Sunday 21st October
Today was our only full day in Bratislava so we wanted to fit in as much as we could.
We had breakfast at the hotel as it was included in the tariff and got out in the streets about 9 o’clock. It was very cold and we were wearing beanies and thermals for the first time.
It turned out the old city and main square was only a 5 minute walk and we were able to buy 2 tickets for a 90 minute bus trip around the old city and castle overlooking the city. These bus trips are great in that they give you an overview of the major sites and historical locations. Also you are given earpieces and simply select your language. I like the descriptions they provide not only of the locations but the summarised history of the country and city. As with most European cities, Bratislava still has remnants of city walls and gates.
The bus ride also stopped on 2 occasions to allow for photos and a closer inspection of both the castle and the memorial to the red army and its sacrifices when freeing Bratislava towards the end of WW2. It seems this was case in many of the places we have visited in recent weeks and it’s understandable why the Russians were welcomed at the time. The issue though seems to be they were then reluctant to leave afterwards.
The bus tour ended around 1230pm back at the square and we wandered around the great old city, ending up have goulash and beer (wine) for lunch.
We discovered there was a walking tour at 4pm so we went back to hotel for an hours rest and then increased our clothing layers and added scarves and gloves to join the tour.
There were about 40 people who met at the squares statue of a poet guy. This was a standard model walking tour where they are free but they look for a tip based on how much you enjoy the tour. As usual many people fall by the wayside towards the end of the circuit we think to avoid paying anything.
Anyway, Juro, our guide was great and took us all over the place mixing talks about historic locations with cultural explanations (usually very comical) and the 20th century Slovakian history including his no holds barred comments about their love hate relationship with the Czech republic and Prague. He also educated the group on the Slovakian history as part of Hungary.
In answering a question about whether Slovakian people prefer the current democratic ways of the old communist regime he explained the majority certainly do but there are still many older people who look back on those days with nostalgia and are much worse off financially. When they worked under communist rule they had their accommodation, health care and income guaranteed. Whilst they were never in a position to save or own things back then they were able to enjoy a frugal and consistent life.
When democracy was declared their consistency of income, their guaranteed accommodation and health care stopped overnight and in the cases of the now older people they had no savings, superannuation or physical assets to fall back upon. So I can understand them seeing life better then than now. Only many years under the democratic system will reduce this worry.
The walk finished around 7 and it was now very very cold so we were glad to get back to the hotel where we skipped dinner, found an English speaking channel on tv – pity it was showing strictly ballroom and fell asleep.
Travelling again tomorrow by train on the way to Prague for a 4 night stay.
Home in just over 2 weeks. We are missing our family and Pooki.