Articles

Post-Bratislava (and much else) jangles

In Bratislava, Travel on Friday 4th August, 2006 by Guy

Despite a mere two months (and a couple of stray days, which are just as deserving of mention) passing since my return from that great, and coincidentally only, capital of the Slovaks, Bratislava, I am compelled by Providence — for it is she — to recount briefly my misadventures there, and thence to gabble on about theprofoundlearnings I gleaned from the experience. I can hardly wait either. It’s like needing to go to the toilet. I have not considered whether I actually need the toilet, so we will let history be the judge of that.

In short, necessarily relatively speaking, I highly recommend you — yes you, my shy, lurking friend — that you consider Bratislava as a future destination for your personal travels, and ideally as soon as possible. When I was there, I found it to be cosy (probably because I and my travelling companions stayed in and near the historic centre, though I argue that is not the only reason), pleasant, quiet, and most importantly of all, cheap. I am notoriously frugal, it is true — so much so that complete strangers recoil at my parsimony as I pass them in the street, strangers no more — but I was struggling to spend more than £15 a day there, not including accommodation. Oh no, for our accommodation was a rented, furnished, super-clean apartment, which cost a whopping… £17 each. I kid not. If you are a poor student-type (ie. poor and pretentious, possibly justifiably so [on both counts]), you must go merely for this reason. Pretty much anything you want to do as a tourist — drink, eat, sleep, look, don’t touch — is incredibly cheap, necessarily relatively so, of course. Just to drive the point to the point of tedium, you should visit the central (and massive) branch ofTesco just to compare their range of produce (wide) and prices of products (lower) to supermarkets in the UK, and wonder at the insanity of it all. And vow to leave the UK in the not-too-distant-at-all future.

You are unlikely to be enamoured of a place with only affordability to recommend it, I understand. I am a client-friendly blogger, so I will accommodate your needs, Sir. [This is also why I post so rarely, for your sanity]. Bratislava is, you should be pleased to find out, not only cheap-as-Slovak-beer, but a truly interesting place with its own unique atmosphere and culture, a good dose of picturesqueness, and hardly any other tourists. There is not an abundance of museums and so forth to go to, but certainly enough to cover in a few days. Food was, surprisingly considering everything I’ve said thus far, cheap and plentiful, and at best scrumptious in a wholesome way. The place was disappointingly quiet in the evenings, and the Slovak (and, I hate to say it, but entire Slavic) reputation for “Service with a Frown!”(tm) is intact, but overall there is little to fault if it is approached as an idiosyncratic and mostly uncommercialised weekend break rather than as a classic World City. The idea of living there for longer did intrigue me, but this was more likely due to my currently strong (if almost entirely unfulfilled) propensity to travel than the unique charms of the place. It is a fine city, though, and I again recommend it to you heartily. The crazy manhole cover certainly helps in this regard.

Pictures taken there have been uploaded to flickr, and some have even been commented upon by city residents (including an impish one who made it all the way to this blog). My heart swells with joy and blood.

I did go to Vienna on the train — very cheaply, of course — but the place had no appeal for me. It was too big, too loud, too grand, and ultimately too self-delusional to enjoy. It is much more in the mould of a Proper Capital City, and I’m sure there were far more tourists there, some of whom flew in to Bratislava with us [I know this because of the number of passengers clutching guides to Vienna in their disloyal hands as they walked treacherously to their seats], but this isn’t where my interest lies. If touristic enjoyment of a city depends more on seeing as many grand buildings as possible in one day while doing “normal” things like eating somewhere involves a choice between lots of indistinguishable and extortionate tourist-traps, then I’d rather not be a tourist. To make it clear: Bratislava seemed like a nice place to be, and Vienna did not. Sorry Österreich! I did find out, though, that Vienna was under occupation until 1955, which was, and indeed still is, a remarkable fact. Hence my remarking on it.

As I write about these cities, I am reminded of small details, small personal memories that no-one else shares with me and no-one ever will. Ideally, I would have liked to have written about those here too, but I am worried the result will be stale. I should endeavour to write down what I get up to and think of on my travels every day, at least in a private diary if not in the public domain. Thus I can be surer that I am basing my judgments on real events rather than my fallible memory. It is a good idea to write about past events after a substantial period of time has elapsed, in order to apply new wisdom to one’s uncertain past, but only if something was also written at the time. It is a habit I will need to learn, as I have needed to for much time. It isn’t easy living the perfect life, damnit. I should take more photos too. Goodness knows what I really need to do.

Gabbling over, I submit and submit and carry on.

(Shanghai is next, Guy fans).

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2 Responses to “Post-Bratislava (and much else) jangles”

  1. Hi, sorry for a little offtopic but a friend told me about your site and it’s really great. So keep it up 😀

    – Laura

  2. I think you’re making a very good point there

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