So as you know, through the summer I’ve been travelling across Europe.
But why, you might ask?
Well, you know.
It’s the summer!
What better thing to do than to travel through one of the world’s best continents – that’s right Europe!
If you want to read about ALL the countries that I’ve visited in the last two years, then just click here!
Oh, the summer!
My challenge was to visit a European city. Every weekend, through the summer holidays.
For six (6) weeks!
And only to travel.
So let’s see how we’re doing.
If you as lazy as I am (whaaaat!), I’m going to put the countries that I’ve been to, on Victoria’s Summer European Challenge Campaign below:
Is Copenhagen a European city?
Did I travel only by train?
Sort of a tick!
Copenhagen was great and you can read all about it below:
- How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!
- Top 9 reasons why Danish food isn’t just smørrebrød, seasonal berries & herbs, but can be awfully tasty!
Is Lucerne a European city?
Did I travel only by train?
Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern was brilliant, and you can read all about it just below:
- How to spend 48 astonishing hours in Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern – On a budget!
- Why you should visit Switzerland, and eat cheese!
After that, I went to Luxembourg.
Is Luxembourg a European city?
Did I travel only by train?
Luxembourg was pretty impressive, and you can read all about it just below:
- Luxembourg: A smart guide to the Grand Duchy of one of Europe’s smallest countries!
- How to eat cheaply in Luxembourg!
The next destination was Slovakia!
Slovakia, otherwise known as the Slovak Republic, is a country in Central Europe.
It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, and Hungary to the south. Slovakia’s territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres or 19,000 sq miles, and is mostly mountainous. The population is a little over 5 million!
The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 10th century, the territory was integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary, which later became part of the Habsburg Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks and Czechs established Czechoslovakia, and on 1st January 1993, Slovakia became an independent state, after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
A prime example of how two nations, even after separation, still live together and or are, connected to each other, without hate and strive!
In those days, there was hardly any difference at all, so I wanted to find out if it was still true!
SHOULD YOU VISIT BRATISLAVA, OR STAY AT HOME AND NOT BOTHER!
Bratislava, is the capital of Slovakia.
Bratislava, for much of its history, was a three-language town. Its citizens spoke Slovak, Hungarian and German, and was always quite cosmopolitan in nature. Before 1919, Bratislava was known as Pressburg, Prešporok, Prešpurk, Pozsony, Břetislaw, Bratislav, and finally Bratislava!
Slovakia is a small country, so the capital has a population of just 450,000 – the largest city in the country!
Bratislava in southwestern Slovakia, occupies the banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. It borders both Austria and Hungary, and is the only capital city in the world that borders two independent countries, separated by just 66 kilometres!
Bratislava has been strongly influenced by people of different nations and religions, namely from Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Serbia, Hungary, and the Jewish nation. Not only that, but between 1867 and 1918, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary were parts of the same country, otherwise known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire!
WHY GO TO BRATISLAVA?
Once again, my task?
To visit Bratislava. Sleep in Bratislava. Eat in Bratislava. With young boy tween in tow.
Here we go.
TAKE ME THERE?
Bratislava is a small city.
We came in by train.
In fact, travelling by train through the European continent is one of the most comfortable ways to travel with ease, from one country to the other. And by far, one of the cheapest!
The snag is to book tickets with the national train companies, directly. On their own websites, or through the German Rail otherwise known as Deutsche Bahn. Most websites have an English version. Some can be admittedly slightly hidden, but persevere, or contact them directly by calling, or via Email!
The cheapest way to ease into buying train tickets through most European countries (not all), is to actually book through the Deutsche Bahn portal on the local German English version not the UK or USA version! Note that for Germany, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland, if you’re going by train, I don’t recommend that you do so by InterRail or EuroRail passes, if you’re only travelling to one country, as the prices are ridiculously expensive and children have to be paid for!
Last year, I bought a twelve-hour direct train ticket from Berlin to Budapest. In first class for €69.00. Second class was just €10.00 cheaper at €59.00! My child was free of charge!
I bought a five (5) hour train journey ticket (second class) to travel from Prague to Berlin. In August for just €29.00! And don’t forget, on the German inter-city Deutsche Bahn trains, children under 15 years old, travelling with their relatives, are free and cost nothing at all!
Our return ticket from Berlin – Copenhagen – Berlin was just €58.00!
For Switzerland, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, and the eleven (11) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Lucerne – Berlin, including reserved seating in July was just €98.00. My child was free!
For Luxembourg, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, again, and the twelve (12) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Luxembourg via Cologne and Koblenz – Berlin, including reserved seating in August was €116.00. My child was free!
For Slovakia, we took the Sparpreis Europa city night line train, once again, and the eleven (11) hour return ticket journey from Berlin – Bratislava – Berlin including reserved seating in August, was a mere €59.00. Yes €59.00! My child was free!
In a future post, I’ll be giving you tips as to how to prepare yourself when travelling on a European train!
IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?
I wouldn’t say so.
We went to Bratislava in August.
Of course you get the day-hopper tourists from Vienna and Budapest, and neighbouring Czechs, but most people haven’t a clue where Slovakia is. In fact, many confuse it with Slovenia.
Most people don’t know where Slovenia is either!
WHAT IS BRATISLAVA LIKE?
Due to the long train journey, we were there for merely 2 days, but we’re used to that now!
I mean, Slovakia once used to be a part of Czechoslovakia, and it has a certain charm, but to be honest, it’s not anything like Prague either!
It’s a bit gritty, but not like Berlin.
It’s got that old ex-Soviet Union look, but not like Riga.
It’s a bit rough-looking, and the Bratislava hlavná stanica main railway station, unlike the main train station in Porto, is a disgrace!
Bratislava has presence, but is not very well looked after!
