Donauwelle: Bratislava

The first leg of this summer’s trip was Bratislava. Aside from not having done much research about the places we’re about to go to, we didn’t know what to expect from Slovakia’s capital beforehand. I always had a feeling that, given its history and location, it has an inferiority towards the capitals of the neighbouring countries. I must say, though, it might not be as big as say, Prague or Vienna, but it is charming in its own right, and it’s easily one of my favourite cities so far. As I go further into this post, I will discuss more about why it’s a must-go for everybody.

Here’s how our trip went by:

July 26, 2016

The Airbnb we have booked offers Airport pick-ups if you stay three nights minimum. Surely, we have availed of this service. We arrived in our apartment at around 17:30. By then, we were dead-tired because we have had to stay up all night to fix our old apartment to make it turnover-ready. So, not surprisingly, we hadn’t done much that night but, thankfully, we were right in the historical centre and there was enough to see within a 300 metre radius. Our host has recommended a nice restaurant we must try – something I would have frowned upon and considered a tourist trap if I wasn’t too tired to look for another place – so we went and we were glad we did. It was right around the corner, and it’s called Bratislavská Reštaurácía, a flagship restaurant with a very nice traditional ambience and excellent authentic Slovakian food. With fair prices, too.

We then just checked out the grocery stores for our breakfast we would prepare the next morning and just called it a day because we were, in fact, just really tired.

Airbnb 116 € for 3 nights / Ryanair flight 50,98 € for two Berlin SXF to Bratislava

July 27, 2016

After breakfast, we walked to the old town to see what it has in store and there was, in fact, plenty to see. It wasn’t as crowded as many other tourist destinations which helps if you like to take some decent photos. One very much photographed site here is the Man at Work statue.

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Man at Work

Another site one can’t miss seeing as you go towards the water is the UFO Tower. It’s basically an odd looking tower, resembling some kind of UFO. It’s an interesting site, too, as it is on the bridge. And since we didn’t know where to go next, we decided to give this one a go for a view of Bratislava from the top.

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View of Historical Centre of Bratislava from UFO Tower
Entrance fee to UFO Tower observation deck: 7,40 € per person

From there, we got the idea to go to Bratislava Castle. It’s a quick hike from the bottom of the hill which is also easily reachable by local transportation or by foot from old town. We didn’t enter the building. Instead, we just enjoyed the sights, sat on the lawn, and just indulged in a serving of gelato from the restaurant. After a whole day of walking around town, you will surely have noticed all the signs that say “lemonade available here”. We have tried a few jars from various places and we have found different flavours from each restaurant.

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Lavender and blueberry
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Standing on the grounds of the castle, this church looks huge and it’s so close

July 28, 2016

Another one of the things one will have noticed by now is Bratislava’s reading culture. We have spotted a few bookstores, bookstore cafés, bistros or restaurants with used books you can grab, or just booths with used books in them. The number of these places really surprised me for a small city like this one. And so we had breakfast in one of these places before going around some more. Today, we had seen the Church of St. Elizabeth, or otherwise known as the “Blue Church”.

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Lil’ Blue Church

Today’s plan also included a trip to Devín Castle, which is located in Devin, a borough of Bratislava, about 10km away from the city centre. There is a bus that takes you right to the bottom of the hill and from there it’s a few minutes’ hike to the castle itself. You get the most amazing view of the Danube river from there, and also of the Morava river and Austria.

Entrance fee to Devin Castle: 4€ per person

I am still amazed by this magical little city. It’s just so nice to be able to explore almost everything by foot and just get lost. I’ve also never been to a city that is more enthusiastic for reading than this one. I even bought a few books from some of the bookstores we’ve passed by, many of which have a big selection of english books.

Tips:

  • Coins. Make sure you always have some! Cashiers always ask for change, it’s like the city doesn’t have enough of it. Our theory is that it gets collected in the local transportation ticket machines because they only accept change.
  • Walk. A 3-day local transportation ticket is pretty cheap, sure (10€ for 3 days), but most of the sights are best reached by foot.
  • Uber. It’s our first time trying it, and if you’re a big fan of the app and its services, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to get a ride here (because it’s just lacking in neighbouring countries).

Next stop → Vienna!

Donauwelle: Vienna

The second leg of our trip was Vienna. Its city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s pretty obvious why. If you’ve never been to Vienna, you’d be surprised by how many buildings were actually preserved to make you feel like you’re walking in a different century.

July 29, 2016

We left Bratislava today via boat that took us to Vienna. By land, it would have only been 80km away, about an hour drive. You can even take the bus for only 10€. I chose to proceed by boat because I thought it would be interesting. It’s not the cheapest option, but we wanted to actually do something on the Danube as part of the Donauwelle. It was a 90-minute ride, and it took us straight to Schwedenplatz, Vienna. We’ve arrived at around noon and went straight to our Airbnb. We each bought a 3-day ticket, which later on proved to be worthy because we did take public transportation quite often, as it is the best way to get around. Our Airbnb was close to U6 stop Dresdner Straße, and the area was mostly populated by students, not much by tourists.

Airbnb: 145 € for 3 nights
Twin City Liner boat ride 50 € for two – Bratislava to Vienna
72-hour Wiener Linien public transportation ticket: 16,50€ per person

After checking in, we went to the city centre for some lunch. I had my first Wiener Schnitzel, and it was about the size of my plate.

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After that, we went to Stephansplatz to see the famous Stephansdom and just walked around a little bit in the area before heading to Wien Prater. We went on the ferris wheel and it was nearly empty at around 21:00. It gave an interesting view of the rest of the amusement park’s lights from the top. The ride lasted about 20 minutes.

