Bratislava: Eastern Europe’s Hidden Gem

A lesson that we’ve learned quickly throughout the first four months of our travels is that flexibility in scheduling can lead to some unexpected and exciting adventures.  Before we began our short two weeks in Europe, we had planned to spend one week in Prague and another in Budapest.  The original plan was to fly to Prague, travel to Budapest by train and fly from there to Asia since we had our flight already booked.  It wasn’t until we met our friends Juan and Lenka in Rio, that we decided to throw a small wrinkle into that plan!  Lenka is from Slovakia, and she was telling us about many of the great things her home country had to offer.  Given the openness of the two weeks that we had, we thought it would be fun to spend a few days in Bratislava (Slovakian capital city) on our way to Budapest.  Little did we know that it was going to be some of the best days we spent in Europe!

Before we even arrived in Bratislava, we knew it was going to be an adventure. Karen and I had the opportunity to stay at the Marina Botel (not a spelling error) and felt obligated to take it.  If you haven’t already imagined what a “botel” is in your mind, let me describe it for you.  It’s a boat docked on the Danube River that serves as a hotel.  There are two floors with a number of rooms that are pretty limited with space, and from time to time a boat will drive past and create waves that make the botel rock.  Neither of us have ever been on a cruise, but this was a nice segway into what that experience would be like!

This is the entire bathroom from the Marina Botel.  See what I mean about space?

This is the entire bathroom from the Marina Botel. See what I mean about space?

Perhaps the best feature about the botel was the area in which it was located.  We once again found ourselves outside of the cental area of the city, which presented us with an opportunity to explore some territory we might not have otherwise.  Situated on the Danube River, we were close to Old Town, which is a really neat area of Bratislava.  There are lots of great restaurants and shops situated amongst cool architecture.  It’s definitely worth exploring!  Some of our highlights included a visit to Le Šenk Craft Beer Cafe, a great local establishment with good food and as many as eight craft beers on draft!  We also made multiple stops at the Slovak Pub, a restuarant serving traditional slovakian food and beer at great prices.  Don’t miss out on their potato pancakes! As for the sights to see in the area, there are several visually appealing places to visit.  The Bratislava Castle overlooks the city and has some absolutely stunning architecture and views of the city; the UFO bridge looks somewhat like the Space Needle in Seattle and is a fun way to cross the Danube; and the Church of St. Elizabeth is a bright blue church with a very interesting exterior.  All of them are worth your time.

The Church of St. Elizabeth.  Beautiful!

The Church of St. Elizabeth. Beautiful!

In spite of all these great sites, the most memorable part of Bratislava started with an exploratory run through a local park.  We were running through the park and looking for different running and biking paths, when we came upon a long stretch that didn’t seem to end!  Later that day we went into a bike shop called BikeBratislava.  If you end up in Bratislava and want to explore the area the right way, go check this place out!  Their staff is awesome and incredibly helpful.  Our new friend, Luka, told us that we could ride that entire bike trail, which is called the Bratislava-Devín-Schlosshof-Hainburg path.  It goes in and around both Slovakia and Austria!  Suprisingly, you simply cross the borders with ease and make your way around this approximately 43-mile loop trail.  At first we thought it was the first time we crossed an international border on foot (or bike), until we remembered that the Detroit Marathon course runs into Ontario.  Either way, we were so excited to unexpectedly add Austria to our agenda! So, we spent our final whole day in Bratislava biking that trail and taking in some unbelievable scenery.  Had we not been fortunate enough to find that trail, we likely never would have known what was hiding right underneath our noses.  It was definitely one of our top highlights in Europe and something we recommend to anyone and everyone who has the opportunity.

For a video look at our time in Bratislava, check out the link below or watch the video on our “Kimblesinbits” Youtube page!

 

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