Europe daily blog #3: Bye, bye, Bratislava

One of Slavin's many vantage points.

One of Slavin's many vantage points.

So there’s two Englishmen, an Irishman and two Scottish women in a pub… Sounds like the start of a Dad joke, right? Yet last night, somewhere underground in Bratislava city centre, it was a very true tale.

It was at The Red Lion, an English Pub in the heart of Slovakia’s capital city, where we met Colm, Alona and Breagh – three English teachers who all moved to Bratislava from the British Isles. They told me how much they loved the city, and provided great company for the evening.

They also embodied the spirit of the city – friendly, welcoming and chilled out. It wasn’t difficult to see why they made the move in the first place.

The relaxed atmosphere was even more apparent today, with plenty of empty streets in Bratislava. This was particularly noticeable on the way to Slavin – a war memorial for fallen soldiers who helped liberate the city from the Nazis in 1945.

A deserted street on the way to Slavin.

A deserted street on the way to Slavin.

Getting to Slavin was a mission as it is located at the top of a hill. There are no cable cars or funiculars, so the steep gradient leading to the summit had to be navigated on foot. Suffice to say I now have calves like Chris Hoy.

The image doesn't do the steepness of the incline enough justice.

The image doesn't do the steepness of the incline enough justice.

Slavin memorial under the blue skies of Bratislava.

Slavin memorial under the blue skies of Bratislava.

Looking out at the city from the top of Slavin's entrance steps.

Looking out at the city from the top of Slavin's entrance steps.

The Slavin memorial is impressive in its own right, and is a fitting tribute to those who perished fighting for their city and country. However, it was slightly sullied by a young couple sat on the memorial’s steps making out.  There isn’t anything wrong with the action per se, but the time and place was not the right one. They should have taken it elsewhere to avoid being disrespectful.

Caught out: a couple getting intimate on a World War II memorial - hardly an appropriate thing to do.

Caught out: a couple getting intimate on a World War II memorial - hardly an appropriate thing to do.

But on a brighter note location gives visitors the opportunity to get panoramic views of the city for no cost whatsoever, and we were able to appreciate Bratislava in all its sunny glory. It was even better because it was a completely free activity.

That’s the way today went, really – saw lots, spent little. Grassalkovich Palace – home of the President of Slovakia since 1996 isn’t open to the public, but is a visually attractive building that tourists should still make the effort to see.

Grassalkovich Palace basking in the sunlight.

Grassalkovich Palace basking in the sunlight.

The Blue Church could also be given the same description, although we were afforded a sneak peak of the inside through its gated door.

The Blue Church is also known as the Church of St Elisabet, who was believed to have been born in Bratislava Castle.

The Blue Church is also known as the Church of St Elisabet, who was believed to have been born in Bratislava Castle.

The one attraction we would have had to pay for was Bratislava Castle. The castle is a monumental building and is a peak along from Slavin. The oldest part of the building dates back to the 13th century and, beginning in the mid-1500s, housed the Hungarian crown jewels for 200 years.

Bratislava Castle was recently renovated and painted white.

Bratislava Castle was recently renovated and painted white.

Although it was tempting to head inside, we were strapped for time and enjoyed the castle grounds instead while soaking up some sun. The various viewing platforms provide not only great views of the city, but also neighbouring Austria and Hungary, if the weather permits.

Looking down over Bratislava from the castle grounds.

Looking down over Bratislava from the castle grounds.

Speaking of Austria, we made it here safely and the first leg of our European adventure can now take its place in the rear-view mirror.

Although it’s a shame we had to leave Bratislava, it is a city that I hope to return to in the near future. It is definitely a hidden gem and provides a little bit for all types of travellers. I would highly recommend it – and that’s no joke.