Monday, June 11, 2007


Well, it has been a busy week. B&B, my friends from Canada, arrived the Saturday before last (June 2). They stayed with me and we did the "tourist thing." They paid for me to eat lots (and lots and lots) of Czech food... I love company--I always get at least one meal out of hosting! B&B didn't get to see the Castle, though, because Jelly was in town (okay, I know I need to walk you through this one--it is a little obscure. I like to use initials, so President Bush becomes PB... like peanut butter and jelly... hence, Jelly). Anyway, Jelly was in town so a lot of the tourist places were under lock down... Anyway, I told B&B that the castle itself isn't really worth seeing, but it is just one of those things that even when you trust the person who tells you something like that, you have to see it for yourself.

Which brings us to Bratislava (I actually want to write more about B&B's visit, but the transition was just too perfect for me to ignore... so I may get back to the visit later). Anyway, I had been told that there was NOTHING in Bratislava... but, you know me, I had to see it for myself. So on Sunday at 7am I hopped on a train for a four hour ride to Slovakia. The ride wasn't bad--the train was almost empty and I did some reading. On the way down we passed right by the most inviting pool of water I had ever seen. I wish I had been able to leave the train to get a picture because it was postcard perfect... but oh well. I shall just have to hold it in my mind. Anyway, we got to Bratislava about 15 minutes behind schedule... not too bad, I figured. I walked from the train station to the old part of town. Bratislava is very different from Prague. It is obviously the poorer cousin. The sidewalks were buckled concrete, there was grass growing up around the tram tracks, which had chunks of concrete missing from around them. The trams themselves were quite a bit older than the Prague trams. The old part of town was a lot smaller and was surrounded by obviously Soviet-era buildings (there are lots of Soviet-era buildings in Prague, but they are further out on the metro lines--and most tourists never see them). But there were some charming churches and, of course, a castle on a hill.

Anyway, I had no idea how much money to take out of the ATM, so I took out 1000 slovak Korun (about $40). I knew it was a bit too much, but my only other option was 500 Korun and I didn't think that would be enough. I probably should have just taken out 500, though, because I was not holding back on spending and I came back with over 500 Korun... I have no idea what I am going to do with it all... I may take it down to Hungary with me and get it changed into Hungarian florints (even though I know I will be completely ripped off if I do that). Oh well.

But anyway, back to the trip. I had about 4 hours in Bratislava--which turned out to be more than adequate (except for the whole money thing). The day started off sunny and really, really warm, but my last hour there some clouds started rolling in. I was on my way back to the train station when the heavens opened up with some of the largest rain drops I'd ever seen. I found a pasaz to stand under and right after I had installed myself it started to hail and the wind started to blow. The hail was slightly over pea-sized (maybe double or triple pea-sized?). I had to keep moving into the pasaz (and almost out the other end!) because the wind was blowing the rain in. As I was standing there, I watched a couple of Nuns walk past and take shelter under a different pasaz. The rain and hail stopped as abruptly as it started, and I resumed my walk to the train station.

Other surreal moments: I went into an armor museum/tower and started talking to one of the women working there. I told her I was studying Czech and she started to talk to me (in Slovak) about the differences between Czech and Slovak.

Oh, and the Germans seem to have invaded Slovakia. I kept running into massive tour groups of Germans (actually, my guidebook said that Austrians invade every weekend, so they probably weren't actually German). I also got pinned against the castle walls by a huge group of French-speaking tourists... I don't know if they were actually French, though, because they were a little, ummm, bigger than I remember the French being--I mean, they were able to pin me against a wall, so...).

The ride back to Prague was a bit of an adventure. I had bought my train tickets, but I hadn't paid extra to reserve a seat. I mean, for the ride down the train was almost empty. But the ride back... Well, for starters, the train was about 15 minutes late (but I was kind of expecting it to be late, considering that it was late getting to Bratislava). So I bought a pizza and had them put it in a box so I could take it on the train with me. I'm glad I did this because I think it saved my life. Anyway, there was a huge crown waiting on the platform. When the train finally arrived, I hopped on and expected to find a seat (heaven only knows why I thought I was actually going to find a seat given the size of that crowd. Sheer stupid optimism, I suppose). Anyway, there was no seats so I wound up standing in the small entrance way to one of the cars (right next to the toilet) with three other people: an older couple and a guy about my age. When the train started moving, the guy pulled out a small mat, rolled it out on the floor, and sat down. It looked like a good idea, so I offered him some pizza if he would share his mat with me. He accepted, and we sat on the floor of a moving train and shared a pizza.

A about a hour later, the train stopped, the older couple got off and were replaced by a younger couple. The train continued. About an hour after that, the younger couple left and were replaced by four Czech teenagers. At this point we had basically taken over the entire entrance-way to the train, and anyone wanting to go to the bathroom had to step around six people and various backpacks and bags. One of the guys who actually had a seat came out and started passing around a bottle of Irish Whiskey. The ticket collector came in and started joking and talking. Then, the train stopped. And stayed stopped. And stayed stopped a little longer. It started moving again, but stopped again soon after. And so it continued, the train stopping and starting and stopping again. Anyway, a journey that should have taken four hours wound up taking six and a half--the entire time spent sitting on my ass on a mat, my butt numb after the first hour. Truly an experience.


At 12:28 PM, Blogger Brenda said...

Your train experience sounds wonderful. I love doing stuff like that when I'm travelling.
I'm glad that you are getting around and seeing things like Bratislava.
I'm also tickled that we made your blog! I can die happy now because I have tasted svickova.
Now if only I had the phone number of a certain British tourist.....


Post a Comment

<< Home