After a wonderful day on Wednesday of markets and historical buildings, we decided to also make a full day of Friday. We got up early, actually took the metro and tried to find Brunnenmarkt. However, after such a successful day with the Naschmarkt the day before, the second market was a bit of a letdown. Though it was early Friday afternoon by the time we got there, many of the stalls were closed and many others seemed to actually be Turkish or Turkish related. Considering we can get plenty of kebab spices in Istanbul, we made our way quickly through the second market and decided to walk a bit farther to check out a Brauhaus that was supposed to be nearby. We did find out that the brewery, Ottakringer, was there, but the security guard informed us that there was no Brauhaus. So we wandered a bit more to find a metro station and made our way back to the Naschmarkt area, where we found a quick Chinese/Thai restaurant to eat at (after finding that the Thai restaurant for which we’d rave reviews was not open for lunch). We then made our way back to the Museum Quarter where we thought we could check out the last art museum from our combo pack. We left disappointed after just 15 minutes and ventured toward what we thought could be a better museum. Across from where we were stood the Natural History Museum and the Art History Museum. They were identical, elegant buildings which faced each other with a courtyard in between. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both building had once been a palace.
Friday so far hadn’t lived up to the adventures of Thursday, so we didn’t hold high hopes for the Natural History Museum, but once we entered the foyer, we knew we’d made a good decision. Even the entryway was grand and inviting. It said, “I’m elegant, yet educated and I want to share my knowledge with those willing to learn and discover,” which, coincidently, we were. The first five rooms or so of the first floor were set up with cases and cases and cases of ROCKS. Rocks in all shapes, colors, sizes, and from all over the world. The detail was incredible. Apparently it used to be a private collection, but was opened to the public by the late owner’s wife a long time ago. We moved from rooms of rocks to rooms of asteroids, meteors, and moon rocks to fossils, dinosaurs, skulls, Neanderthals, early weavings, ceramics and weaponry. On the second floor we found stuffed animals, reptiles and fish. And lining the ceilings of each room were corresponding paintings, painted in a Romantic fashion: the rock rooms had pictures of deserts and mountains; the rooms with fossils had pictures of whimsical, tropical lands; the rooms with fish had boats and ships sailing on stormy waters. You get my point. It was awesome. It took us at least 20 minutes to get through one room; we ran out of time and the museum closed before we got to see the whole thing.
The next morning we got up early and took the bus out to Bratislava. It only took an hour and the tickets were 13 Euro, roundtrip. Finding our way around Bratislava didn’t take too long, because it’s not too large, but it’s well worth it. We stayed at the Hostel Blues, which while not providing cheap breakfast buffets, did have a very helpful staff and much more character than the Wombats Hostels. We walked around for a bit and tried to find some of the recommended spots we’d looked up. The one thing we were really excited about and ended up visiting everyday was the Slovak Pub. The best part about Slovakia was the food and Slovak Pub had excellent food. The traditional Slovak dishes such as potato dumpling, garlic soup in a bread bowl, and the best potato pancakes I’d ever had, were incredibly delicious and hardy—the perfect meal for a windy, cold Slovakian day. And cheap, too! We got four entrees, two beers, one soday,two shots of spirits, and a dessert for about 25 Euro. Not to mention that the atmosphere was incredibly relaxing and all the staff was very friendly and helpful.
Our second day in Bratislava we took a walking tour around the city. If you’ve never done a walking tour and you’re on a budget, I highly recommend it. Pretty much every big city has one and they’re usually quite informative—and free! Well, they work on tips, but it’s still cheaper than a paid tour. Most hostels have information on a local walking tour. Anyway, the tour was super informative and we learned a lot about Bratislava’s history, back from when it was still a part of the Hungarian Empire, to when it was Czechoslovakia, to the first time it was independent, then Czechoslovakia again, and then once again, an independent Slovakia. (They also aren’t huge fans of Prague.) As we were walking around, it was obvious that the country had once been communist. You would get to sections of towns were all the buildings shared an industrial feel. Yet there were other parts of town that were magical. Apparently there were much more magical parts before the communist government tore down a bunch of old buildings in the 1970s. After the tour was over, my fingers were almost numb inside my gloves, so we went to a nearby pizzeria. And even the pizza was good! A brewery later that night, and then Slovak Pub again (in addition to a few other local pubs).
We caught the bus back to Vienna the next morning (after one last stop at the Slovak Pub). Overall, we were satisfied with Bratislava and wouldn’t mind visiting it again, but not in the winter. But we were ready to be back in Vienna. Aftergathering and repacking all our belongings and readying for the flight the next morning, we decided to have one last night of wandering the city. We saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral at night and it was simply breathtaking. We walked down by the water, got some ice cream, and a bratwurst. We found Kleines Cafe, which provided a cozy atmostphere for our last tea in the city.
The following morning we caught the metro back to the airport and were back in Istanbul before we knew it. Of course we’re already planning our next trip.