On the first weekend of our German intensive period, some of my friends and I decided to travel to Bratislava. Since it is so close to Vienna, it makes for a great day trip, and a great first trip outside the city! Our morning started out with a ride to the train station (after a delicious homemade breakfast burrito), which was a pretty easy ride—just one streetcar all the way to the train station. We bought our train tickets online ahead of time, but had to wait to print them out at the train station. We found the ticket printer pretty easily. It was right where we got off our streetcar.
We were pretty early for our train since we had built in a lot of extra time to find the ticket printer, figure out how to print our tickets, and find the train platform. Vienna Central Station has a lot of shops and food places, so we wandered around the station for a bit, in search of some coffee or pastries. About 15 minutes before our train was set to depart, we went in search of our train platform. We found it pretty easily and boarded our train, since it had already arrived.
It was a beautiful train ride! It was only about 1.5 hours. When we arrived in Bratislava, we used the restroom and headed out of the train station. The restroom cost 50 cents, so note-to-self for future travels: use the restroom on the train if you don’t want to pay. On our way to the city center, we stumbled upon the Presidential Garden and took some pretty group pictures. We also walked by the Presidential Palace.
After we arrived at the city center, we found where we would meet for our tour later in the afternoon. A few of my friends went into a thrift shop, while I went with the other half of my friends to a souvenir shop so that I could buy a postcard. I’ve been collecting postcards from each of the cities that I’ve gone to because they are inexpensive souvenirs that are really easy to pack to bring home.
We ate our packed lunches on benches in the town square and then headed to the Blue Church. It was really blue! It was a light powder blue and it was beautiful! We walked along the Danube on our way back to the city center and saw the UFO bridge. We also stopped by a little craft market, where one of my friends was able to buy a bookmark with pressed flowers and a page from a book in Slovak. We walked around the city a bit more, and then made our way back to the city center for our tour.
The tour of Bratislava was the best tour I have ever been on in my entire life. We started in the city center where we learned about the history of Slovakia and its journey to becoming its own independent nation. We walked around the square and the tour guide pointed out a place where a cannonball from Napoleon was still stuck in the side of a church.
We continued around the city center and he pointed out some of the statues and told us the stories behind them. We walked past the National Theater and learned about some of the other monuments in the square. There was a statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Legend says that if you shake the statue’s hand, it will bring you great writing. Another statue, “Man at Work,” also has a legend: if you rub his head, it will bring you good luck and you will be sure to come back to the city some day. Of course, I rubbed the head of the “Man at Work” and shook the hand of the statue of Hans Christian Andersen!
We also walked past St. Martin’s cathedral and walked the coronation route of the monarchs. Our tour guide also pointed out places where cannon balls were above houses in the streets. After the Napoleonic wars, the government announced that if a house had been damaged by Napoleon’s armies, the government would allow the house not to pay taxes for two years. The tour guide told us that lots of people took cannonballs and threw them into their own houses so that they could be a part of that program.
The climb up to the Bratislava Castle was stunning with breathtaking views. You could see all of the city landmarks from up there! When we got back to the city center, our tour guide told us about traditional Slovakian food and drink. After the tour was over, we tipped our tour guide and went to one of the restaurants that he recommended that served traditional Slovakian food. I had garlic soup in a bread bowl with homemade garlic herb butter. It was delicious!
After dinner, we headed back to the train station to catch our train home. Since Bratislava is so close to Vienna, we got home at a reasonable hour and sat around our kitchen table and had some ice cream and hot chocolate. In the train station on the way home, we saw a sign that said “Heute ist der beste Tag.” I would have to agree.
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Hallo! Ich heiße Carissa. I’m a Westmont College senior who is double majoring in Music Education and History. I am an enthusiastic musician and play the oboe and English horn. In my not-so-free time, you can usually find me baking cupcakes or cookies, painting, or planting seeds in my garden.