Day 13: Wednesday, September 23

Day Trip To Bratislava, Slovakia

We got up at our usual time, showered and breakfasted. Great weather today – perfect for our day trip from Vienna to Bratislava, Slovakia!

We headed out at about 9:30 and took the #43 tram down to Schottentor station, then walked to Schwedenplatz to check out the boat schedule from Vienna to Bratislava. There had been a problem (which the Austrians wouldn’t disclose) with the Donaukanal (Danube Canal). Earlier this week the boats were not running so we wanted to check on this first to see if they were scheduled that day. If not, we would have to take a train to Bratislava. I spoke with the most unhelpful staff member ever at the Twin City Liners desk, receiving only monosyllabic sounds for yes and no – obviously customer service is alive and well in Austria (that was sarcasm in case you didn’t catch it). No thanks to our customer service superstar, we were finally able to determine that the only boat that day to Bratislava was going at 4:30PM and it was only about 10:00AM at this point, so no good. We were forced to take the train to Bratislava, so we got on the U-Bahn and went down to Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Main Station) to take the OBB train to Bratislava.

After figuring out the ticket machine, I secured our return tickets and we boarded the train, waiting for departure. After we found our seats and settled in we were abruptly accosted by a demented Eastern European woman who was raving and wanting us to buy her a train ticket (for this scene, think Pirini Scleroso from SCTV or Bette Midler and Shelley Long in that priceless airport scene from Outrageous Fortune). Train security soon stepped in, though, and she was eventually escorted off the train.

The train was scheduled for an 11:21AM departure but was not running on time. We finally pulled out of Vienna’s Main Station (Wien Hauptbahnhof). The trip was uneventful but we stalled several times due to track maintenance.

Arriving in Bratislava

We arrived in Bratislava at about 12:30PM in a train station resembling a Soviet Gulag. We were horrified at the grisly train station and the grimy area. There was no indication of any maps, tourist info, directions, etc.; the place was very gritty and we were getting a little freaked out. I made the mistake of pulling out my camera, and the riff-raff suddenly descended upon us like flies.

Luckily Vince had read Rick Steves’s warning about this particular train station; he said just to press on, get through it, and things are better once you get away from the Station. After a hasty exit from the Bratislava train station we found our way downtown and got our bearings.

We explored Bratislava’s Old Town fairly thoroughly – this city was utterly charming:

We stopped for a break, coffee and cake at the Mon Dieu Cafe, then shopped for souvenirs in the interesting shops:

We went through the Old Town Hall with its Tower:

Some of the most photographed attractions of Bratislava are its sculptures, in human size, located all over Old Town:

And of course, the UFO Bridge and Tower, which is the seventh largest hanging bridge in the world:

St. Martin’s Cathedral:

The Slovak National Theatre is a Neo-Renaissance-style building opened in 1886 as the City Theatre, according to the design of Viennese architects F. Fellner and H. Helmer:

The busts of famous musical composers appear in the oval openings in the façade, as well as a stone sculptural group, the Muse of Thalia by the Viennese sculpture T. Friedl, and figures of children symbolizing tragedy and comedy, by V. Tilgner. Tilgner was also the designer of the superb Ganymede’s Fountain at the entrance to the theatre. The fountain depicts Ganymede, borne by an eagle to Olympus, where he will serve Zeus and in reward gain eternal youth, which to this day radiates from the boy’s joyful face. The building is the seat of the Slovak National Theatre opera and ballet ensembles:

We’d been wandering in Bratislava for much of the day. The shadows were starting to lengthen so we took one last spin around the cobblestone streets:

We decided to head home, but first we stopped for dinner at the BarNEbar restaurant. Utterly delicious and affordable: this was authentic Slovakian food. Awesome. As we were leaving the restaurant, a small but exuberant group of Hare Krishnas came dancing and jingling down the street and past the restaurant, waving to its owner:

This group made everyone happy so it was good to leave Bratislava with a smile and a good memory. We made our way back to the grim train station and caught the 6:43PM train back to Vienna. The train was about 25 minutes late pulling out. The trip back was uneventful but pleasant. We were quite tired so it was nice just to relax for a while and watch the world go by.

We arrived back in Vienna at the Wein Hauptbahnhof at about 8:30. From there we caught the U-Bahn and S-Bahn back to Hernals station; home to the apartment at about 9:30PM.

Despite our fatigue we uploaded and reviewed our daily pictures. We dropped into bed, exhausted, at about 10:45PM. Quite a day in our so-called “Eastern European” adventure!!

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