Our day began shortly after pulling up to the dock in Bratislava, Slovakia, this morning. Everyone on the ship broke into groups and each had a local guide to lead us on a walking tour of the city, the center of which was just a short 5 minute walk from the ship.
One of the first things our guide Jana pointed out was the differences in some of the architecture in the city. Or, in her words, the ugly communist buildings that everyone hates.
Ugly Communist building on the left, more typical Bratislavan construction on the right
Our tour was really interesting, though (and this may sound obvious) I’ve never felt like more of a tourist in my life. There were four or five groups from our ship, along with several groups from other ships, all with their little portable headsets and identifying signs so people didn’t get lost. I’m sure the locals are used to it, but it was still a little odd feeling at times. I guess I’m just more used to doing things on our own, but it was definitely nice to have a guide, especially one with so much personal experience in the area (more on that in a minute).
We soon boarded buses to one of the sites Kevin has been most excited to see on this trip: Devin Castle.
The castle, as you can see, is not exactly habitable. It was quite a hike up the hills to get to the top, but the view was definitely worth the climb.
The castle sits on the Danube River where it meets the Morava River, and where the Danube serves as the border between Slovakia and Austria. Our guide told us how under communist rule, when the country was Czechoslovakia, there was a razor wire fence just past the castle ruins to keep people from swimming to freedom on the other side. She said family members would stand on opposite sides of the river and shout across, “How is my nephew? How are our grandparents doing?” The whole concept of living that way just seems baffling to me, but she just talked about it so matter-of-factly.
Meanwhile, now that both countries are part of the Eurozone, we crossed the border into Austria after lunch without so much as a stop sign.
In Austria, we visited Schloss Hof, a Baroque hunting lodge with beautiful gardens.
We had a tour guide there as well. I can maybe get used to this whole thing where you don’t need to do any research on the place you’re visiting and just follow blindly along as someone else takes care of the details, yet you still have a full and rewarding experience. Hmm.
After Schloss Hof we headed back to the ship for dinner, which ended just in time for us to wander back into the city before our “all aboard” time. We picked up another small piece of art and I’m super pumped to hang this one. The shopkeep did a great job of wrapping it so I can’t share it with you just now, but rest assured it’s awesome.
As I type this we’re sailing onward and upstream toward Vienna, where we’re due to arrive early in the morning. I hate to cut this short but we have an 8:30 a.m. departure time for our tour of the city and sleep is calling my name. Kevin has already passed out and, if you know us both you know how rare and mildly concerning this is. See you in Vienna!