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Stephansdom
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View from the top of Wiener Riesenrad, looking over the rest of the amusement park
Tickets for 20-minute ride on Wiener Riesenrad: 9,50€ per person


July 30, 2016

Today was an extra exciting day for me because we were bound for the Sigmund Freud Museum. It’s located in Freud’s old apartment/practice. This experience sort of brought me back to my college days, back when I was striving for a degree in Psychology and where Dr. Freud has been an important figure in our studies. In case you’re wondering, his famous couch is not part of the exhibit but it can be found instead at the Freud museum in London.

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Entrace fee to Freud Museum: 10€ per person

We’ve walked some more today around the Ring for some of the best sights in Vienna and just sat in the park when we got tired. One of the best luxuries you can have in this city, in my opinion, is peace. I was surprised about how easy it was to to find a quiet spot where you can just sit back and stop thinking about all the things that stress you out.

Back to the Ring, we got lost in all the old buildings. It was hard to keep up with all of them and we really found ourselves not knowing what building we were taking a picture of anymore. But there is one that really stood out, though, and for obvious reasons:

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I mean, how can it still be photogenic despite bad conditions?!

July 31, 2016

A place I wished we had gone to sooner is Donauinsel. In English, it literally means “Danube Island”, and that’s basically what it is, found in between the Donaukanal and Große Donau. There are a couple of places to just grab drinks from, and there’s also a footbridge leading to the mainland. It’s great for people watching and just enjoying the warm weather by the water. The park is also great for picnics.

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Footbridge from Donauinsel leading to the other side of town.

Our last stop was Schönbrunn Palace, a place one shouldn’t miss when in Vienna (or you can try but somehow everything leads to it anyway, so). We didn’t take the tour inside the palace itself for it’s quite pricey and it seemed so crowded (we witnessed the constant stream of tourists exiting the palace). Instead, we just walked around the park and admired the landscape. The park’s entrances can be found on either end of the premises.

All in all, Vienna, for me, has been a nice and short stop-over. Our stay has not been that eventful but, to say the least, it was quiet and peaceful and maybe that’s exactly what we needed. I still haven’t gotten over the price of coffee, though.

Next stop → Budapest!

 

Donauwelle: Budapest

Budapest has been… WOW. It’s not like we have expected anything less from this city, but I guess we never would have thought it would be this… cool.

August 1, 2016

We left Vienna at 12:30 via bus. About three hours later, we were in Budapest! We went straight to our Airbnb (we didn’t even stop for a Kürtöskalács even though the smell filled up the whole metro station), and by that time we were starved. It’s not like we did much planning about the whole trip anyway but our booking for the bus was supposed to be for 15:00 but that one was canceled so we took an earlier trip and, as a result, it left us hungry. My sister has been to Budapest before and she told us about how it’s all about food in this city, most especially MEAT. She wasn’t exaggerating.

Airbnb 78 € for 3 nights
Orangeways bus ride 20 € for two – Vienna to Budapest

Another thing we heard about Budapest was how it’s so much prettier at night for everything lights up and it all goes well with the water, which is the centre of the city, dividing the Buda and the Pest.

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Buda Castle lit up at night.

August 2, 2016

We had planned a trip to one of Budapest’s famous baths. Our bath of choice had been Szechenyi. It’s beautifully decorated with roman sculptures. You may choose to rent a cabin for more privacy, or settle for the lockers. On the main area near the baths were another set of small lockers for, say, your wallet or phone. It was a little crowded, though, but I guess it wouldn’t have looked any different somewhere else like in Gellert or Rudas baths this time of the year.

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Like, very crowded.
Entrance fee to Szechenyi Baths with cabin rental: 5200 HUF per person

After our bath, we went up to Buda Castle. You can either go by foot or take the funicular going up. I’m really the type of person who can walk for miles but when I’m with the wife (or with anyone else, really, because most people have trouble keeping up with me), we would always opt for the fastest and easiest way to get somewhere – preferably without much walking!

Funicular ride to Buda Castle Hill (roundtrip): 1700 HUF per person

Some time after, we went for some gelato. We’ve seen it on Facebook some time ago so we gave it a try. The reason why it’s so popular, aside from the fact that it tastes really good and they make it from organic ingredients, is that instead of scoops, it’s served in the form of a rose.

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Put a few more of these together and you get a bouquet of gelato, only at Gelarto Rosa.

August 3, 2016

We got up early today for our tattoo appointment. We stumbled upon a tattoo parlour that offers sessions even on short notice so we decided to each get one done. The artists at Invictus Tattoo & Piercing were nice and gentle and despite some delays, we got what we wanted done.

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For anyone travelling on a budget who wants to have a decent meal that will get you through the day, I can recommend Trofea Grill. Staff was really nice, and they make you feel like you’re sitting in a really fancy restaurant (even the decor says so) but it’s actually more laid back than it appears to be. It is visited by both tourists and locals, so one probably won’t feel underdressed in their walking shoes. We had lunch from the buffet table and they had a fixed price on both food and drinks.

After our big lunch, we just sat by the water, overlooking the Parliament, before heading to our next fun activity. We went to play an escape game! Claustrophilia offers two live room escape games and it can be played by a group of 2 to 5 persons at a time. We had so much fun! You enter a room and they give you one hour to get out. There’s a walkie-talkie that speaks up every once in a while when you’re in a bit of trouble to give some clues, so you can actually make the sixty minutes and not feel trapped. Also, the whole game is in English!

One-hour game at Claustrophilia: 8000 HUF for two persons

August 4, 2016

So that’s about it with our summer trip. It was finally time to go back home. Our flight was early in the afternoon so we didn’t really get to do anything more than pack our stuff and go. We bought some Kürtöskalács for the road and that was it. Budapest has been really nice and it’s definitely one of those places we would want to come back to soon. 🙂

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