And a nation emerges
The next to last stop on the trip is Bratislava, Slovakia. It’s only 40 miles from Vienna, but some 40 miles-es are longer than others.
Slovakia doesn’t have much recent history as a free country; it’s still coming out from decades of communist control. They’re growing and improving, but there is still a ways to go.
To start with, there is graffiti. Lots of it. Yes, it’s illegal, but that isn’t stopping anybody. After 2 weeks of hyper-clean Holland, Germany and Austria it’s a shock to see the writing on the walls and the cigarette butts all over the streets.
Reconstruction and modernization are taking place, but Bratislava is still a work in progress:
There are some interesting things, to be sure. This building is just 5 feet wide. I can’t imagine how many years it has been here, surely since long before building codes existed.
It’s actually a very attractive city. From the ramparts of the castle you can see three countries–Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Our bus tour seemed made it seem like a larger place than it is until I realized how much we were going in circles and never traveled more than a mile from where we started. Maybe a mile and a half, but that’s generous.
Slovakia is definitely doing well economically–they have assembly plants for BMW, Mercedes and Kia. The downtown is full of cafes and pubs, as well as a full assortment of all the standard stores.
Here’s something strange–McDonalds is under pressure to change it’s signature colors in European cities to be less garish against the backdrop of medieval architecture. The golden arches remain, but their background has changed from bright red to more of a forest green.
Bratislava has a bit of street sculpture, too. This is the most popular–an odd creep peeking up skirts. Everybody seems to love him, there’s even a street sign so you don’t trip.
Maybe this not working too hard thing is endemic here–I saw a couple of street musicians, who played some decent jazz, but I’ve never seen street hustlers sitting down before:
It’s probably significant that the accordion player has his leg through the strap of his case so it won’t be stolen.
Dropping a couple of bucks in the hat, I noticed that they had a CD that they were just giving away, so I took one. Hard to get rich that way, I should think. The music business is tough.
There is only one grocery store in the old town area, because there aren’t many residents. I stopped on the way back to the ship to grab some Diet Coke, and noticed a few things:
Notice the plastic gloves you can put on before pawing through the breads for just the right roll. Notice that the rolls are 6 Euro cents apiece–less than 8¢ US.
There is much more smoking here than in California. That doesn’t stop them from appropriating our symbols for their advertising:
That’s about it for me as regards Bratislava. We had a pretty enjoyable morning there, then hit the trail for Budapest. The plan is to arrive about 10 at night when the building along the Danube are all lit up. I’ll let you know how that works out.