Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bratislava, Slovakia

My first visit to Slovakia, a country known for folk traditions and beautiful women was to the capital city of Bratislava. You can see & feel that there is still much progress to be made to get this country completely out from under the dark cloud of communism, but this is a very old city with nice people, delicious food, medieval buildings, many unique statues, and extremely energetic kids who loved Winnie the Pooh!
There weren’t any direct flights from Amsterdam so I flew to Vienna, Austria and was driven the 1 ½ hours to Bratislava. Crossing over the Slovakian border there was an immediate change in the atmosphere, the lush green countryside and brilliant red, wild flowers were still there but the cute, colorful, cottages of the Austrian villages were replaced with drab gray, concrete, block buildings. My driver, Jozef a Slovakian around my age, explained that it was like living in a rabbit cage.
Shortly after arrival, I was off to the Incheba Expo Center for our opening night. All went very well with a nearly sold out audience of dancing and singing kids who just couldn’t get enough of their beloved Macko Puf. At the end it was like a kiddie mosh pit in front the stage!
After the show, a group of us went to the old centre for dinner. It was difficult finding a place still serving food at the late hour, but there were plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars to choose from. After walking around for at least an hour and asking just about everyone and anyone we encountered for suggestions we settled for a pizzeria. The place had a very rustic ambience of cobblestoned walls and cave-like rooms.
The next morning I hit the hotel gym for a work-out, but was quickly disappointed to find that nearly all the equipment was no less than 10 years old. It didn’t seem to bother the Slovaks though, as there were at least 30 people crammed into a work out area that was only slightly bigger than my hotel room! I settled for the archaic stationary bike and people watching next to the pool. In the afternoon I escaped the heat of my non-air conditioned room and went for a walk around the old centre with some friends. We stopped for lunch at a traditional restaurant where I went for the “farmer’s lunch” of cabbage gnocchi with schnitzel.
My last night in town we tried going to the UFO restaurant over top the New Bridge, but were turned away because of a private function. Instead we hit a local Irish pub and drank some giant Hoegaarden beers.
My visit to Slovakia ended on Saturday when I returned to Amsterdam for a 12 hour stop over and luggage re-pack before leaving for annual company meetings in the US!

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