Bratislava, Slovakia – May 1999

As all of you know, European countries are dominated by their capitals.

Slovakia is represented by Bratislava and benefiting from its place between

Vienna and Budapest, Bratislava is slowly receiving the attention it

deserves.

Calling itself (as all central European capitals do) the heart of

Europe, Bratislava remains in the inner circle of Central European society

through its history.

If you are not familiar with geography and history of Slovakia and you feel

like you could absorb more than I am offering in the following article,

there is a complex web page that will give you the satisfaction. Here you will find general information, news, economy,

business and links to government, sports, recreation, media (in English).

I’ve been living in Bratislava my whole life and I can tell you that

especially the last 10 years were so dynamic that one cannot stop wondering.

Eastern Europe has been dramatically changing and before long there will be

no difference between West and East.

However, for all of Bratislava’s rich

past, as far as architecture, 50 years of communism left its indelible mark.

The most obvious scar is the SNP Bribge, with its spaceship-like saucer

hovering over the Danube. As well, the view from Bratislava castle cannot be

called beautiful since the endless concrete housing blocks of Petrzalka

(often called Legoland by visitors) across the Danube fill the eye, and the

Slovnaft refinery blackens the sky. It is from here that the contradictions

between old and new can best be pondered.

Contemporary Bratislava is a bustling place. From the pedestrian shopping

street, Obchodna ulica, which slopes up to the castle, across the cobble

stone alleys of Old Town, new, slick and often Western shops are springing

up (though every second one is a shoe store) all over.

Michalska ulica –

found by spotting St. Michael’s Gate – is where to find the finest stores,

including Levi’s, United Colors of Benetton as well as fancy perfume stores

and a courtyard with stores full of fashionable clothes. “Big Ben” is an

excellent English-language bookstore with a ton of titles, hidden

under an arch.

Watch out for your belongings, especially when shopping and

traveling by local transportation! Bratislava is safe as long as you use

your common sense. Don’t exchange money on the street, don’t play street

games, keep your wallet and passport on your body and you will have no

problems.

When tired of sightseeing and shopping, I would recommend you stop for a

cup of coffee in Gremium Cafe, just a few steps from Opera house. This

trendy beer/wine spritzer place is worth a visit. Occasionally, some

youngsters will play the piano which gives the place a special atmosphere.

Deeper into the center, a new landmark pub has some of the best ambience in

the city. The Dubliner or just the “Irish Pub” is one of the most expensive

pubs in Bratislava but still it’s cheaper than anywhere in Western Europe.

Lots of foreigners hang out there, warming on cool spring days with an

awesome fireplace, while drinking beer. The cheapest Guinness can be found

there.

There is no shortage of places to sit down and relax in Bratislava. An

outdoor beer garden is always near, even in the early hours when men off the

night shift or on their way to work grab a mug.

Perhaps even more than the wine cellar, the beer hall is a symbol and

substance of Slovak nation. The beer halls round out the Slovak experience.

Pubs are known here informally as krcma (tavern), senk (roadhouse), pajzel

(any dirty smoke-filled room where beer is consumed by the gallon) and vycap

(the lowest sort of dive).

To get a feeling of once one of the biggest beer

halls in central Europe, stop by in Mamut at Cintorinska street. Another one

with friendly staff and stuffed animals on the wall is called “U Eda” in

the heart of Old Town at Biela ul. 5. (A mug of beer there will cost you 20

Sk.).

Restaurants are still an adventure, and you can find everything from

cafeterias to five-star restaurants with prices lower than what you would

expect in the West – with a few exceptions.

Remember that in most cases the

extras (rice, potatoes, salads) get added to the bill. The standard advice

for tipping is to round up, which still leaves a lot of questions: a bill of

77 Sk can be safely rounded to 80, 90, or 100 Sk, depending on the level of

service.

There are plenty of restaurants offering Slovak cuisine as well as

Austrian, American, Arabic, Greek, French, Chinese…Slovenska pivnica at

Dunajska 18, (across from Tesco department store) serves terrific food. The

wooden interior and music from Wednesday to Saturday top it off. I would

advise not to hang around during the day though, as many mafia-like gorrilas crowd

the place.

