Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bratislava: Walking to the Castle

The afternoon plan was to walk up to Bratislava Castle, Bratislavský hrad for those following along in the Slovak. And when I say up, I mean up. It was a steep uphill walk!

I first had to walk under the highway with that UFO bridge:

Then around it:

Past St. Martin's Cathedral, where, as I said, the Communists built the dang highway right next to the church (and apparently razed the old Jewish Quarter, too, as part of the process):

I walked up the long hill to the castle and thought about Bratislava. Bratislava is definitely a more manageably sized city than Prague. Prague is huge with a massive tourist quarter. Bratislava is more like a mid-sized state capital, like Boise or Madison, in that there is a nice walkable core where a visitor can easily get to anything he or she wants to see. The Madison comparison is apt for another reason. Slovakia is a lot like the Wisconsin of Central Europe. They love their dairy products in Slovakia. Cheese. And the ice cream is very good. Much better than in Prague. Prague is a terrible ice cream. Wretched. The ice cream there is all grainy, like a tub of cheap supermarket ice cream that's been left in the fridge too long. Awesome hoppy beer in Prague. But nasty ice cream. And that's important in a town. In Bratislava, the ice cream is smooth and rich and tasty, just as you would expect from the Dairyland of the Old Warsaw Pact.

Maybe I was getting oxygen-deprivation on this long high climb. Maybe that's the reason why my brain went off on that tangent as I climbed the hill. Finally, I reached the gates of the castle:

Impressive gates. The King of Slovakia does not live in Bratislava Castle (presuming there even ever was a King of Slovkia and they didn't just have Hungarians and Habsburgs crammed down their throats for several hundred years). However, the Parliament Building is right next door:

I was somewhat disappointed that the Slovakian Parliament meets in such a boring modern building. Even though Slovakia is very young as an independent nation, couldn't they have found some 700-year-old building to seat their government in? By the way, they have a nice little memorial to Alexander Dubček, an actual good and honorable Communist. Dubček was a Slovak native who was responsible for the "Prague Spring" in Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed by the Soviets.

The castle actually is somewhat gutted, although there are exhibits from the Slovak National Museum on site.

The best thing about the castle grounds are the views, it being situated high above the city and all.

It's the UFO bridge again!

See those windmills on the other side of the Danube, just right of the center of the picture, on the horizon line? That's Austria. The Austrian frontier is quite close to downtown Bratislava.

And now, before I talk about supper, some pictures of trams:

Apropos of nothing. I just like taking pictures of trolleys. I think they're the most photogenic of transportation means. Except for this, of course:

That's my car! On the walk up (and again on the walk back down) from the castle, I saw my car. It's an Audi A3 TDI in Meteor Gray.

Anyway, speaking of trams, I forgot to mention something about the Prague subway. They're trolleys! I don't know if you can see it in this picture I took inside one of the metro stations, but if you look closely, above the tracks, are guide wires:

I never noticed that in any other subway I've ridden. It's not like I've ridden in all that many (Washington, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Madrid, and Budapest are the only others I can recall. Boston maybe, too.) Well, I found it interesting.

Anyway, I had supper tonight -- my final supper in the Slavic half of my trip -- it's all Magyar from this point forward -- at a nice place called the 1 Slovak Pub. I did not take my camera to take pictures of my meal because I appear to have a 4GB brain in a terabyte world. I ordered the Bryndzové halušky s klobásou. You don't need to depend on me for a picture of it. Here's a picture from someone else's Bratislava travel blog: http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/577299

As I said, the Slovakians love their cheese. These are potato dumplings (gnocchi or spaetzle equivalent) drowning in smoked sheep's cheese, topped with fried sausage that tasted like a Polish kielbasa. Supposedly there was cabbage / sauerkraut in there, but I couldn't taste it. Best meal of the trip so far. Best dish of 2011 anywhere so far, I believe. Definitely best dish of 2011 anywhere but the M Buffet. Wash down he halusky with a couple of dark Zlatý Bažants and a good time was had by all. And to think I was thinking of skipping the Slovak food for tonight.

One last photo before I turn in for the night. These statues commemorate the Slovak National Uprising, which may have put them on the side of the really really bad guys in WWII.

I do like the statues, even though they are a somewhat on the side of socialist realism.

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