My day in Vienna was just a sampler of what will hopefully be a future trip of much more substance. If I was going to spend a day on the train to get to Vienna, I was certainly going to spend a little over an hour on a train to go to Bratislava, Slovakia and scout that out, right?
From the Vienna Central station, the Austrian Federal Railway (or ÖBB) ran a train to Bratislava each way every hour. I grabbed one early in the morning and figured I’d spend the day in Bratislava and see what it had to offer, and still make it back to Vienna in time to pack for my trip back to Switzerland on Sunday.
After a short, foggy but scenic ride I arrived at the train station in Bratislava. As soon as you arrive you are aware that you are in a different part of Europe than just an hour ago. The station has a huge mosaic from the communist era when Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia, complete with a Sputnik!
Walking our of the station I had a sensation I have not had yet in my travels, it can best be described as “Uh, now what?” I didn’t really have a plan for Bratislava. I don’t speak any Slovak. I had read that there were things to see in the old city, but the train station was a bit outside of the center of town. Google maps to the rescue! It was a quick bus ride from the station to the old city. I had read in Vienna that my return train ticket would also act as a transit pass for the day in Bratislava but didn’t want to risk it so I bought a bus ticket from a machine at the stop.
Two stops later I was in the old city and I decided to head to the tourist office to see what there was to see in town. As I walked through the scenic and winding streets I was struck by how quiet it was for a Saturday morning. The tourist office was open but not much else because it was Epiphany, which is not really observed in the US in any way outside of a church event here and there. The theme for this whole trip seems to be: plan better next time.
I grabbed a lunch of Slovak food and Slovak beer and wandered around the old city. There were just enough souvenir shops open that I was able to fill my quota for the folks back home and one was even able to sell me stamps for my postcards since, because of course the post office was closed for Epiphany!
While waiting for the bus back to the train station, I spotted this:
A vending machine full of Slovak dairy items! If I didn’t have to travel back to Vienna, I would have totally bought some cheese. Next trip to Bratislava I am going to start here!