Bratislava was an unusual choice for us. But as we researched more about this city tucked between the bustling Prague and romantic Vienna,we were sold.
For people like us who live in Mumbai (India), you can never really escape people, so Bratislava was a toy town for us,straight out of an Enid Blyton book.
People do two things here- drink and drink some more. We remember having coffee at a local cafe (yeah,we drank coffee too) and I remember getting distracted by a loud happy laugh from a group sitting behind us. I awkwardly turned and continued to sip my coffee..Minutes later they gestured saying they were sorry for being so loud ( awkward).. Mr and me decided to make small talk to cut the awkwardness asking them how everybody in the city only seems to be drinking and making merry. They laughed and said ‘it’s a cold country.. we work till about 6 in the evening and than gather here to chat and have a drink’. Simple, un-complicated life.
That is Bratislava.
There is not much to see in terms of landmarks in the city but it’s all about enjoying the solace and serenity of the place. You could walk around the entire city in half a day and would know all signals and lanes by night. Bratislava is not in a race to prove anything, its not trying to be vogue, loud or fast. Despite that it boasts of a highly enjoyable night life 🙂 (highly recommended)
The Bratislava castle is a must visit and can be covered in a couple of hours.
There are also some hidden gems like the ‘Blue Church’. Why is it called so? (Look below)
The church is a Hungarian Secessionist Catholic church located in the eastern part of the Old Town. It was initially part of the neighboring gymnázium and served as the school chapel.
Its just a small walk from the Old Town to get to this bridge. The closest well known spot is the Hviezdoslav’s square with the Slovak national theater or the St. Martin’s Cathedral. The bridge gives a great view of the castle too.
Tip while visiting Bratislava: Keep the trip short, do not take any coach tours (the city is too small to be covered on a coach or a bus) and keep and eye out on off season sales ( shopping is unbelievably cheap).
So if most of you have recovered from the tag line. Let me explain..
I got married this March and decided to put off the honeymoon for a bit as both the Mr and me wanted a longer break, didn’t want to be exhausted (you get the drill)..
So we decided to take the trip in August. One because the weather would be perfect for the countries we wanted to visit and two it would give us enough time to research for the trip ( no amount of research can match impromptu on-ground plans).
So where all did we plan to visit?
Budapest (Hungary), Vienna (Austria) and Prague (Czech Republic). Than we were suggested Bratislava (Slovakia) by a friend and trust me we couldn’t thank him enough.
So why the love affair and what really happened? Europe is so vast that even the most traveled lot can never have enough of it. And for first timers , it changes them forever.
I remember telling my husband the minute we landed, that the vibe was so happy and young that it itself transports you to another world.
So let’s begin with Budapest.
Now historically Budapest as most of you would know,is bisected by the River Danube. The iconic Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with the now more commercial Pest.
Budapest is a city best explored, loved and experienced on foot. We started our three -day tour by visiting the most touristy street of the city ‘Vaci Utica’. We started from there simply because we were famished.
If you are a beer lover like us, you will love this place. I cannot pick out one bad beer experience.
Moving to the food..There are two other things famous in Budapest other than it’s beer and that is ‘Langos’ and Paprika chicken.
Langos is the anti-healthy Hungarian food. In most places they call it ‘pasta’. The dough is crispy is on the outer ring and fluffy from inside. Best with sour cream and cheese.
So what should you visit? Well every traveler is unique so can never have ‘one list’. Our agenda was to cover the city on foot ..so we started by shortlisting three places-The Buda Castle, Gellert hill top and the ruin pubs (should do one post just for them,I think).
The Budapest Castle..just so that you don’t get confused, the castle is not on particular building but its a district called the Castle district. You have trams going right upto the castle or you can always walk up to it.
The walk to the castle is beautiful. It is flanked by the majestic Danube on one side and eateries on the other. Walk, beer, walk is pretty much how we covered the city (also beer is cheaper than water).
Buda Castle is the result of many palaces built and destroyed over the centuries, after numerous invasions and attacks on the Hungarian nation. Buda Castle was built by King Béla IV in the 13th century, enlarged in a Gothic style by King Zsigmond of Luxemburg and expanded upon with a Renaissance flair by King Mátyás (1443-1490).
It was then reduced to debris when Buda was liberated from the Turks by the Christian forces (1686) ((Info taken from the castles official tour pamphlet)).
The royal palace, museums and the embassies are all part of this district. The change of guard is a must watch if visiting during tourist season.
Okay lets move to the next destination now..Gellert hill top. This is one of the most prominent landmarks of the city and rightly so. The walk up is no mean task and takes a while before you reach the Citadel.
The Citadel in Budapest is a 19th century fortification on top of Gellert Hill (part of the UNESCO World Heritage site) – the fortress was turned into a lookout tower / stronghold, which provides one of the most stunning views over the river Danube. ((Info taken from the official tour pamphlet)).
By the time we got done with the walk back, it was night and time to party.
The beginning of the 21st century was an exciting turning point in the nightlife of Budapest: in the central area of the city new places were opened one after another in tenement houses and factory buildings doomed to destruction. These were equipped with rejected furniture of old community centres, cinemas, and grandmothers´ flats, bringing a retro feeling into these places. They were soon called ruinpubs and became popular very fast among the youth of Budapest – ruinpub is the exact translation of the Hungarian name. ((Info taken from the official tour pamphlet)).
Well lets talk a little more about the Pest side of the town. Pest is more commercial, is the official hub and also houses the parliament. A quick and relaxing way of covering Pest is by taking the day or night cruise on the Danube.
The Hungarian Parliament is the world’s third largest Parliament building. The Parliament building, a magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture (although displaying Renaissance and Baroque characters too), is just over 100 years old.
There is just so much to do in this culturally vibrant and happy city but we could pack only this much in our short trip.
So this should have happened alot earlier but due to health issues,well this had to wait…
Now is it funny that despite having known ,courted and dated someone for so long, you still feel like its day one of seeing them on the day of the wedding? I had woken up early, had a small ritual in the house and than was advised to sleep for bit as I would be needing all of it ,come evening..
Slight chill in the air. Dimly lit ferry lights. The unit ban was to perform that evening, which meant in addition to a trip down memory lane, it was also going to be alot of dance,music and daaru.
The Mehendi night though came with alot of pressure. One because I am a huge mehendi fan and two because one of my closest friends (I bet she is sheepishly smiling reading this) wanted ‘the best mehendi application’, because of her not-so great mehendi nights. With that in my head, I sat down for my mehendi, hoping to free by the time the guests started to pour in. Knowing me, my mehendi designs had been planned well in advance. For my hands we did a ‘wedding story’. It had a sequence right from the ‘varmalah’ to ‘sindhoor’. For my feet we created an intricate arabic net.
5 hours later,I was still not done but the revelry did..
The unit band was churning out one old classic after another and my men danced like there was no tomorrow.
“There is no instinct like that of the heart-Lord Byron”
We are usually not the goofy ones. Maybe he is. The boy and I are alike and unlike in equal ways. I still remember,for our first date he was ’10 mins’ late and Iectured him about how he was dating an army officers daughter and that time was really important to me, Most men would have flipped, but he stood there and smiled..What followed were alot of beers and endless stories.
‘Stealing kisses from him seems like second nature now’
Indian weddings,they say are the most lavish, most loud (well sometimes),grand,colorful and damn long..
This description fits the bill even better when you are from the Northern part of the country. Well, thank fully for me, my family has always been the subtle one so the wedding wasn’t going to be a pomp and show, but an intimate affair (well..almost).