So I've got to finish this Europe trip so I can move on to all the other lovely things going on around here, such as how I walked in on O combing his eyebrows (with a full size comb) the other day, and an amazingly fun dinner theater with the world's worst group of singers...
so, we left Brno and headed to Budapest via Bratislava
We first stopped off at the grocery store where we bought loads of European candy (no surprise), mixes for dumplings, halushki, and of course, svikova! Now we can have everyone over for a Czech dinner! (that is assuming anyone will agree to come-after their last experience...)
First we stopped off in Bratislava, the capitol of Slovakia, the number one most underated city in Europe (according to many sites on the internet), and L's fav place ever!
Slovakia and Czech Republic were once one country (Czeckoslovakia) but they split in 1993 to form their own countries. The languages are similar and most adults can understand both (they all grew up speaking or listening to both-TV shows, news, signs, papers, etc). Kids now have a harder time understanding the other language. O was fine translating, he spoke a little Slovakian on his mission and most people we ran into spoke Czech very well. A departure from Prague-most people here did not speak much English.
Bratislava was hit very hard during Communism. Many beautiful buildings were torn down and replaced by absolute monstrosities (or, in some cases, nothing at all). What was left untouched was left untouched (in other words, everything fell into complete disrepair). There are some parts of Bratislava where the Communists even sold the cobblestones off to German towns that were trying to rebuild after WW2. The Communists were certainly not a sentimental bunch :(
People are just now starting to fix up the buildings- we saw a few buildings that had been purchased by big banks and other well known companies that were redone beautifully.
Bratislava "white house"
Front of the building
We only had a few hours so we took Rick Steve's self guided tour of the town.
Bratislava is absolutely charming (in a decrepit sort of way). (I cannot imagine what L did not like about it!). O and I predict Bratislava is going to be the next big thing. It is perfectly situated about 2 hours from Prague and less than an hour from Vienna. Both are huge centers of business and have large populations. (Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capitols in Europe). So close to Vienna, people could live here and commute, and businesses can come in and still work with all the Viennese (real estate in Vienna is not just out of this world, its pretty much non existent these days). If you want to invest in property, buy something here! (of course you will have to deal with the strict renovation rules).
Anyways, Bratislava is starting to emerge from from its communist days back to its former (Hapsburg) glory. This was the capitol of the Hapsurg empire during the reign of Maria Theresa.
The old town consists of tiny little lanes branching off one main cobblestone drag. The main lane was completely lined with little cafes (this was actually what I pictured Rome to be like, until I landed and found out I was completely mistaken). O and I stopped for frozen hot chocolate-it was like 500 degrees, and were surprised to see that the waitors here serve tap water (first place in all of Europe that you can get a free drink of water!)
old town, lined with street cafes
(not so frozen) frozen hot chocolate. (they obviously have no idea what frozen hot chocolate is as there was nothing milk'shakish about this luke-warm 'pudding').
as they have been coming out of communism, they have been placing statues of random people all over, just for fun...
O being photographed by the "paparazzi"statue
fake statue (in other words, real person)
one man band-O got a real kick out of him as he was playing a song that my dad apparently just started belting out on the train in Prague with O and L.
While eating our chocolate pudding, we were mesmerized by a family of Germans/Austrians. There was a father and three sons and the best way to describe them-goons, that is really the only word. They just seemed so gooney, they would be the perfect bumbling bad guys in an animated film. The two older boys laughed in the most insanely goofey manner, throughout their meal, the younger one (who looked to be about 13) sat and smoked a hundred cigarettes nervously, while the father looked on in a scheming sort of manner, with his 7 inch long grotesque toenails. Truly, words cannot describe this very strange bunch.
After our rather rich chocolate, we headed to St Martin's Cathedral to see its display of fabulous robes, crowns, jewels, and other artifacts. We also got to head down to the crypt (which I loved!). That was worth the train to Bratislava all by itself! They have buried church leaders and important townspeople there for centuries and still have a few spots available!
As we walked back to the train station we stopped at another cafe for Halushki, the countries national dish. It was delish (much better than when I tried to make it, my potatoes oxidized and turned gray, making the dish extremely unappetizing)
Following dinner we raced back to the train station and caught the train to Budapest, Hungary.
We arrived in Budapest quite late, could not find a single person who spoke english well enough to give us directions, took a bus to the city center, got excited that our hotel was right in the heart of the nightlife!, discovered that our hotel was not there at all, took the metro back to the train station, walked across the street to our hotel. (keep in mind we were hauling our backpacks around the entire time!)
More to come...