A spot of rain can’t dampen spirits on a trip to this picturesque Czech city, writes Andrea Bailey.
The weather forecast showed light showers in Bratislava on the morning I planned a spur-of-the-moment day-trip, but that couldn’t put me off.
I was staying in Vienna, only 50km away and an easy drive – and told myself, why not?
Small enough to see in day, with enough to explore that you won’t get bored, the capital city of Slovakia packs a serious punch when it comes to old-fashioned charm and beauty.
On January 1, 1993, former Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved to form the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Slovakia shares borders with five countries: the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary.
The national capital Bratislava, formerly named Pressburg, is located in south-western Slovakia, and is the only capital to border two countries – Austria and Hungary.
As the bus reached the Bratislava town terminal, the sky had turned a menacing shade of black, and a thunderstorm began in earnest a few minutes later.
After a half-hour of rain and hailstones, I had a decision to make. Either I could stay dry and safe – or, I could take my chances and catch the red city tour mini-train or ‘Presporacik’, and head out around town.
Making a dash for it through the downpour, I made it to the little bio-fuel powered train and jumped aboard, as it set out on the hour-long tour, trundling around the picturesque town.
Bratislava Castle sits prominent and unmistakable, atop a hill overlooking the Danube. Formerly a Moravian fortress and then a border post, the castle later became an imperial palace under the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, in the 18th century.
This was the golden age for Bratislava, when the city reached the pinnacle of its glory.
The train made a 20-minute stop at the castle for us to take pictures. The views over the town, with its gothic spires and sparkling Danube River, were breath taking. The National Gallery, St. Martin’s Cathedral and the National Museum are the other points of interest – with these beautiful monuments telling the tale of this city’s Austro-Hungarian past.
By the time the tour ended at the town square, the sun was shining, the sky was blue once again and the little kiosks selling trinkets began to open up.
Some jugglers started their act on the lawns along the promenade, and children scampered up to watch them.
The town square and its quaint shops provided a lovely way to pass an afternoon, wandering aimlessly and soaking up the atmosphere of the place.
It was soon time to leave one of Central Europe’s most beautiful capitals behind.
My advice to future visitors would be: whatever the weather, you really can’t go wrong with a visit to Bratislava.
THINGS TO DO AROUND BRATISLAVA
– A 10-minute drive along the Danube takes you to the ruins of Devin Castle, where displays of medieval history are featured. It’s a site popular with families, providing a fun, carnival-like atmosphere.
– The pier to the river cruises is located near the old town; this is where you can take a short or longer river cruise – all the way to Vienna or Budapest, if you so wish.
– Stroll along the riverside to discover floating restaurants, offering a variety of local and international fare.
This piece originally appeared on the Arabian Radio Network’s Dubai Eye website
Andrea Bailey is a Dubai based travel writer. She is also a travel consultant with Travel Counsellors and specializes in cruises, family holidays and honey moons. When she’s not out and about discovering destinations and different cuisines of the world, you would probably find her busy with her 3 daughters and her other passions involving art and music.
As a mosaic artist, she has travelled to Italy and studied ancient Roman techniques of the art form and as a jazz flautist she has had the opportunity of performing across various Dubai venues.