Tuesday 21st August
Rest Day in Bratislava
“Each room in the Downtown Backpackers is named after a famous artist. I was staying in Picasso along with 7 other people and was the first of the Piccasans to wake the next morning. I packed up my things quietly before heading downstairs to check out of the hostel.
I had the whole day to explore the town as I would be staying with a Slovakian family in the evening who lived in Bratislava. I decided to seek out a bike shop that could drill out the broken bolt still wedged in one of the braze-ons. I navigated to a bicycle shop and arrived just as they were opening up. The mechanic took my bike down the street to his workshop round the corner and for a few nervous minutes I waited with my pannier bags outside the shop, wondering whether he would ever return. He did and what’s more, he had managed to remove the stuck bolt. A small job, that I thought would be free, but still inquired as to the price to be polite. Unfortunately, he charged me 5 euros for his services.
I decided to have a good look around the old town. So I got a map from the tourist office and set off on a self guided tour. After a fair bit of wandering around I decided to visit the National Gallery. The main area was closed due to renovations but they had a smaller 2 floor exhibition, show casing Slovak art from just after the war. It was fantastic! Small enough to engage properly with the pieces, each area had a theme which was described on a pamphlet in English. It was strange how much I was able to learn about the countries history just from one art exhibition.
I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at a graveyard. Now ‘Slavin’ isn’t an ordinary cemetery, it sits on a hill just outside the city and has an amazing view. There is a tall monument for the soldiers who fought and died in World War 2 as well as pristine grass lawns lined with their graves. Climbing the hill is tough though, and you have to work for the reward of a serene plaza overlooking the city.
From Slavin, I headed out of the city to where Ivana and her family live. It’s amazing how in just a few kilometres the whole feel of a place can change. Even though I was riding through vine yards, the roads were tatty and there was a raw rural air about the it. I arrived at the house, a grand place, with light wood paneling, spacious rooms and a magnificent view of the city lights.
They had a meeting with some people in the garden, discussing plans for their Croatian sailing trip happening on the weekend. It was all in a language I could not understand but fortunately when the meeting was over they returned back to English.”