Slovakia, Bratislava in particular, is very close to Vienna. And thus, since we were in Vienna we decided to go to Slovakia. Given its close proximity, our rational was, why not? A substantial amount of joy from travel, for me, comes from the unexpected. To arrive in a city, or country you had no intention of seeing anytime soon ensures a fresh, giddy, fascination not tarnished by long-held expectations of destinations we dream of. Naturally, I’d be quite excited to visit, say, Patagonia-a destination high on my bucket list, but this sort of random venture has its own merits and charms. Everything was more interesting because it was “in Slovakia!”
And as a result, “randomness” would be the theme of our day adventure. First, we rode in a Rolls Royce Phantom (in Slovakia!), a half million dollar car our hotel used, for some reason, to offer free transports to the city center. Ever setting foot in a car such as this was not something I had anticipated happening in my life, and least of all, in Slovakia. It was completely absurd, and entirely amusing. I had very little expectation of what the city would be like, my mental images of central/eastern Europe in the winter are stark and set in grey scale. But Bratislava was an adorable, quaint riverside town, complete with a winding cobble-stoned old town and castle perched above the city. Certainly, if you looked far into the distance there were many bleak apartment blocks one associates with the region, but the city center, where our exploration was focused was a joy to explore.
The holidays are an interesting time to visit Europe. The benefit thus far has been a relative lack of tourists, the down side is many things are closed. So our day was spent wandering the relatively empty streets, finding dumplings and beer in a pub for lunch and stumbling upon a museum dedicated to an old Pharmacy (in Slovakia!). We drank thick hot chocolates and set out to climb the winding steps to the castle overlooking the city where we watched the sun set. Eventually, after a few wrong turns we found our way down through a maze of residential buildings to the waterfront and our hotel. Dinner consisted of eating at one of the few open venues, which just happened to be an Irish pub. And so, we finished our day by drinking Guinness (in Slovakia!).
It was a strange, and highly worthwhile diversion.