The trip to Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) was unfortunately too rushed and too hot. Most of us in the group decided that it’s not really worth the detour – we had only three hours to see the old part of the city. There is actually a bit to see in Bratislava, contrary to what we were told by a 16 year old local girl on the train.
It was 40 degrees when we arrived at midday – hardly the climate for running around. So we did a bit of walking and then found a spot that served fresh lemonade and massive pizzas (not exaggerating).
Bratislava is trying hard to attract tourists and has much of what the other popular Central European cities has to offer. It’s also very easy to get around and it isn’t swamped by tourists. Probably an up and coming destination… Plus great statues and street performers.
Tour leader Viv was particularly excited about showing us her home city of Budapest. We arrived by train from Bratislava around 7pm on Friday night, checked in (nothing flash, but ok), and went for dinner. Viv had picked the retro and buzzing Menza Restaurant, serving tasty Hungarian dishes. The food in Budapest turned out to be the best of the last five countries. I had the popular Hake fish and Em had trout. They also did their own beer which was very good. (We came back to Menza by ourselves on our last night and had their stroganoff, which is in my top 5 meals of the trip).
In the morning, Viv took us on her walking tour. Over about four hours, we saw most of the city, often jumping on the underground tube or a tram to get around. We didn’t see much of Buda, except from the river, but we saw lots of Pest, where the action is. They are gradually doing up many of the old buildings that were destroyed either in the war or during the post-war violence with the Soviets. The idea is that they do a really good job of each one – do it once and do it right.
That evening was our last night with the group and another excellent restaurant choice – renown for its crispy skin goose.
Dinner was followed by a river cruise, showing off the best bits of Budapest at night, although it was a little pricey.
Six of us then headed out to taste some Budapest’s Saturday nightlife. It turned out to be mostly entertaining for people watching in this part of town which is a park by day, and a series of bars at night. There were some real sights, and we were entertained by a local guy, who we nicknamed Marty cause he liked to party, and who took a particular shine to Em. (I didn’t feel threatened, as we later saw him unintentionally use a drinking fountain as a bidet).
A very late finish meant a pretty slow day afterwards. We tried unsuccessfully to cover off the not-so-glamorous bits of travelling – laundry, next bookings etc. In the late afternoon we made it to the House of Terror, which was highly recommended on Trip Adviser. It canvassed the horrors of the Soviets in Hungary and the 1956 uprising, but we were disappointed by the lack of good information in English in favour of strange artistic displays that didn’t seem to have any real purpose.
It would be great to spend more time in Budapest – certainly one of our favourite cities, along with Krakow.
More blogging to come on Austria, hiking in the Dolomites and Venice… Slowly catching up.