Bratislava was the last capital in Central Europe to be bombarded by fast

food. From my experience, I know how tourists like it, and so here there are:

Pizza Hut at Drevena 8 (Next to Hotel Forum), McDonald’s at Obchodna Street

and at Namestie SNP. Ice cream stands, fruit stands, as well as craft booths

can be found all over the city center.

Although Bratislava has only a few pure dance halls, remember that anywhere

the beer is flowing, dancing can break out! If you want to feel the beat of

Eastern Europe, go to Duna Club, a trendy underground place (it used to be a

bunker) next to film club Nostalgia. It is filled with students and will be full on

weekend nights, so come earlier to get in.

“Steps” is another cool bar/disco

is just a few meters from the Presidential Palace. Steps manifests the

advent of choice: One room is a mini beer hall, another passes as a pick-up

bar and the third is for those who want to boogie. The DJ plays mostly 80’s

music and recently the place has been run over by teenagers. If you prefer an

older crowd, go to Krater Pub and Cafe, a pub with live music during Friday

concerts, as well as adult entertainment such as striptease. Modern 90’s

interior is one of the best in Bratislava.

The weather is getting better and better and so if you want to swim, the

most popular “beach” is Zlate Piesky at the edge of the city on Trnavska

cesta which is the start of E571 or at the end of the #2 and #4 tram lines.

There is also camping where bungalows (2 + 1) will cost you 920 Sk. As far

as the public transportation goes, I would suggest to buy a day pass for 45

Sk (app. 1 USD), otherwise you need to get tickets (10 Sk each) and stamp

one every time you get on a bus or tram. You are most likely to be caught

when riding without a ticket and then it will cost you 1000 Sk (unless you

try to negotiate / bribe them).

You should not have a problem with finding a reasonable place to stay overnight in Bratislava since there are 6 big youth hostels and plenty of

hotels. However, most of them operate as student dorms from September to

June and therefore have limited number of beds for tourists. Youth hostel

Bernolak at Bernolakova Street is centrally located and therefore most of

the backpackers stay there. There is a swimming pool in the hostel and a

disco on the weekend. Rooms have showers and cost 270 Sk per bed/night.

May Events in Bratislava

  • International Flower Fair – May 2,1999 Tehelne pole, Ul.. Odbojarov,

    Bratislava

  • European Days – second week of May. Concerts of classical as well as rock

    music in most of the theatres and halls of Bratislava.

  • Beer-fest in Mlynska dolina – May 21, 1999 SD Mladost, Bratislava

  • Up with People performance – June 4, 1999, Hlavne namestie, Bratislava

    I hope I have kindled your interest in visiting Bratislava and the rest of

    Slovakia. My country has a lot to offer. It has not been overrun by tourists

    and it retains quite an exotic air. It has some beautiful landscape that I

    haven’t yet talked about.

    Since two thirds is laden with mountains, there are

    infinite possibilities for hiking. Charming medieval towns are scattered

    throughout the country, the people are quick with a smile and go to great

    lengths to be hospitable.

    Unfortunatelly, Slovakia is changing and getting

    westernized and therefore you should be quick to feel the beat of Eastern Europe.

    (Check-out Travel&Party’99)

    My name is Marek.

    I am a student in my 3rd year at the University of

    Economics in Bratislava.

    I traveled with an international organization, Up

    with People, two years ago and since then I want all the young people to

    travel and see the world outside of their city.

    Since Eastern Europe is

    changing fast, my friends and I decided to organize “Travel&Party’99”. Hereby,

    we are offering you a trip in either June or July. Over 8 days you

    will travel and explore sites (that you would never likely be able to find on your

    own) in Prague and Slovakia.

    Moreover, you will party with international

    students on a party bus for a student price. Our goal is not to make money

    but to have a great feeling of accomplishment when you thank us at the end.

    For more information about TRAVEL&PARTY’99 check out the

    website

    or e-mail us.

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