One of Andrew’s friends from Zimzala married a Slovak guy and had recently moved to Bratislava. We decided to visit them in December. I was really excited to meet her since we had missed our opportunity before she had moved to San Francisco. The Christmas markets would also be going on and I was excited to see what it was like since they are supposed to be less touristy than the Vienna markets.
When we arrived that night, we had to wait a little bit for our host to arrive at his apartment so we decided to check out one of the Christmas markets. We admired the stand with the birds of prey for a bit and got a small bite to eat (cheese with a cranberry sauce – we’d had something similar while in Poland).
After we checked into our Airbnb, Andrew realized that he had received a few messages from his friend, Jennifer. We had mixed up the day we were meeting – us thinking it would be Sunday and she thought it was tonight. We didn’t have any set plans for tonight so we met them for a bite to eat. The place they wanted to take us was full – one note to make is when you go to a place looking for a table, the common practice is to just walk in and try to find a free on. We ended up finding a table downstairs and had a beer, but then we realized that they didn’t serve food down there so we ended up going to Slovak Pub (which was recommended by a guy I know, but Jennifer’s husband told us it was more of a tourist trap). It is a cool place to walk around, but definitely a tourist trap and the food was subpar. I would recommend it for the environment and to have a beer with friends, but not for a meal. We had good company though, so I enjoyed it 🙂
On Saturday morning, we headed out for breakfast and on the way we saw blocks of ice that were going to be part of the weekend festivities. We made a mental note to come back and see them later. Eventually we found ourselves at Foxford and had a latte and small bite to eat. Andrew made a comment that the coffee reminded him of his favorite Ethiopian coffee from Kéan with the blueberry notes. He asked the server about the coffee and found out that the beans indeed were from Ethiopia and this particular one had blueberry notes! This café was attached to a bookstore and gave me flashbacks to my time at B&N. The railing for stairs that led upstairs to the restrooms was in the shape of a pencil – so cute!
We still had a bit of time before our food tour started so we decided to take a walk around. Bratislava is filled with statues and beautiful architecture. Oh and someone put a googly eye on the crosswalk sign!
Eventually we climbed our way up the hill to the Slavín memorial. This area is a memorial monument and military cemetery of 6,845 Soviet soldiers who fell during the liberation of Bratislava in April 1945. The obelisk is topped with a victorious Soviet soldier carrying a flag and stepping on a swastika. The memorial was beautiful and also offered great views of the city.
Making our way back down the hill towards the castle, we saw more beautiful architecture. Some of it is crumbling, but there is still beauty in that and regardless I’m hoping that someone will restore it one day.
We passed by a cemetery on the way down and since we still had a few minutes, decided to take a short stroll.
Finally we were at Bratislava castle! There was a great view of the UFO Bridge from here too.
Our food tour guide greeted us with salt and bread. This is a traditional greeting that is now considered old fashioned and is usually only seen in the rural areas. A few countries we’ve been to have this same custom. She also gave us a shot of Čučoriedkovica (blueberry brandy) – this was so good! She was kind and gave me another shot of it later.
At our first indoors stop (Zámocký pivovar), we had a beer (Zámocký pivovar Svetlé 10°), restované hríbiky na hrianke (sautéed mushrooms on toast), and pečeňová paštéta (liver paté). I really liked the mushrooms on toast.
Some buildings as you saw before are in need of repairs, but at the moment there is not money to do it. These buildings are more of the same.
Street art and a goat. I don’t remember what she told us about the goat. Maybe it was important, maybe not.
With this lovely side by side, you can definitely tell which one is the communist architecture…
Linda gave us some Christmas cookies (Vianočné koláčiky – florentínske hviezdičky, mandľové kolieska, medovníky) that her mom had made. They were delicious! They definitely like to use nuts.
More stunning buildings 🙂
We were served a sauerkraut soup (Kapustnica) at the Café Štefánka. This is a typical dish served at Christmas time, but I think it is available throughout the year as well. The interior of the café was beautiful.
