Slovakia Two Ways with Emerald Waterways
Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Star continued her weeklong Danube Delights itinerary this morning as we arrived in our second country – and second capital city – of the trip. Today, we’d explore Bratislava, Slovakia in two ways: first, with an orientating walking tour of the historic city center, and then with a visit to a local village in the afternoon for a look into the life of an average Slovakian. The latter is part of Emerald Waterways’ complimentary EmeraldPlus excursions that are designed to provide culturally-enriching experiences ashore.
Up until 1919, Bratislava was known as Pressburg. Today, it is the only national capital that literally borders two independent countries; in this case, Austria and Hungary. Its current name is also a lot of fun to say: Brat-ees-lava. Bonus points if you can roll the initial ‘r’ like the locals do. Bratislava is located between kilometres 1862 to 1874 along the Danube, where kilometre zero is situated near the Black Sea.
You’ll hear about Velvet a lot in the history of Bratislava – but not in the Stanford White, Red Velvet Swing kind of way. Submerged in the communist regime of the Eastern Bloc, the citizens of Bratislava were among the first to anticipate the fall of Communism and the start of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. In 1993, Bratislava became the new capital of Slovakia following the Velvet Divorce that resulted in the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. This created the countries of Slovakia and the Czech Republic that exist today.
It’s hard to imagine in 2014, but this cruise that we’re on simply would not have been possible 25 years ago. On my first visit here in 2012, one local told of how simply crossing the bridge that spans the Danube – which leads to neighbouring Austria – would have been reason enough to be shot prior to 1989.
Today’s Bratislava is far more lighthearted – and, if you’re a movie lover, absolutely nothing like the city depicted in the 2005 Eli Roth horror film Hostel, which caused vocal condemnation by the Slovakian government over the film and its inaccurate depiction of Bratislava as a dangerous, murderous town. Interestingly, the film wasn’t even shot here; it was lensed in the Sleeping Beauty-esque town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic that guests will have the chance to visit in a few days’ time.
At 0900, our walking tour of Bratislava departed the Emerald Star. Guests could pick any one of five groups to join, with the fifth group being geared exclusively for gentle walkers who want to move at a more relaxed pace.
I chose to join Group 4, based solely on the highly scientific principal that it was the first one I saw as I disembarked the Emerald Star. I was last in Bratislava about a year and a half ago, and truthfully didn’t need to take the walking tour, but I was eager to see how Emerald Waterways handled their excursions.
In truth, their excursions and guides are as good as any other line. Our guide was knowledgeable and informative, and though she stuck to the same route through town that I experienced on my previous visit to Bratislava, she hit all the right notes and even imparted a larger degree of history on us.
After the tour, we were welcomed to enjoy Bratislava on our own, or head back to the ship for lunch. I wanted to explore the city, so I opted to stay in town and quickly found myself an outdoor café called the Green Tree Caffe to sit and relax in. I ordered a Spiced Chai Latte – for the rock-bottom price of €1.90, including tax.
After 30 minutes of caffeinated people watching just adjacent to Michael’s Gate – which dates back to the 13th Century – I decided it was time to shuffle on. Some photos of my morning in Bratislava:
Around Noon, I thought about heading back to the Emerald Star at her berth to enjoy lunch. As good as the food onboard is, I had to try some local Slovakian food, so I found myself sitting on the patio of a pub called Slang Pub, on Bratislava’ s tree-and-fountain-lined Einsteinova street, at Einsteinova 23.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Emerald Waterways Emerald Star continues tomorrow as we arrive in gorgeous Vienna, Austria! Be sure to follow along on twitter with the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.