Friday, July 29, 2016

Bratislavia, capital of Slovakia

It was a 2.5 hour train ride from Budapest to Bratislava, Slovakia. Dropping our bags at the Hotel Devin we headed for Old Town. At Vichy Pat’s lunch, a typical Slovakian dish Halusky, a handmade noodle (like spaetzle in Switzerland) with cheese sauce and crispy bacon chunks..just imagine a really good "mac and cheese". Bill chose the more German Schnitzel. Both worked well with the dry Slovak Riesling.
After lunch we walked up to Bratislava Castle, toured the gardens and got some photos of the old town and UFO Bridge (official name: Most SNP) over the Danube. On the way back through the Old Town we stopped for a beer to cool off.
Looking up at Bratislava Castle
Bill in the castle garden
The UFO Bridge (taken from our room, rather than from the castle)
Later we went out for wine and pate at a truly hidden gem of a restaurant, Pinot U Bruna which is hidden behind the cathedral on a small shady park . You need to be determined to find it. Our two whites and two reds, accompanied by rabbit pate, made an excellent ending for the day
Pinot U Bruna Wine Bar
Yep, that is Rabbit Pate under that layer of fat...
Tuesday we headed for ruins of Devin castle, a 1/2 hour bus ride up the Danube. From it's high, rocky perch the impressive castle overlooks the confluence of the Morava and Danube, as well as, the border of Slovakia and Austria. The castle/fortress had a nearly 1000 year lifespan, being destroyed by by Napoleon’s retreating troops in 1809.

Pat posing in one of the Castle windows
Looking up at a remaining watchtower and to the castle ruins
The museum in the castle tells the story of the area (history and culture) until about 500 AD. It would take us several years to sort out the various peoples and cultures that have lived here. We’ll spare you. We also got some photos of the Danube traffic headed toward Vienna and the countryside. 
A barge heading north around the Devin Bend in the Danube River
We returned to Bratislava for lunch, green salad with grilled salmon for Pat and grilled trout with "crashed" potatoes for Bill. Both went well with another nice Riesling. Later we visited the Primate’s Palace with it’s pale pink and white exterior. No photos allowed inside…you’ll have to imagine the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty (Peace of Pressburg”) was signed between the French (Napoleon) and Austrian Emperors. Note: Pressburg is one of several names for Bratislava. There is also a series of six tapestries depicting the legend of Hero and Leander and their tragic love. The tapestries were woven in the 1630s at the royal weaving workshop at Mortlake, near London. These were found in pristine condition during the reconstruction of the Palace in 1903 hidden behind wallpaper. Unfortunately they are now displayed in full lights and are clearly fading.
Primate's Palace
On the way back to our hotel we stopped for more Slovakian wine at The Taste where we tasted Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  All very good, we were most impressed by the reds. On the way back to the hotel we found a man peering from a manhole along the street. Bratislava has several notable street sculptures but this one, named Cumil is the most photographed. 
Cumil, hard at work
We also listened to a short orchestral concert and some bell ringers from Estonia in the town center. Later we went for a walk in the old town and took an ice cream break, chocolate (excellent) and snickers.

We started Wednesday with a walk from our hotel down along the Danube to “Eurovea” the largest Shopping Mall on the Danube. We think there can’t be many others.  A few interesting stores but nothing special even compared to Bangor, Maine.

On our walk back to the center we paused at the lovely Blue Church (St Elizabeth’s Church).
Nearby was something we don't think we've ever seen before, a working sundial.  It was indeed 11am when we took this shot.

We then visited a group of museums (The Period Rooms at the Apponyi Palace, an aristocratic home from the late 18C, the Museum of Viticulture which included the story of two major sparkling wine producers from the area, and the Museum of City History located in the Old Town Hall, all for 2€ each (because we are seniors). The Viticulture Museum doubles as the Slovak National Wine Collection but, believe it or not, we passed up tasting the wines (it was still before lunch). 
Ballroom attire for the family in front of a ceramic heater 

After the museums, we climbed the narrow staircase to the 45m tower. The panoramic view of Old Town from the tower was especially nice. We sure got our 2€’s worth.
Rooftop view from the tower
We did manage to fit in a lunch of Pizza, crispy pork with basil cream risotto & salad with a flavorful Slovak Red, Frankova. Another good pairing.

We had one last walk around the old town and stopped at the Inn Cafe and Wine Bar for a final glass (or 2) of wine.  We shared two whites (liked the Nové Zámky) and two reds (liked the Frankova). Our observation: like other small wine producing Slovakia has a number of unusual grapes and styles. One thing we noticed is that many are big and a bit spicy upfront but with a lighter finish. 

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