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SLOVAKIA

Even on a weekend trip to Europe we are wanderers and try to take in at least one additional country than our original destination. On one particular trip overseas we left Friday afternoon, connected with a Delta flight in Atlanta and arrived the next afternoon in Budapest (see Budapest chapter in our travel section).

We headed to the East train station in Budapest on Sunday morning around 9:30am to catch the 10:25am EC train to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia until a few years ago when they broke apart. They're now the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.

It was about a three hour train ride along the Danube River to Bratislava. The train was very nice and was part of an intercontinental route from Budapest to Berlin with a stop in Prague.

The train ride was nice with occasional great views of the Danube with castles high above on the hills. Once in Slovakia we saw the foothills of the Carpathian mountains.

We arrived in Bratislava at about 1:30pm and were surprised at how nice the train station was----one heck of a lot better than the old, dreary, sleazy looking East train station in Budapest.

We went to a currency exchange bank at the train station and traded some of our U.S. dollars for Slovak Crowns. One U.S. dollar equals approximately 34 Crowns, FYI. Language was a problem in Bratislava with hardly anybody speaking any English.

We wanted to be taken to the downtown area but how did we convey that to the cab driver? I got a tourist brochure that listed hotels and restaurants in English and had the cabbie take us to an area with several restaurants. (I just showed the cabbie the name of the restaurant we wanted to head to and off we went.) We milled around and found a cute little bistro that reminded me of an area in the Greek Islands. Everything was all white in and around the restaurant. NOBODY spoke any English in the restaurant but the menu was printed in Slovak and in German so I could decipher some of it. (I.E.--Schweinfleish is pig meat or pork, etc.) We had a surprisingly delightful luncheon and then set off on foot to explore this interesting little city. We stumbled onto a pedestrian walkway that was a real treat. And we checked out an amazingly luxurious, modern hotel called the Forum.

On our second visit to Bratislava during the a summer month we spent a night at the Forum and it was GREAT!  The rooms were nice and the hotel had several excellent restaurants. A fine meal from appetizers to dessert complete with a bottle of wine only dinged us about $85 or $90 U.S. for four people!  The servers were a little bit strange.   They were extremely efficient but not very friendly.  It's a hangover from the old Eastern Block days, I guess.  They'd literally shove a platter of appetizers under your nose waiting for you to select your favorite rather than cordially present the chow.  They know how to be efficient, that's for sure.  They just don't know how to be cordial.  At least they didn't at this one particular feast.

Note:  The Forum is no longer a hotel by that name.  It is now a Crowne Plaza property.  Their web site is here.  It still looks the same!

You get an interesting sense of pre-communist days and post-communist days visiting Bratislava.  It's worth a couple of days if you ever find yourself in that part of Europe.

You'll need a passport to be admitted into Slovakia but no visa. Driving is on the right hand side of the road. The unit of currency is the Slovak Koruna.
 

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