’m always a sucker for these types of performances and can sit or stand watching and listening native dancing and musicians for a long time. We were lucky enough to see not one but 2 sets of Slovakian dancers and musicians perforning  on separate stages.

You should have seen the set of abs (or 6 pack as you'd say, Nina!) on this fellow.

The following are just photos of street scenes I hope you find interesting..

All things Klimt, i.e. the famous Austrian painter.
Steven and another Suit of Armor shot!

Zero Point, i.e. distances from Bratislava to various points around the world.

Weird again seeing this in English.

Sure never seen anything like this before on a street.

Saw the priest just leaving St. Martin's Cathedral below; very heartwarming as Catholic seeing nuns and priests in their habits and vestments walking amid the people in every country we've visited since Germany.
The cathedral was consecrated in 1452 and its nave witnessed 19 coronations of  Hungarian kings and their wives taking place from1563 to 1830. The gorgeous interior comprises several chapels.

The Adoration Chapel

Wish I knew what this UFO looking tower was.
Had time on our hands before catching the 4:05 bus back to Vienna so decided to hike up to Bratislava Castle. The 1st written record of the castle dates back to 907 AD. Currently the castle rooms are used as official reception rooms for the Slovak Republic and exhibition halls of the National history Museum.

Yup, we climbed all the way up!

Beef feather anyone from the 250 year old restaurant we passed on the way down to town>

Wonder who these murals are of.
I feel for people not paying attention where they're walking and then coming across this sculpture as they walk down the street.
Interesting art hanging way up in the middle of the street.
Anyone want to eat here?
This was really a sculpture and not a living man dressed as one!

Another dance stage, lucky me and patient Steven!


Saw this fellow a bit later while we were all waiting at the bus station to return to Vienna; went over and complimented him on how well he had danced after asking if he spoke English. He appreciated my compliments and was glad to practise his English for a few minutes.

We had a really fun time in Bratislava UNTIL we returned to the city's bus station with plenty of time to get the 4:05 bus back to Vienna only to find lots of people all waiting for it and more coming every minute as the next bus didn't leave for another 2 hours. When it arrived, all of us crowded around the front door so there wasn’t an inch of space to move in any direction. It was scary and for one of the first times in my life, I actually had a sense of how could start and violence ensue as a result.

The driver said that only passengers with confirmed seats, as opposed to those like us with an open return, would be allowed on. People were beyond furious as many claimed to have been already waiting for 2 hours since there hadn't been enough empty seats on the 1pm bus once those with confirmed seats had been let on. Since Steven and I happened to be standing where the door had opened and where the driver was, we were lucky enough to snag 2 of the last few seats on the bus. What a relief as we didn’t fancy having to wait 2 hours til the next bus came, again with no guarantee of getting on it either.