I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I bumped across the border between Austria and Slovakia on a 7-euro bus ride, but it definitely wasn’t what I received. The recently Communist-relieved city is a strange mixture of beautiful sculpted buildings and boxy concrete Soviet structures. Despite the incessant rain and wind that froze me on my three days in the city, I fell in love with Bratislava and all its honest, controversial history – thought I must admit, three days was enough.
The only thing I had heard repetitively about Bratislava was that its nightlife was wild. My friends and I searched eagerly for a place to party, but all the bars were dark. We followed some Slovak university students to the 4th floor of their dorm building for the strangest terrace party I’ve ever attended, after failing to find a boat party that apparently floats on the Danube river.
In the daylight, the streets were still deserted. In the main square, a gigantic statue of Slovakia’s most famous poet sits holding a feather pen. As much of Bratislava’s political history is controversial, the statues and art work mostly focus on irony and religion.
Slovakia looks nothing like the rest of Europe. Bratislava Castle looks flawlessly modern from afar, and upon closer inspection, it is, and disappointingly so. The castle is often compared to an upside down table, but to me it looked like a fake Disney Princess ride. The view from the castle is worth the climb, but the 6 euro admission for the exhibitions inside isn’t.
Much of Bratislava was destroyed during the Communist Regime. An old fountain in the shape of a fat rose stands hauntingly with the water turned off and covered in graffiti tags. An abandoned communist hospital stands across from a blue smurf church. This place is bizarre. And I love it.
Beer is extravagantly cheap in Eastern Europe, along with nearly everything else. Unless you already know you enjoy sheep’s cheese, do NOT let yourself be convinced to try the Slovak specialty, potato dumplings – snag a doner on your way home from the club instead.
Street signs are slicked back onto buildings, so finding your way is initially impossible—not to mention that the Slovakian language is indecipherable. After a fantastic free walking tour and a few days wandering the city, landmarks became my map. Once I began to feel familiar with the city center, I knew it was time to leave—so I hopped a bus to my next destination, Vienna!