Europe daily blog #2: Bratislava is nothing like EuroTrip makes it out to be

When I was browsing through travel-related films to watch, I kept getting the same sort of ones. Into the Wild, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Beach and Eat Pray Love featured heavily on lists of the top travel films of all time.

There was one, usually lower down, that made the cut on some of the lists. It’s called EuroTrip, a poor man’s American Pie-type film, about an American teen searching for his female German pen pal in Europe.

The standard of the production is highlighted as the racist, homophobic England football fan played by Vinnie Jones features in one of its most memorable scenes.

One of the cities that the main characters end up visiting in the film is Bratislava in Slovakia, where they are dropped off by a drunken, sleep deprived lorry driver.

The Bratislava scene from EuroTrip. It's a poor, but watchable, movie.

The Slovak capital is depicted as dark, gloomy and run-down in the aftermath of the Cold War, and if you’ve never done any research about the country and crafted an impression from EuroTrip alone, then it is unlikely a visit in the near future on the cards.

But I know to look past an uneducated an incomplete view intended for less-than-intelligent audiences, hence why I suggested it for the first leg of this European adventure – and fortunately I did.

Having explored the city today, I’ve definitely fallen in love with Bratislava – a city with so much vibrancy and charm, yet one that has a relaxed atmosphere and should put tourists at ease.

Cumil the Sewer Worker is a statue and symbol in Bratislava. He's said to be either resting after a hard day's work, or pausing to look up women's skirts!

Cumil the Sewer Worker is a statue and symbol in Bratislava. He's said to be either resting after a hard day's work, or pausing to look up women's skirts!

Cities like Bratislava, and other less-visited capitals on the continent such as Vilnius and Tallinn, are great for all travellers, but would be especially suitable for first-time city breakers.

A harpist on the streets of Bratislava - further proof of the city's harmonious vibe.

A harpist on the streets of Bratislava - further proof of the city's harmonious vibe.

Don’t get me wrong, Bratislava is busy in its own right. It is the epicentre of Slovakia’s economy and their most populous city by quite some distance. But it is more ‘off the beaten path’ when it comes to continental tourism, and there’s less hassle than is found in the likes of Rome and London.

There’s also another plus – it’s cheap. 500 millilitres of beer, 68 short of a pint, has, on average, cost in the region of £1.50-£2.00, with food not too dissimilar from prices in the United Kingdom.

Having said that, we did have a shock last night, heading up to the UFO restaurant which stands over the city’s Nóvy Most (New Bridge).

The UFO restaurant and observation deck is a towering presence.

The UFO restaurant and observation deck is a towering presence.

It looked nice online, and it was, with panoramic views across the city, and an outdoor observation deck included in the price of the meal, should you choose to eat there.

I say ‘should you choose,’ because once we received the menus, we looked down. The choice was narrow, and the prices extortionate. I finally decided on the duck breast in masala sauce (I know, is the chef on drugs? Plum sauce all the way!) which wasn’t extortionate compared to the rest of the menu.

The UFO restaurant is a brilliant venue - but a restrictive and expensive menu lets it down.

The UFO restaurant is a brilliant venue - but a restrictive and expensive menu lets it down.

But when I saw the same dish come to the next table, I scoffed at the minute portion and we bolted like Usain, paid for the beers we’d already ordered and drank, and found a Brazilian restaurant called Rio Grande. It wasn’t great, but at least there were half-appetising options that wouldn’t bankrupt us.

The laid-back nature of Bratislava was laid bare today, as the sun finally came out over the city and illuminated Old Town Square. The outdoor tables and chairs at every restaurant and bar were inviting, even under cloud cover, but when the sun came out at lunch, it just made it extra-special.

Bratislava is home to beautiful architecture, a great selection of places to eat and drink and a cracking atmosphere – it certainly is as far-removed from its portrayal in EuroTrip as can be.

From what we’ve seen so far, tonight’s outing should be a good one.