Bratislava –first impressions

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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.

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Paddywagon experience

I have to admit, I’m usually not a big fan of organized tours. I always feel like they don’t give me a proper chance to explore and take everything in. But since I only had five days in Ireland and the alternative option of renting a car and driving around on our own scared us too much ( …. with all the driving on the wrong side and so on! ;P ) , we decided to try out one of Irelands most famous and most popular bus tours. Paddywagon.

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Everything happens on the wrong side.
It hasn’t been my first visit in a country where driving on the left is considered the RIGHT side! But this time, I have to admit, there were a few quite funny and a bit embarrassing moments which will be remembered and some definitely shared!

We booked our tours a couple of days in advance on the Paddywagon website. We wrote them an Email, asking if there are any special discounts for students and then got told that there isn’t an official one, but they would be happy to offer us a 15 percent discount if we book online. So if you are sure about the days you want to do a bus tour while in Ireland, book online! 🙂 For the more spontaneous people of you, there is always the possibility to just walk into their office and buy a ticket there. We had people on our tour who just showed up at 7 am, 15 minutes before the bus left, and they still got a ticket! 😉

Our Paddywagon experience started around 7 am, we were lucky to live quite close to their first pick-up stop, the Paddy’s Palace Hostel. I really recommend to get on the bus at this stop, especially in winter, when waiting outside is not fun at all. They have a lovely check-in area there, which provides you with magazines and brochures while waiting and the staff there can give you lots of information about the tours and Dublin in general. Also you will be one of the first to enter the bus, which means… all the best seats are still available!

We followed Jon, the Paddywagon driver  to the bus and right in front of the door he stops and turns around… looking at us with his stern eyes and  says: “ I’m the driver“ . Since he introduces himself a couple of minutes ago, we didn’t really understand why he felt like he need to explain who he is again, but all of us were like „Yeah“ , but Jon, looks at us again and says without even smiling the tiniest bit „I’m driving the bus“. Really confused now we stood there, until we realized… we were lining up in front of the drivers door. So we quickly changed to the other side and he let us in the bus….

This is when I first realized… I really liked the Irish humor; it’s kind of dark, whacky and sarcastic. Most of the time, when talking to an Irish person, I wasn’t even sure if he/she was serious or not and only after I reflected on the situation a bit, I realized it was in fact just another joke. This Irish humor is also one of the reasons why I really enjoyed the ride with Paddywagon.

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The two drivers I was lucky to meet on my daytrips to the Giants Causeway and The cliffs of Moher, have been two of the funniest people I’ve met in the world. Especially our driver Jon left me rocking with laughter every ten minutes.

Another thing that really made time fly bye was the facts on Irish history the drivers tell you whenever you reach a place that comes with a tale or with some important historical background.
The drivers also sing and not just once… sometimes maybe even a bit too much (for my taste at least) but since it’s traditional Irish songs they sing for you (while driving of course) it just adds up to this feeling of… „getting to know the real Ireland a bit“.
And I know, I know…. riding on a tourist bus is probably not the real Ireland, but I had a feeling that all the stuff they were telling us on the tour and all the songs and everything, wasn’t just for touristy purposes, but really a part of the Irish culture.

Additionally to all the On-the-bus things I liked about Paddywagon, I really liked the way they planned their bus stops.
I’m one of those girls, who already worries about the next bathroom stop when entering the bus, car or whatever means of transportation. On the tour we stopped about every 1,5 hours. You always had the chance to walk around for a bit, buy a snack and use the lavatories without feeling rushed!

Another big advantage of traveling Ireland with Paddywagon was that the drivers definitely knew the best restaurants, coffee places, tracks and photo locations, and they were always happy to share that information. This way I successfully avoided the bulks of tourists at all of our stops and I was able to take some beautiful pictures without hundreds of fellow travelers photobombing.

We did two day-tours with Paddywagon. On our first day, we went up to Northern Ireland to see the Giants Causeway and the next day we took the tour to the world famous Cliffs of Moher. On the way there we saw quite a bit of the Irish countryside and stopped at a couple of truly amazing spots. I definitely fell in love with Ireland in these two days.

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More about the cliffs and the causeway in my next post. 🙂 For more pictures, check out my Instagram.

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http://www.paddywagontours.com/