Beauteous Bratislava

If you want to visit a less touristy country while in central Europe, just head to a quaint and quiet Slovakia.

We took a flight from Brussels to reach Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. With a city map in hand, we were geared up to explore the city. Oh yeah, before that, we had to attend to the cries of our stomach, and this led us to a restaurant; we ordered for a veg pizza and orange juice each. We were so ravenous that we gobbled our food up. We had cappuccino soon after. Well, when we were finally ready for the expedition, the rain clouds had gathered! Nevertheless, that did not dampen our spirits as we’d equipped ourselves to face the vagaries of the weather.

Presidential Palace, BratislavaGrassalkovich GardensA commercial building

Bratislava did boast monumental buildings used primarily for commercial purposes. One such building housed the company Ernst & Young. We walked through the Old Town – the buildings took us back to the Austro-Hungarian rule in Slovakia. We got to see the palace of the President of Slovakia called the Grassalkovich Palace. We also took a peek at the gardens behind the Palace. As we walked ahead, the Old Town Hall greeted us. We stopped to look at the Primatial Palace built in classical style.

Old Town Hall, BratislavaPrimatial PalaceSchone Naci

On the streets, we came across statues symbolizing historical people/events. One popular statue was of this man called Schone Naci who wanted to bring happiness to the local people. He used to be wearing a tailcoat and greeting passers-by with his top hat, especially in the Old Town. (We bought his little statue as a souvenir.) We passed by the Slovak National Theatre. The Hviezdoslav Square with its cobbled stones took us back in time. We then headed to St Michael’s Gate – this was from the medieval times where it used to serve as one of the entry/exit points of this place. Later, we spent some silent moments at the ancient Franciscan Church.

Hviezdoslav SquareSt Michael's Gate at the end of the streetFranciscan Church

As we continued with our stroll, we came across stacks of yellow circular objects. From a distance, I thought they were tyres, only to realize in a few seconds they were gigantic Holland cheese. Ah, now I “say cheese” and there, I see you smiling. 🙂 It was time for a next round of refreshments. We visited a plush-looking cafe. The frothy and creamy cappuccino we’d ordered for, the lively ambience around and the customer-friendly price left us spellbound. Btw, Slovak is the national language; but luckily, the locals also spoke English.

Bratislava CastleSay cheese!frothy & creamy cappuccino

Bratislava is a reservoir of caves and castles.  We could see the Bratislava Castle (that overlooks river Danube) only from a distance. It was dark by then. However, the Castle looked extremely appealing thanks to the artistic lighting. We only wished we had more time at our disposal so we could have gone inside the Castle and enjoyed the beauty of it all the more.

It was time to bid adieu to a beauteous Braty. We took a tram to reach the station where we had to board our train to Vienna that night. As you must have guessed, I will next take you on a trip to Vienna. Until then, cheerio!

Priceless Prague

Looking for a country with a glitzy and medieval aura while in Europe? You could head to the Czech Republic.

We took a flight from Paris. It was almost midnight when we reached Prague, aka Praha, the capital city of the Czech Republic. We had booked a taxi well in advance so as to be chauffeured to our hotel. The hotel room was like a holiday home. It had a neat kitchenette and a lovely garden overlooked it. A healthy European breakfast used to be door-delivered every morning.

Boulevard on Wenceslas  Square Prague  Astronomical Clock St Nicholas Church - interior

The next morning we walked to the Wenceslas Square, also known as the New Town City. It was a lovely boulevard with huge flowering plants taking centre stage, quite literally. The National Museum was also located in this area.  We then went on a stroll to the famed Prague Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square. Installed in the year 1410, it is apparently the world’s oldest astronomical clock in working condition. We also visited the ornamental St Nicholas Church.

View from the Prague Castle     St Vitus Cathedral

We walked uphill to the popular Prague Castle – supposed to be the biggest castle in the world; it reflected the Bohemian Baroque architecture. We went to the St Vitus Cathedral within the castle. We marvelled at its excellent Gothic architecture. As we stepped out, we could  see the security guards from the Castle marching forward to the tunes of a brass band. Later, we took a break and had cappuccino at a cafe. From a distance, we could see the Charles Bridge as also river Vltava flowing by. We then walked on this Bridge and got a glimpse of the beauty around. Large medieval buildings and cathedrals dotted the city. There were cartoonists, caricaturists, musicians, etc making brisk business on this long stretch of the Bridge. We could also see innovative beggars – some with their dogs – drawing the attention of the public.

Charles Bridge  Musician on Charles Bridge Innovation in alms-seeking

One of the days, we spent almost eight hours in the Prague Zoo. It was nice to see someClouded leopards of the Prague Zoo endangered animals and birds being offered protection and taken care of. But at the same time we were sure they missed their naturally wide and wild habitat!

We visited a souvenir shop where we bought some miniature Clock Towers, mugs, etc. Prague is famous for its crystals and gems; there are exclusive showrooms making roaring business. Yours truly was attracted to them and splurged out on a few delicate ornaments.

We walked into a local restaurant along with a group of friends for dinner one night. We placed an order for soft drinks, salads, veg pastas, etc. Soon after, we were each given a packet of salted peanuts; they came to us without our asking. The waiter chirpily implored us to enjoy the nuts. It seemed like a genuine act of generosity towards hungry customers like us. But given the fleecing nature of the city, we felt it was too good to believe. Well, our  speculation soon ended: we were charged some nutty prices for those nuts! The next day, at another restaurant, the waiter had a bill for us with a stamp “Tips extra” on it. We were told by the locals that those stamps were meant specifically for tourists. No wonder Prague thrives on tourist business. Btw, we managed to watch the finals of the UEFA Champions League sitting in one of the cafes.

While in Norway the first time in 2009, I had witnessed a cultural evening by a bunch of international students from the Czech Republic. I had found the country interesting and had dreamt of visiting it one fine day. A dream not unfounded, would you say? 🙂