I had very few expectations on that cold foggy morning when I decided to jump into a train from Budapest and began my journey toward you, but I still did it because you were so close yet so unknown to me. My 3 hours trip was filled with few conversations with the Canadian couple I shared the train compartment with, couple of pictures once in a while and the never ending white landscape outside as soon as we crossed the Slovak border… I knew we did because the whole picture changed suddenly, and because border police came to check passports (PS: It’s a love letter but I was not going to be all soppy about it either, you know me better 😉 )
As I got out of my train, my expectations were still low as your station was a relatively small one, compared to the beautiful old Keleti Station I just left in Budapest, and because of your size darling you are not on the typical path of Central European capitals and let’s face it compared to nearby cities such as Vienna, Prague and Budapest, on paper you lack the awe-provoking architecture most people crave…
But isn’t that how love usually pops up, when we least expect it?
Yes it is, and I was totally wrong. You surprised me with your unpretentiousness, because with you I felt less like being in a tourist amusement park and more like being in a living and breathing city that functions for locals and visitors just the same. It’s difficult to say these words for the city centers of Prague, Budapest and even small Ljubljana, whose restaurants, parks, theaters, and museums seem to be part of a movie realized for only one purpose: entertaining visitors. You were not that kind of cities: you were real, alive and vibrant. Wandering around without a map never felt as natural as doing it in your streets (and because I couldn’t find maps written in English too…), but the point is, It felt nice and different to be lost in you. What I also loved about you is that the old and new blended peacefully and the old buildings were beautifully preserved. I was amazed to find a very beautiful city full of old Castles, palaces, theaters, old buildings, high churches but also new interesting and modern buildings just around the corner.
When talking with a very nice café owner, she told me that you are the only European capital that borders with two other countries: Austria and Hungary. And that, my darling, made you very special. I wish I could stay longer to experience having breakfast with you, lunch in Austria and dinner in Hungary. What also fascinated me about you was the huge number of beautiful churches in such small city, each one so unique, impressive and simple at the same time: The St. Martin Dome (the oldest one), the Jesuit Church, Ladislav Church, Blumental Church, the Trinity Church, St. Elisabeth church (the blue church)…
With you, I had one of the most special visits ever! I did encounter some amazingly nice Bratislavians who went from oddly staring at me (more at my scarf actually) to tolerating my differences even if they didn’t understand them (and not just when trying to sell me one of their tiny Mozart music boxes), I also met a few younger ones who knew some English, making suggestions about what areas may be interesting to visit, and when looking for the city castle after spending hours figuring out how to get there, I even met a Serbian guy who offered to walk with me to the castle while discussing my travels, his travels and camels (yes apparently we still have camels in every city in Morocco …)
I spent most of my one day trip in your old town and surrounding residential areas. However, I felt a strong connection to the old town. There, among Cold, narrow streets, residential buildings with paint peeling off, tiny shops with minimal portfolio, and shiny new Western franchise stores, the contrast between the new generation’s enthusiasm and the older generation’s misery is beautifully exposed.
Dear Bratislava, I only spent one full day with you and left on the last train back to Budapest. I wish I had scheduled at least one more day, though. I can only imagine how wonderful you would be in summer and spring. Now I’m going to brag to everyone I know that I met the only capital in the world that borders two countries. How cool is that?!