Bratislava, Slovakia’s state capital and largest city is where I finally felt like I was heading back into territory more unfamiliar to me than my travels of the past few months. This made it feel like the perfect time to take another step outside my comfort zone towards overcoming my terror of water. So what did I do? Well I booked a room in a botel (yup, a hotel in a boat on the Danube river) instead of heading to a local hostel.
To be honest I hadn’t put much thought into it when I booked the room, perhaps simply because had I thought about it in the slightest I’d have chickened out. I must admit that at first the nights were a bit terrifying. Strange dreams filled my head and sounds I swear I’d only ever heard in horror films involving boats sinking or ghost ships filled the night air. (You know the sounds… metal slowly creaking against metal as the sound unmistakably echoes deep under the water lowering in tone as the sound waves plummet farther into the murky depths to be lost forever… water splashing against the sides whispering quiet threats but beckoning me to come closer… *shudders… then snaps out of it* Ahem, where was I? Oh yes…)
I’m glad however that I didn’t decide to stay on nice, solid, non-swaying land since the botel turned out to be right near the old section so walking to everything and exploring the town at my own speed was a snap… as was spending as little time as possible on the boat.
Before I arrived I knew nothing about the county or it’s long and often turbulent history. While there however I lucked into finding a free walking tour of the city! If you’ve never gone on one of these and there’s one available, my advice is try it out! The guide works for tips so they generally try very hard to make it an interesting, fun and educational walk around.
There’s been a permanent settlement here since around 5000 BC (!) so getting everything into a 3.5 hour tour would have been exhausting and totally impossible, but he did very well to cover a lot of interesting bits about Bratislava. I won’t go into the history because, like I said, it’s far too long, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia’s entry about Bratislava, Slovakia will give you a good start.
One of the many things that stuck with me was the local superstition and folklore. According to local legends most things are good luck in Slovakia, for example, getting hit with a bird dropping.. great luck… but it’s very bad luck to speak while passing through Michael’s Gate. Inside the gates however are restaurants and shops (and many people happily chatting it up!). Up for the challenge I decided to order a meal, eat and pay the bill, all without saying a word and left with my luck intact. Superstitious? Me? OK, perhaps a bit… I was sleeping on a boat after all, so let’s just say I wasn’t ready to take any extra risks by testing out local superstitions. ;)
Some Photos of Bratislava
As night fell the castle was lit up and looked even more like a fairy tale than during the day! This is the view from my room on the Botel looking at the castle high up on the hill, beautiful!
Michalska Brana (Michael’s Gate)
This is where I’m told it becomes bad luck to speak until you’ve passed through (fully) to the other side.
Toronto: 6981km away
Inside the gate leaving the old town is a circle showing the distance to large cities around the world, here’s how far I’ve gone.
See that little black circle on the left of the window? That’s a cannonball Napoleon shot at the town hall in 1809. On the corner of the tower is the statue of Madonna of 1676.
St. Elizabeth’s Church – The Blue Little Church
One of the most unique (that I’ve seen) examples of regional Art Nouveau architecture, this church was built from 1907-1913.
Artistic Details on the Little Blue Church
Here’s a close up photo of the artwork above the door.
This church has a lot of details that are quite interesting including this eye in a pyramid!
What’s this doing in here? Well it’s a very famous photo taken by Ladislav Bielik in 1968 showing the Soviets invading Bratislava. This photo has long been miscredited as having been taken in Prague…
Current Scene in Bratislava
Here’s a photo I took showing the same location as the previous photo… definitely Bratislava, not Prague!