This is Grassalkovich Palace – home of the Slovak President.
So many pâtés…
At Sklizeno Ozajstné jedlo we tried ovčí syr (smoked sheep cheese), korbáčiky (little whip cheese – non smoked), and bravčová klobása (pork sausage). It was all good, but there was so much of it that we had to take the leftovers home with us.
Wow! What a great picture of the Christmas tram with Bratislava castle in the background!
Linda picked us up some roasted chestnuts. I always love these. Small note: they are impossible for me to open with gloves.
We walked through St. Michael’s Gate to get into the city center. This gate dates back to the year 1300, although reconstructions date back to 1758. If you look to your right you will see Europe’s narrowest kebab shop (this is also supposedly the 2nd narrowest building in Europe). Fun facts…
This compass on the ground tells you the distance to certain major cities. Pretty neat!
Walking through the city to our next destination…
At our next stop, it doesn’t really look like you are going to a restaurant and if you didn’t know that you were going to a restaurant you might get confused and walk out haha. Sort of looks like a museum at first, but you just have to keep going and continue up the stairs. Along the staircase are the coats of arms for different cities in Slovakia.
Bratislavská Reštaurácia was another sort of touristy restaurant, but the food was fairly good. The restaurant used to be a theatre and also a Chinese merchandise shop if I’m remembering correctly. Here we tried lokše (potato pancakes), Bryndzové pirohy (pasties with bryndza cheese filling), sviečková na smotane s knedľou (beef on vegetable sauce with knoedel), vyprážaný syr s tatárkou (deep fried cheese with tartar sauce), and Kofola (Czechoslovak soft drink).
While walking to our next destination we were able to see the results of the ice carving and we also passed through the Christmas market to try hriata medovina (hot honey wine).
Our last stop was at Moods- Dobrá Nálada na Korze. At this point we were fairly full, but managed to enjoy our lattes and Bratislavské rožky (Bratislava rolls with poppy seed/nut filling).
After the tour we took another walk through the Christmas market. We saw an awesome unicorn swing and tried some hot white mulled wine. Then we made our way home to rest and digest our food.
The next morning we had our leftovers for breakfast 🙂
Then we walked to meet Jennifer and Peter at the Slovak National Gallery. We passed by the blue church on our way.
I had seen a sign for the Dream × Reality – Art & Propaganda 1939 – 1945 exhibition and we decided to check it out. It also ended up being free to visit so that was nice. The exhibition was very moving and eye opening. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to live in that world…hopefully we won’t have to live through anything like that, but who knows.
There was also a dead Christmas tree…
Jennifer was kind enough to take our picture in front of the Opera House.
We headed to Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar for lunch since it had been too busy on Friday night. The food was excellent!
Afterwards, Andrew and I had a coffee at Five Points and he picked up some coffee beans for home.
We braved the cold and walked down to the river and across the UFO Bridge. There were great views of the castle as well and we found a mural on the other side of the river on the leg of the UFO.
For the 3rd night in a row, we found ourselves back at the Christmas market. I don’t even remember the names of what we tried (aside from langos which we had had in Budapest and wanted to try again).
It was snowing on our walk back to the apartment. We passed by the blue church again.
The next morning, we walked by the blue church for the last time this trip. The snow added a little something to it.
We went on a statue hunt too…finding Man at Work – Čumil and Schone Naci. There were others on our list, but we couldn’t seem to locate them.
The Christmas market looks so calm in the morning hour.
We enjoyed a good breakfast at Enjoy Coffee.
I attempted to mail a postcard to Peter, but I’m pretty sure it never made it 😦
I like the man-hole covers here and I’m going to miss wandering these streets.
These statues were not too far from the bus stop. The one of the man is Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author of famous fairy tales including “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, and “Thumbelina.”
Now we are waiting for the bus to come. It was fun to spend some time here. Hopefully we can visit the forests of Slovakia one day.