I feel like we've flown around the world several times since we last wrote. But, alas, we only sped through 5 countries...it was a bit of a dizzying pace. A quick synoposis: A brief stop in Bratislava, Slovakia before we continued onto Prague, Czech Republic. Three days of driving through Germany, then a quick stop in Venice on our way to Croatia. Writing it out it doesn't look like much, but it felt like we were constantly on the move. A week on the island of Hvar helped slow us down, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Bratislava, Slovakia is the capital of the country which has been independent since 1993. It is the lesser visited half of what was once Czechoslovakia and often skipped over as people head down towards Budapest. It is actually a very beautiful city on the Danube River, a stones throw from Austria and only 16km from the border with Hungary. We arrived by hydroplane from Budapest, winding up the river. The center of town in almost entirely a pedestrian zone, a concept we love and feel should be incorporated into more US cities. The cobblestone streets are lined with beautifully maintained buildings dating back to the 15th century.
We found lodging a bit elusive in the city as we had made no arrangements prior to leaving Budapest. Our trusty Lonely Planet pointed us in the direction of a tourist agency that arranges private rooms. We have found this has been available in many places we have passed through, hooking us up with nice, clean accomodations for a relatively cheap price. In Bratislava we ended up with our own one-bedroom apartment within a 10 min walk of the center of town. It felt so luxurious. We found a similar arrangement in Prague and a relatively cheap hotel about half a block off the Grand Canal in Venice through agencies. Setting it up often involves a frustrating hour feeding coins into the phone or trying to finish up the call before the phone card runs out, one of the few times we actually have missed our cell phones on this trip. But in the end, we've been very pleased with the arrangements, and it is so much easier to arrive in a city with a place to stay already set up.
Bratislava boasts a castle built in the 1st century atop of a hill on the edge of the city that was an outpost for the Roman Empire through to the 5th century. After the 9th century it was the seat of the Hungarian royalty until it burned down in the 1800's. Rebuilt in the early 1900's it now housed the National Museum. Unfortunately, we got there too late in the day to enter the museum and only had a brief chance to walk around the grounds before it started to pour on us. We actually got a chance to run around the grounds in the pouring rain trying to find a way out of it. It seems that about 15 minutes after we enter 4 or the 5 enterances closed with no indication as to how to get out. It was very tempting to crash the US Embassy's 4th of July party (though it was Thur July 1)being held at the castle to take refuge from the rain, but by then we looked like drowned rats and we didn't have our passports with us. We were afraid we might set off some sort of security alert. We finally found our way off the hill and escaped to a movie. Lost in Translation was hilarious and seemed so appropriate for our trip. There were several points in the movie that we could really relate to.
On to Prague...we can't let the grass grow beneath our feet...
All the best,