In fact, “The Tall Young Gentleman” wasn’t in the least impressed, but I’m putting it down to the fact that just the weekend prior, we were in a luxury hotel in Luxembourg, and he was treated like a king!
I DON’T SPEAK SLOVAKIAN!
Not a problem.
Most people speak English, but if you can speak Czech, German, Russian or Hungarian, you’ll be fine!
AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?
Thanks to Bratislava’s excellent location on the border of three countries, accommodation ranges from quite simple to award-winning boutique hotels, so it won’t be necessary for you to live in a cave!
I had previously wanted to go the boutique route like I did in Warsaw, but the prices they were asking bordered on the ridiculous, so a hostel it was then!
I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Whenever we go on a family holiday, I like to mix things up a little in order to experience a wide variety of accommodation possibilities, to meet the locals, and to stretch our budget in a more comfortable way.
But being that we wanted to be smart, we decided to take the simple route of a hostel, once again!
We went to Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel.
Downtown Backpacker’s is a hostel situated in the historical quarter of the city, and the first hostel in the country!
It’s located 15 minutes walking distance from the main train station, and is one minute from the Presidential Palace!
I had booked a private twin room of course, as I liked the idea of paintings on the wall. We were put on the top floor and into what would have been the best room in the hostel – Mucha – as the private double room also came with it’s own balcony.
Sadly, no one was able to open it, and so we looked through what would have been our private balcony, with our private outdoor table, where we would have watched our private sunset, whilst I sipped a glass of Slovakian wine as I wrote my blog!
But it was not to be, as the balcony door lock was broken!
Our room came with two single bed and bedsheets already laid out, two large wardrobe-like lockers, two chairs, two standing lamps, a glass table, a large private balcony with a further four chairs, paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs, dotted all over the room, and free WiFi.
There were side plugs, but only on one side of the room so “The Tall Young Gentleman” wasn’t in the least pleased!
The hostel had a large fully-equipped kitchen, a small dining room, a terrace that turns into a garden, a library, a piano, a large common TV, a dryer, a washing machine, and a very comfy large common room, which for some reason, one man spent every night sleeping in! And shared bathrooms and toilets on every floor.
The bathroom on the lower floor is nicer, and larger!
There’s also a free shot, free tea and coffee, and a really nice paid breakfast with a 10% discount, if you’re a hostel guest!
We paid €50.00 per night.
It was a nice hostel, and the hostel staff were great and extremely warm and friendly. Highly recommended.
I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME
But you’re going to have to do your own research!
BUT WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I GET TO BRATISLAVA?
There is plenty to do Bratislava.
I would even go as far as saying, you should spend at least two (2) days in order to get a real feel of the city. You can:
- Go on a free walking tour. We went with a little outfit called Be Free Tours
- Make your own independent walking tour. Pick up free maps in your hostel and hotel, and just take off! It’s really not that difficult!
- Explore the history and architecture of Bratislava
- Get your camera out and take a selfie with Čumil peeking out of the manhole, or Schöne Náci in a tall hat and tails!
- Put on your walking shoes and climb up to Bratislava Castle and take in the view. They sometimes have a night show too!
- Wander round the cobbled streets of the Old Town, and just get lost!
- Go to the Town Hall and visit the most impressive Bratislava City Museum – the oldest museum in Slovakia!
- Go to St. Martin’s Cathedral and as many other churches as you can manage!
- Take photographs and buy souvenirs at Michael’s Gate – the only preserved gate left – dating back to the 14th century!
- Visit the Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish Community Museum
- Walk by the riverside
- Peep into every corner, and walk onto every little path that you see. And why not?
- Join in the summer celebrations
- Go people-watching
- Check out the various cafes, bars and restaurants, for a quick bite of rustic Slovakian sausages!
- Relax , take a break, and have a Slovakian beer!
WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?
Bratislava is small. Everywhere is walkable, but local trams, buses, and cruises are simple to use.
In the olden days, the capital cities of Austria and Hungary were so close, that they were connected by a tram line!
Sadly, after World War II, the tram line was closed down!
Bratislava, Vienna, and Budapest are connected by the river Danube via a cruise ferry, and there are frequent bus and train connections. In fact, many tourists happily go from at least one of these countries to the other, on a day-trip.
Isn’t that marvellous!
Prices are extremely cheap, but do double-check your bill.
We had lunch in the Old Town and we were over-charged twice! One restaurant even had the cheek to charge the complete bill of their local Slovakian mates, from the next table!
My suspicions were raised when the bill started with the butter that I ordered, but never received…..!
Bratislava is a European historical city, mixed with forgotten reminders of a socialist past.
WOULD I COME AGAIN?
I wouldn’t go all out to visit Slovakia, but if you’re in the region, take a day or two and visit, or go to the countryside, which I hear is amazing!
If you’re on a budget, stay in Bratislava and commute to Vienna instead.
But as always, don’t just read the papers, or listen to hearsay.
Europe is wonderful!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about Slovakian food, art and films in Berlin, travels to the German Baltic Sea, as well as a comprehensive post on how to use the train in Europe!
In October, I’ll be preparing to go to the TBEX ASIA travel conference in the Philippines, and an extra Asian country, but I’m still not sure where, but heavily leaning towards a Chinese-speaking country!
In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria.
SHOULD YOU VISIT BRATISLAVA, OR STAY AT HOME AND NOT BOTHER!
This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the most delicious Slovakian sausage that we gobbled up, are my very own!
Save the Date!
September is going to be thrilling!
I’ll be there. Will you?
If you’re not in Berlin in September, I can’t imagine where else you would be!
Watch this space!
Have you ever been to Slovakia? Should you visit Bratislava, or stay at home and not bother? Have your say!
See you in Berlin.