When it comes to traveling, I feel like I developed a pattern. I tend to always strive for places and destinations that are far away, the further the better. At least it looks like that when I look at the stamps in my passport. Colombia, New Zealand, the U.S.A, Mexico … all of those places are at least a 7 hour flight away.
I only started to realize that about a year ago, when people I talked to were always sure that wouldn’t be interested in a trip to Italy, because “I’m sure you’ve been there already”. They were always pretty surprised when I told them that I hardly knew Europe yet. I haven’t been to Italy really, I haven’t been to London or Paris and I haven’t even been to Bratislava, which is literally RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER.
So in May, a friend and I decided to check out Bratislava for a couple of days. Not knowing what to expect, because, well, it is so close to Vienna and the Austrian border, we were a bit afraid it would be pretty much the same but smaller.
Since I was used to go on faraway travels, with long flights and lot’s of preparations, the first thing that positively surprised me was how uncomplicated everything was. We simply hopped on a flixbus at Vienna Erdberg, paid about 7 Euros and off we went to an, to us, unknown country.
On arriving in Bratislava we instantly noticed that, although it is so close to the Austrian border, it is indeed a whole different country, with a language we didn’t understand, signs we couldn’t read and unfamiliar customs.
After a little detour on the highway lane (we kind of didn’t find the normal way to the city centre) we arrived in the old town of Bratislava.
I was instantly hooked. All those cute little houses – maybe a bit more haggard than in Vienna – unique shops and cafés in every corner and a lot of street art everywhere. The city center really does look like straight out of a fairytale. We got there early in the morning so we quickly agreed on what we wanted to do first – breakfast! 😉
A friend of mine told me via Instagram about Mondieu and what I could already tell from the photos on Instagram – it was exactly my kind of breakfast place. We weren’t disappointed. Lots of Avocado, poached eggs, fresh fruit and all kinds of smoothies and juices, the choices on the menu were endless. We opted for Avocado bread, homemade juice and XL Cappuccinos and well, I have to say, I was so happy with my choice, that I ended up ordering the same things the next morning again! 😉
The Mondieu we found the first day (there is more than one in Bratislava) was the cutest place ever. It also smelled like freshly baked cake and perfectly roasted coffee beans. I could have stayed there all day long. Even the waiters were incredible, giving us tips for what to do and see in Bratislava and smiling all the time (something I probably only noticed because I’m living Vienna! 😉 )
After breakfast we decided to roam the old town for a bit, before heading towards our Airbnb. Before we went to Bratislava, people kept telling me that it is so small, that you wouldn’t even need a full day to explore it. While wandering the old city I kept wondering what the hell all those people were talking about. There was so much to see. Beautiful courtyards, well hidden from the touristy areas, street art everywhere, ruins next to posh buildings, manufacturing shops selling all kinds of artefacts and most of all, remains of history everywhere.
We eavesdropped a lady giving a free tour around the old town, who told her audience that there are still cannonballs stuck all over the buildings of town. Those are there since the year 1809, when Napoleons artillery bombarded Bratislava for three days. We spotted one of the remaining ones in the façade of the Old Town Hall and the guide told us that people nowadays are making some kind of cannonball treasure hunt out of finding more of them stuck in the walls all over town.
Next to this bizarre custom, my favorite thing about Bratislava was the contrasts everywhere. Contrasts between old and new, modern and traditional, beauty and decay. There is a building in the middle of the gorgeous old town for example which looks like it would collapse any moment. I have no idea why it is there, left a ruin, right in the middle of town. But buildings like these are scattered all over town and they give it a very special kind of atmosphere.
On our way up to our Airbnb we spotted many more of those lost places. Some of them right next to official government buildings. These contrasts are something we didn’t know from Vienna. The areas close to any important building or touristy sight are always spotless in Vienna.
We lived quite far away from the old town, which gave us the opportunity to get to know the less touristy parts of town too. What I noticed is, that the remains of the communist era are still very prominent and that there are a lot of areas which seem to be left to itself. In the midst of those you’ll still find quite a few cute pop-up cafés or bar though, so don’t make the mistake to not go there.
To me, those areas of town were even more interesting than the pretty ones in the old town area. I felt like the citys’ communist past is still very present. There are even free walking tours starting from the old town which specialize on the communist history of Bratislava. Unfortunately we missed it twice and will have to come back for it one day! 😉
More about our trip to Bratislava in the next post.