Bratislava and Casta

Saturday 8 to Tuesday 11 July

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia is tucked into the very south west of the country. It is on the Danube River so the river cruises make a stop here. It was hot and muggy and as we arrived the rain started. We had booked into the Film Hotel – a boutique hotel with each room named after a film star. We were staying in the Leonardo di Caprio room, and yes, he watched over us as we slept.

We waited for the rain to abate, then wandered into town for a reconnoiter. It was Saturday night and there were a lot of roudy men with English accents. Was there a football match?

We found the Danube river and the UFO lookout that sits on the bridge. We hadn’t carted our cameras with us, so it was ‘just looking’. 

We came across a youth orchestra from Perth who were playing very lively music. A group of young South Africans were waiting for their turn. We found a small restaurant for dinner, that served a rather more upmarket version of Slovakian food. Duck  is common on menus here and mine was very good.

Next day, armed with cameras we re-explored the city. 

We had purchased a vignette to use the motorways as we entered the country, so our first stop was the Tourist Information Centre to the confirm our intended itinerary. It seems to be OK although the young man wasn’t sure about us travelling on the lesser roads. In my constant attempt not to repeat a journey on any road I had created a circular itinerary rather than a there and back one. 

We went to the river to get the best pictures of the castle with the sun on it. Then climbed up the hill. It was hot and hard work for the short climb. I was happy to stand in the entrance to the castle where a cool breeze blew in. The castle staircase was beautiful and the exhibits interesting, especially the House of Hapsburg who were crowned here as the Ottomans threatened Buda where the Hapsburg monarchy was based. Such an amazing family of notables. Maria Teresa was queen from 1770 to 1780 and had sixteen children, one was Marie Antoinette. I read later that the family died out due to inbreeding. 

When we left the castle the weather had turned cool with rain about to start. That cool entrance was now chilly. 

We turned back to town and found a pub, with excellent beer of course, to wait out the storm. 

This was to be our last night so we returned to the hotel and negotiated to stay another night and then booked some forward accommodation.  Although we have a rough plan of where we would like to go, we also like the flexibility of booking just 2 to 4 nights ahead. Just to add a night or change direction makes our travels more interesting. 

We used our extra day in Bratislava to drive through the Little Carpathians, the premier wine growing region in the south west of Slovakia. Our destination was the Red Stone Castle (Červený Kameň) near Častá.

We took the escorted tour, which unfortunately was in Slovakian. We were given English sheets to read on the way, but it was hard keeping up with the guide as she opened rooms in front of us and locked rooms behind us, and read the guide and take photos.

The castle was built around the year 1230 and had passed through owners and redecorations until 1945.

The castle had been richly decorated with ornate furniture of aristocratic residences between the 16th and 20th centuries.. There was even an ‘Asian Room’ which was a common extravagance in the 18th and 19th centuries as travellers returned from the Far East. A couple of portraits of Ottoman Sultans hung in the Knight’s Hall – the Ottoman’s had invaded Central Europe and ruled here for nearly two centuries.

The tour included a visit to the cellars and the fortifications, which really was interesting. The cellars were built to store copper from the Central Slovakian mines, and then later used to store food and wine.

We felt we made good use of our time in Bratislava.

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