Bratislava

Bratislava is a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time, but it’s somewhere that has taken me a while to get to. It has held a special place in my heart for a while now for reasons I don’t want to share here, but I am very grateful to have finally visited.

Lucky for my friend Maya and I, I have a kiwi friend Adie, who is currently living in Bratislava. Adie offered to meet us on our first morning to introduce us to some of his local friends, Sasha and Martina, and show us the sights. This was a better offer than we could of hoped for, and made for a brilliant day.

After meeting at the markets having just had breakfast, we were immediately plied with food including traditional potato pancakes with goose fat and Slovak strudel with cherry and poppy seeds. We also tasted some Slovák wines and sat down and shared some wine and cheese at 11am! I can’t say I was a fan of the pancakes but the strudel, wine and cheese were all delicious. Next we were off to explore the city including the famous blue church, the castle and various other places along the way. Lucky for us, we got a sprinkling of snow much to our delight, although not enough to settle.

After several hours of wandering the city and sight seeing, we finally sat down for some food. Not that we were hungry again yet! I enjoyed some local beer, tradition Sauerkraut and pork sausage soup and also shared some potato dumplings with sheeps cheese and bacon. Next up we all shared some Slovák spirits in Pear, cherry and plum which were very strong. After a final coffee and cake with Adie and our new friends, we went our separate ways.

Having a friendly face and some fantastically fun locals to show us around for a day was a lot of fun and very informative. Absolutely an experiment O want to repeat and hopefully a favour I can return.

The rest of our evening was simply relaxing and having some dinner before an early-ish night.

On Sunday Maya and I were hoping to wake up to some snow, but all we got was a very little bit. Oh well. First on the agenda after breakfast was Devin Castle a little out of Bratislava, which looked like a great set of ruins from the outside but were unfortunately closed. We did manage to climb onto the icey roof of an abandoned building for a bit of a view and also got some sort of attempt at snow. After Devin Castle we made our way to the Slavin Monument, built in memory of the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in WW2. As the monument was right up on a hill, it was all covered in snow and still snowing quite nicely when we arrived.

After exploring the monument we made our way back to the old town for some warm tea and a healthy lunch, and some time to relax. This then left time for one more item to be ticked off the list, climbing the tower inside St Michaels gate. This is the only surviving city gate of the old city as the rest were knocked down to allow the city to expand. The view looked out over old town and the castle, but also showed off the varied architecture of Bratislava. It is a very strange mix of historic, communistic and modern, all jumbled in together.

After the tower we were off to airport for our delayed flight home.

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Krakow 

Over the Easter Weekend I popped off to Krakow, Poland with 2 friends to explore the city and take in the nearby WW2 sites.

After arriving late Thursday and settling into our AirBnB, we were up early on Friday for a trip to the Salt Mines. These mines were huge and impressive, and exploring them required descending hundreds of steps, down as low as 300m below ground. The mines are full of sculptures and carvings all created by the miners in their own time. After the salt mines we made our way back into Krakow and to the Jewish Quarter for world famous pizza sticks for lunch which were delicious. Next up was Schindler’s factory museum. Good thing we booked as the line was massive! This museum was so much more than just the history of the factory made famous by the film. It also provided an incredible, in depth experience covering the majority of Krakow’s modern history. It has to be the one of, if not the best museum I have visited. Incredibly well laid out, and informative. Post museum it was time for beers in the spring sun in the main square of the Jewish Quarter, followed by a traditional polish dinner.Saturday saw us up at the crack of dawn and on a bus to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. We all learn about the history of WW2 and the horrors of the Holocaust, however seeing with your own eyes is completely different. I firmly believe this is an experience everyone should try to have at least once in their lifetime.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana

After returning to Krakow and having a quick nap, it was back to beers in the sun, this time in Old Town Square where we were treated to come Polish Eurotrash break dancing against our will. This was followed by Vodka tasting and a healthy (non-Polish) dinner.

Easter Sunday we joined a free walking tour of Old Town Krakow. We had a great guide and the tour was very informative. We learnt all about Krakow’s history from the glory days to the downfall. Our tour wound it’s way through Old Town, finishing up at Wawel Castle. After the walking tour, we had planned to attend an Eataway. This is a platform which enables everyday people to host meals in their homes. The couple who hosted this Eataway were Americans living in Poland, who were lovely and hospitable and the food was delicious. However, it was a very interesting group of people who attended the lunch. The blind couple from Sweden, the American Director, the loud Australian guy, the Polish girls who’s family were all in Ireland, and many other interesting characters. The hosts also had pet rats in cages…. So overall a very different and interesting experience, however unsure it’s something I want to repeat. After escaping the Eataway we explored more of the Jewish Quarter, had a drink and then headed back to our AirBnB for an early night.

Monday I had time for a quick breakfast, and then I was off to the airport and back home to London. 

Old Town Square by Night

Descending the many stairs to the Salt Mines

Church within the Salt Mines

Jewish Quarter street art 

Pizza Stick

Beers in the sun

Main Square, Jewish Quarter

The most delicious perogis 

Auschwitz 

Birkenau 

Old Town Square

Old Town market building in the square 

Vodka tasting! 

Krakow city gate 

The rotunda 

Old Town 

One of the worlds oldest universities

Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Castle

Castle Selfies

The Citadel

The Citadel

Secret Churches

The Vistula River


Krakow sunsets