Spring (or not) in Bratislava

(English below)

Photo gallery

Frühling in Bratislava

Aufwiedersehen Austria, Ahoj Slovakia

Aufwiedersehen Austria, Ahoj Slovakia

A room designed for us

A room designed for us

Just chillin'

Just chillin’

Next stop Istanbul...only 1231km to go (if we were a crow)

Next stop Istanbul…only 1231km to go (if we were a crow)

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava

Bratislava

Freezing through spring at the entrance of the castle in Bratislava

Freezing through spring at the entrance of the castle in Bratislava

The view across the Danube from the castle

The view across the Danube from the castle

The flower of union from the Soviet days

The flower of union from the Soviet days

A communist-era pyramid in Bratislava

A communist-era pyramid in Bratislava

1.5L beer for €1.19 (that's 1970's prices)

1.5L beer for €1.19 (that’s 1970’s prices)

Crossing the Danube under snowy skies

Crossing the Danube under snowy skies

Nina enjoying some snowsports

Nina enjoying some snowsports

Bike path signs Slovak style

Bike path signs Slovak style

Winter Christmas tree shopping anyone

Winter Christmas tree shopping anyone

Am 23. März radelten wir von Wien nach Bratislava. Im letzten österreichischen Städtchen vor der slovakischen Grenze, Hainburg an der Donau, genossen wir noch Kaffee und Kuchen und fuhren anschliessend in die Stadt Bratislava hinein. Obwohl die kulturelle und sprachliche Vielfalt in Europa eine Selbstverständlichkeit ist, führten mir diese letzten paar Kilometer mehr denn je vor Augen, wie nah alles beieinander liegt und doch so unterschiedlich sein kann. Da hatten wir in Hainburg gerade eben noch Kaffee getrunken und uns mit der Kellnerin auf Deutsch unterhalten können und 30 Minuten später verstanden wir die Sprache nicht mehr, sprossen Plattenbauten aus der kommunistischen Ära in die Höhe und die Leute, denen wir auf der Strasse begegneten, waren so freundlich und interessiert, wie wir das in Österreich kaum erlebt hatten.

Je näher wir dem Zentrum Bratislavas kamen, desto mehr lösten Rokoko-Gebäude aus dem 18. Jahrhundert die Plattenbauten ab und Bratislava entpuppte sich als äusserst charmante und lebendige Stadt.

Wir hatten im Voraus ein Zimmer in einem Hostel gebucht, das zwar etwas heruntergekommen, dafür aber kaum besucht war und so stand uns sozusagen ein ganzes Hostel mit eigener Küche etc. zur Verfügung. Wir blieben gleich drei Nächte dort und genossen es, nach den ersten 16 Reisetagen  sowas wie ein eigenes Zuhause zu haben. Da sich Bratislava von seiner winterlichen Seite zeigte (Schnee und Minustemparaturen), verbrachten wir unsere Zeit nebst den Stadtspaziergängen vor allem mit Brunchen, Kochen, Essen und Wein Trinken, Lesen, Filme Schauen etc.

Nach diesen zwei gemütlichen Tagen radelten wir am 26. März weiter Richtung Györ in Ungarn. Es hatte die ganze Nacht geschneit und so fiel uns die Wahl zwischen matschigen Hauptstrassen, auf welchen die Autos nur so hin und her rutschten, und den schneebedeckten Radrouten nicht leicht. Wir entschieden uns für Letztere, was sich aber spätestens nach der ungarischen Grenze als Fehler entpuppte, da unsere Fahrräder den vielen Schnee auf den ohnehin holprigen Feldwegen kaum zu bewältigen vermochten. Good bye Slovakia hello Hungary!

Spring (or not) in Bratislava

Following a quick breakfast with our two delightful (but sleep deprived) hosts Marco and Angela, we set off on Saturday morning (23rd March) from Vienna towards the end of Austria and then into Slovakia.  We sampled our last typical Austrian coffee and dessert in Hainburg on the Danube, before crossing the border into Slovakia, and then heading the last few kilometers for the day into the capital, Bratislava.

Although these few kilometers seemed incredibly minute, geographically speaking, for us it meant a huge change in our comfort level.  Gone was the ability to properly converse with all people on the street, and from now on we could only hope that we came across people that understood some small parts of English or German, since our combined Slovakian abilities amounted to about zero.

Culturally and historically speaking, this border crossing also represented a big step.  Coming from an Austrian landscape littered with Habsburg-era castles and churches, to now be confronted upon first glance in Slovakia with row after row of communist style block buildings and numerous sky-reaching signal towers.  The general reservedness of the Austrians, then gave way to a different mentality of the Slovakians.  We’d hardly stopped to check the map when we greeted by a helpful fellow cyclist, interested in what we were up to, and where we needed to get.  Riding into the center of Bratislava we were greeted by a small beautiful old town filled with Baroque buildings and churches (which thankfully the Allies and later the Russians hadn’t totally destroyed), which we looked forward to exploring during the next few days.

We had decided that Bratislava warranted a few days of our time, so we checked into a cheap hostel (the wall of our room being appropriately adorned with a painting of a Penny-farthing) and for the first time since we’d left Bern, enjoyed having time for ourselves without any definite plans.  We set about making ourselves comfortable, and since a snowy March seemed not to be the peak tourist season in Bratislava, had more or less the whole place just for us – which suited Nina, with her innate ability of spreading her belongings far and wide in the blink of an eye, just perfectly – ordered chaos she calls it.

Rugged up for the winter (not spring as we’d desperately been hoping for) weather, we ambled through the quaint old and town enjoying the lovely buildings, scrambled up the icy path to the castle overlooking Bratislava and the Danube, and looked in amazement (and amusement) at the remnants of supposedly inspiring communistic architecture.

The rest of our time was spent eating brunch, cooking dinner, drinking wine and ridiculously cheap beer (1.5l for €1.20 anyone), reading and watching movies.  The freezing weather (snow, minus degrees and a bone-slicing wind) outside gave us a good chance just to stay inside in the warmth and relax a bit.

Tuesday morning (26th March) arrived suddenly and that meant again bike-riding.  We were met with more of the same weather-wise, so we rugged up, loaded up the bikes, and went skiing with our bikes for a day through the snow.  Since it had snowed fairly consistently the previous 72 hours, we had to make the decision between icy slushy main roads (with cars skidding all over the place) or totally snow covered bike paths – neither option filling us with excitement naturally.  And so off we went, along the bike path (hard work and perseverance still being preferable to ending up as Slovakian road kill) towards Hungary and our destination for the night Györ.

We made reasonably steady progress the first hour, and then crossed the border into Hungary along what could only be described as goat track, and then things changed…