Bratislava Guide

1 Travel tips

If you think you're going to be covering a lot of ground, both cultural and territorial, pick yourself up a City Card. All public transport is…

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2 Getting to Bratislava

Above: ...Are you stopping off at Hackney by any chance? Left: Air Slovakia. The stewardesses make up for any other deficiencies. Below:

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3 Getting around Bratislava

Above: Would the owner of the antique red firetruck please move their vehicle? Left: Cruising on the Danube in a fancy boat Below: Cruising on…

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4 Money Matters

Wave your flexible friend at a pub owner in the Highlands and you're unlikely to have much success. But here in Bratislava, credit cards are becoming…

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5 Language

What? You don't speak Slovakian? Not a single word? Not a single syllable? Scandalous. What were you doing all those years? You should have been…

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6 Info about Bratislava & Slovakia

Not until 1993 did Slovakia finally emerge as a fully-fledged independent nation, and with it Bratislava as capital. But the leap to sovereignty…

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About the guide

Above: Elevator out of order Below: Escalator on back-order

Recent gore-splatter movies Hostel and Hostel II weren't exactly what the Slovakian Tourist Office would have ordered, but readers can rest assured that the films were entirely fictional. (If you spot your hostel owner wielding a power-drill, don't automatically assume he's coming to fix your legs - the poor bloke's probably just mending the door).

As it goes, the real-life Bratislava is a resoundingly pretty place. And unless they've been putting on an act, the Slovaks are a sweet-natured, unassuming lot who are more interested in picking flowers than picking fights with foreigners.

Bratislava was crowned capital of Slovakia in 1993. But with a history that stretches back over a millennium, the city is no newcomer on the European scene. Bounced about between the Hungarians and the Austrians, the city saw the coronation of 11 Habsburg sovereigns in the towering Cathedral of St. Martin's.

The natural focus of Bratislava is of course the Old Town. Here, cobbled alleys transport the traveller back to the age of Beethoven and Liszt. The Royal Castle looms above, whose painstakingly restored interiors remain a magnet for Slovaks and foreigners alike.

But there's much more to Bratislava than just old world nostalgia. Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the city has had to completely reinvent itself. And that means all the concurrent perks and pitfalls of a free-market economy. Cold War nuclear fallout shelters have been transformed into hip nightclubs offering techno and trance shenanigans. Crumbling noblemen's palaces have opened their doors to house cosmopolitan restaurants and bars. And for those in search of retail therapy, Bratislava now boasts an enviable assembly of quality stores.

Which brings us to another plus of life in Bratislava. Of course, it won't remain this way forever, but the sky-high prices of so many other Central European cities are not mirrored in the Slovak capital just yet.

Finally, if you're curious about spending some time in Slovakia, you'd be missing out if you stayed solely within the city walls. Forty percent of the country is forested, and the Carpathian Mountain range that sweeps across Slovakia provides some of the most memorable scenery on the European mainland. Even the Poles concede that the Slovakian side of the Tatras is the better bet.


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