We woke up late and missed the early train to Bratislava. Hopefully not a trend we would be continuing. Fortunately for us, trains leave about every 30 minutes from Vienna to Bratislava. The two cities are trying to build a business corridor connecting commerce between Vienna and Slovakia.
Getting to Bratislava
It ended up being a later start to the day than we expected, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker. Rob and I checked out and walked down to Westbahnhof, the nearest train station. From there we transferred to the metro, then to a tram and finally ended up at another train station, where we went to Bratislava. Bottom line, Europe has entirely too many public transit options.
We arrived in, Bratislava, where we took a bus to another train station to drop our bags. I hope you’re noticing a trend here. Finally, with our trip over, we could explore the city. Bratislava is beautiful. I expected it, to some degree to be a seedy Eastern European city. Apparently, those don’t exist, or if so we haven’t gone far enough East yet.
The city reminded me of a nicer St. Petersburg(Florida), with cheaper prices and better weather. The women there are beautiful as well. Literally, every woman we saw in Bratislava could be a supermodel. The woman working the ticket counter, the bartender, the woman cleaning trash off the street, everyone. It was incredible. There were a lot of really nice cars there as well. We saw Lamborghinis, Porsches, and one Hummer, a car I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Europe so far.
New Shoes Who Dis?
The communist influence over the city had been painted over with a veneer of brightly colored paint and beautiful parks scattered around the city. I found a shoe store on the corner where I replaced my old pair of shoes. The pair I had been wearing had practically worn through to the bottom, and the Dr. Scholl’s I’d bought to prolong their life was now paper thin. I’d been through a lot in those shoes. I’d Skydived, climbed a mountain, walked all over Europe and the States, and canyoned in them at the start of this trip.
With my new shoes on, and my old pair ceremoniously thrown in the trashcan, Rob and I set out to get some pizza. This little courtyard pizza place did a 5 topping pizza for around 5 euro and another euro or so for a beer. Prices were great in Bratislava, heck everything was great in Bratislava.
While the city was nice, there wasn’t a lot to do there. Rick Steve’s suggested a day, I suggest an afternoon. After a couple hours, you get the gist of it. It’s a great place to live, but not to be a tourist or a sightseer.
Back at the station, we boarded our train for Budapest and settled into our trip. The countryside was like that of another world. For the first time on my trip, I felt like I was in a truly foreign land. The landscape that swam around me was beautiful, but also desolate. There were rolling fields of grains and sunflowers, but also patches of nothing that stretched on for miles hugging the horizon. Occasionally we would pass a derelict building or some relic of the former Soviet occupation, an old mill or factory of some sort, a train station in ruins from a bygone era.
No Rest til Budapest
We stepped off the train station in Budapest into a beautiful station that seemed to grow right out of the steam era and surround us. Big metal scaffolding rose and arched over us meeting in the middle, enveloping us in its erector set architecture. There were little shops on either side selling kebabs, and other foods while men stood near every horizontal surface with a chessboard before them, ready to play.
The walk to the hostel was interesting, Budapest is a city trapped in a dichotomy. We passed scaffolding and sex shops, but also Gucci and Prada. Our hostel shared an entrance way with a sex shop selling all manner of wares, yet right across the street was a marble and glass building called the Grand Hotel.
A Cast of Characters
Through the sex shop and up to the penthouse level of the building, was our hostel. Occupying the top two stories of a building that could have been a South Beach Penthouse condo had it been decorated differently. Inside there were travelers of all sorts, European hippies, Australian backpackers, UF alum, former SDS members of mine. It was the winning card to an ethnographic bingo game. A game that Rob and I were only beginning to play.
We dropped our bags and made ourselves right at home, drinking vodka on the top floor verandah overlooking Budapest’s twilight skyline, sharing travel stories with our fellow hostelers. Later that night we joined the rest of the hostel in their Clue-themed club party downtown, costumed provided free by the hostel. The bar was filled with people dressed as their favorite Clue character, drinking spirits like water, falling off stools, and loudly singing karaoke from somewhere in the back. It was a carnival of hedonism, from which I had a front-row seat.
The bar had a clever quirk to it where it was priced like the stock market. As more people bought a certain drink, the priced increased. If no one bought a drink, that particular drink decreased in price. I thought about moving here and exploiting this system for all it was worth. After a long day of travel, Rob and I were beat pretty early. We walked back and called it a night around 2.