Thursday 19 April 2012

Bratislava - Slovakia

Great views across the Danube river of the Castle and Cathedral from from Stary Most Bridge.
This is a really cool city. Lots of great architecture in the Old Town like so many Eastern European countries but also lots to do and plenty of sights to see. Plus food, drink and most amenities are really cheap, especially in supermarkets.
Our hostel was located on the east of the city, just on the fringes of the old town where some new developments are evident. It was a great spot though because we were no more than 10 minutes away from most of the sites by foot and it cost under £15 per night for a shared dorm.

Although increasingly popular with tourists, there is not a huge amount of provision for us english speakers and so things like road signs, menus and shops made for some entertaining translations.
From the hostel located on Spitaliska Street, I headed south west towards the Old Town and the Danube. The weather was absolutely perfect with temperatures around the high 20s, which was apparently an all time high for late September when I was there.
Spitaliska then became Sturova as the road bent west with the Danube now in view. It was a Sunday and the place was completely empty making for stress-free run.

After 1.2km I reached Stary Most Bridge, a narrow railway bridge with a footpath on either side of the track, not the safest, thankfully there were no trains running!

Once on the other side (the south bank) the views across Bratislava and the Old Town were spectacular (see top photo). Often these developing countries are belittled as pokey stag party venues but they have a lot more to offer without the over inflated prices of some of the other major capitals in Europe like Paris or Vienna in neighbouring Austria, just an hour away on the train.

The south bank has been cleverly turned into a tourist hotspot thanks to a large artificial beach which is constructed for the summer, and wide expanses of grass and trees with temporary bars for adults and childrens play areas for the kids (and the adults after a few drinks!).
The Old Town is full of picturesque squares and immaculately maintained architecture
Now on the south bank 1.9km into the run, I continued south along Jantarova Cesta and then turn right (west) onto Krasovskeho. Now in the park via the south east entrance, the walkway runs parallel to the Danube for 2.1km until the park ends and the Novy Most Bridge takes you back north over the Danube into the very heart of the tourist district that is the Old Town.
Now back on the north bank, I figured there would be an excellent view from the Castle so I immediately turned left (west) along Zizkova from where the Castle is signposted and there is a pedestrian footbridge up into the Old Town.
It was then just a case of following the footpath up some majorly steep narrow cobbled streets and the entrance in the Castle's outer wall.
Now in the grounds, the paths turned into a fine sandy gravel but it was still a sharp incline to reach the main Castle buildings when I just followed the public walkway.

The run to this point is 6.3km and now descends back down towards the Old Town along Zidovska and past St Martins Cathedral which has a huge advertising billboard stuck to the top of it bizarrely which you will probably not see at the Vatican or St Pauls!
The Castle strangely has an underground trance music nightclub, built into a nuclear bunker which was installed well after the castle itself. Well I suppose it is eastern europe after all!
From the Cathedral I head back east towards the hostel but this time incorporating the Old Town which is a pedestrian only zone, although completely cobbled and very undulating. There streets are full of lots of boutique stores, art galleries and cafes which gives it more of a feeling of being in a little french or italian village.
Views from the castle show the contrast between the historic Old Town and the newly developed areas of Bratislava

The route meanders though the winding alleyways and come out on Venturska street and then Zelena (both heading east) until I come across the town square where the Old Town Hall is located. There are lots of tourists here and several traditional market stalls and street entertainers.

From the Town Hall, simply continue east along Urluninska and then Klobucknika, and the route finished once you reach the end of the pedestrian zone, just 350 metres from the Hostel.

In total the route measured around just over 10km although it could be more or less depending on which route you take through the Old Town and how much of the Castle grounds you choose to take in.

Overall a really nice run, mixture of bridges, the Danube, parks, great views, and the main tourist sites, and very little traffic to speak of. It is also seemed a very safe place to although I am sure if you head off popular areas it may not stay that way. Just beware of the cobbolds and the hills if you have dodge ankles!

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Start - Hostel Blues, Spitaliska Street, north bank
Journey - South towards Danube, cross bridge to south bank, through the park east towards second bridge, back to north bank, through grounds of Bratislava Castle and then back east down through the Old Town via the Cathedral, effectively one large loop of the city centre.
Finish - Corner of Klobucnicka and Spitalska


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