Monday, September 18, 2006

greeny blue

Bratislava.

Only an hour away from Vienna, it is like catching a train from Adelaide to Gawler, but arriving in a place where there is a distinct differently culture, the people talk funny, there's more shitty old cars and the city centre has nice old buildings while the surrounding suburbs look a bit like slums. Hmmm... Perhaps that's not the best comparison. However, It was a little weird travelling such a small distance and being in a different country though, with a passport stamp and armed guards, while still seeing the wind turbines of Lower Austria.

Bratislava is a nice little city, where some interesting stuff has happened, but there isn't much here for the superficial tourist. As with any small place, as long as you have a local's perspective or insight, there is fun to be found. Adelaide is the same: "those balls and that tram to some beach. Then we got on a bus to a big rock". Brat's city centre is classic Euro tourism, but as soon as you leave the 2 square kilometres of cobblestones and Baroque architecture, the town is pretty much like any other city I've been in, albeit with a slight post-soviet touch here and there.

The best thing about a small city is that thanks to its compact nature, the back streets and hidden culdesacs just around the centre usually hold plenty of interesting things to be discovered. On the way to the castle, which I found my way to by accident, I discovered a cool old church close to the castle that looked like it hadn't been used for years. Around the walls of the castle are recent housing developments, with their balconies coming within close proximity to the tourist path. I can imagine the tourist brochure now: "Walk around the castle, see how real Slovaks live". There were also some places where the lights that had once lit the castle at night had very recently been relieved of duty. The castle itself isn't that amazing to look at, the Lonely Planet describes it as an upside down bed, but it does have half a dozen cool little museums to hide in while it's raining. I stumbled onto the Folk Music Museum, where I found out about Bratislava's musical history. The caretaker and I discussed the pros and cons of 80s music and whether or not she had got into Elan, the super band of the former Czechoslovakia. She said they were shit and preferred the more risque sounds Modern Talking from Germany. She then replaced the classic music seeping gently from the speakers with said German 80s band and cranked the volume. Gold. A nice view from the window too, with a warming sheep skin rug to sit on. After the rain had eased, I made my way down the hill where I passed a small church which I had seen earlier. I could hear Slovak hymns being sung from within, so I peered inside. I'm not a religious person, and I don't believe in a god, but entering this musty place with the beautiful voices singing something I could not understand had an immediate calming effect on me. The church itself was of the Orthodox variety, with a small onion dome and humble decor, and I got the impression for these people faith meant something more than just building the biggest thing they could scrape up the money for.

Yesterday, I ventured out to Devin Castle, which is on a hill near a bend in the Danube about 10km from the centre of Bratislava. There was the first annual Red Bull Kary (go-cart race), which is sort of like Slovakia's version of the Milk Carton Regatta, but with more money and less kids ingesting Patawalonga water. I get the imoression that Eastern Europe is Red Bull's playground. With its laxs public liability laws and cheap prices, the advertising peeps for the energy drink are able to fly planes through the middle of cities, strap guys to plastic wings and take over 900 year old castles in a single bound. The castle itself is in a nice spot, but some of the best parts were roped off for the VIP area, so I missed out on seeing those views. However, on the way back to the bus, I ventured into a cellardoor showroom for some home made wine, and ended up chatting to a guy who collected Swiss Army bikes and offered tours of the surrounding areas. He had posters of his hero, who rode 15,000km on a 50 year old bike and said that it was his dream to ride the same route across the Middle East and into Russia. I might be going back to Vienna, pick up my bike and ride the Iron Curtain tour the wine guy was talking about.

*Did you know that Red Bull is an Austrian company? yeah, me neither.

3 comments:

Eleanora Martinez said...

Yo!
Stupidly can't find where I saved your new email address so am resorting to asking you questions via your comments . . . Shikoku is the smaller and more central of the two islands below Honshu . . . Did you come here ?? Where would you recommend ?? In Matsuyama right now and have until Friday . . Just planning to relax it up but if you have any suggestions of places worth seeing please let me know!!

Man, think I'll have to stop reading your blog soon - makes me too jealous of all the fun you're having! Ace photos too!

Righto - off to the onsen with me for now!

dan murphy said...

I went past Shikoku, but did not check it out. It looked nice from the boat though. However, from what some of the Osakanese told me it's like a little southern version of Hokkaido. Just with less snow, potatoes and cheese and more crazy coloured onsens and tasty southern style chicken. Apparently there's a spot (like the one on Kyushu), where there are three different coloured onsens within about 300 metres of each other. But that's in the south, where there's fuck all people (hard to imagine), and big mountains. Where are you hanging out?

Eleanora Martinez said...

We haven't gotten very far . . . Beenz had another relapse into unwellness and lethargy. We have just been chilling in Matsuyama and today we had the most perfect weather for wandering about a tiny nearby country town called Uchiko 内子 - a lovely daytrip. Streets full of Edo period buildings, but the best thing was there being hardly anyone around and the sky was vivid blue. Like Robe on a summer's day . . . I think I'm suddenly looking forward to the sight of SA GREAT.
A really nice feature of Shikoku is the many people hiking around the place on their pilgrimages and the like. Shikoku seems like to perfect size for aiming to a cycling tour or some such . . I'm getting misty eyed with intrepid visions for the future! Great Youth Hostel in Matsuyama too - a little odd but in a lovely location at the top of a hill and dirt cheap for Japan.
Back home to Hiroshima tomorrow.

Good for you for running with the pumpkin over imprisonment!