Thursday, August 7, 2008

What can you get in Bratislava for $1.98?


So I leave Austria in my side view mirrors and after maneuvering my way through the city center and getting a little lost trying to go the right direction on the Autobahn I find myself heading due east to Slovakia and Bratislava. The trip should take about an hour but I was there in 20 minutes. Doing 190km/h on the Autobahn makes time slow down considerably. Truth be known, there is nothing worth seeing on the Autobahn with the exception of your destination coming up on you swiftly. It is truly an ugly network of roads situated on the least memorable landscapes any country has to offer.

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I follow the blue signs marked “Centar” into Bratislava. What a nice city! I cross the bridge into the old (read: tourist) part of the city and I putter around. It has to be about 40 degrees (Celsius) out and I find driving up and down by the river to be very refreshing. I take a couple of turns and end up in the business sector, then a few more turns and I’m at the top of the highest hill overlooking town. I stop at a streetside stand to buy some beer but they don’t have any. Fortunately I remember that I have a couple of bottles in my saddlebags. A little warm but they do the trick.

I decide that since I’m in Bratislava I should stay in a hostel. I know the movie ‘Hostel’ was filmed in Prague but the setting was supposed to be Bratislava. I tour about the city blindly until I find a tourist center. I get a map with all the accommodations listed on it. After another twenty minutes of driving around I finally realize the street names are written on the buildings and I get my bearings. I find the first Hostel and I go in asking about prices. The girl tells me a price and I do the math. Wow that’s cheap! I go grab my luggage and I go to check in. There’s no vacancy. What the heck did was she thinking when I asked her how much it was to stay there? Perhaps I was hoping to move in next week on my all Bratislava tour of Eastern Europe? I lug all my stuff back to the bike and tie it all down. I head to the next hostel. This time I ask if there is room first... none. The next one is the same. Damn. It’s starting to get late and I need to find somewhere to stay. I get into the old part of town and I dismount my bike. Not only do I leave all of my luggage attached to the bike, I leave my helmet sitting loosely on top of it for anyone to steal. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I ride the rest of the way wearing the clothes I have on and no helmet. Sounds like a dream trip. Maybe I should give my stuff away and get rid of my solid steel luggage. I bet I could get another 10 miles an hour out of the beast.

I find a place but I want to do some price comparisons so I walk around to a bunch of places. I shouldn’t have bothered. I go back to the first place and tell them I want a room. I just need to go get my bike and I will be right back. I get back to my bike and nothing has been touched. Now to get back to the place shouldn’t be that hard. Famous last words. It takes me over an hour to find a route back. I could walk it in about ten minutes but driving? Forget about it! I’m in one way street hell and I find myself circling about the same places over and over again. Finally I make it to a place where I can see the sign of the place outside. I have to get off my bike and walk / drive it up and down some stairs and through part of a park but I make it. I check in and as I do I see that they have Pilsner Urquel on tap. I need a few of those. After about eight glasses my nerves settle and I start talking to the girl behind the bar. She explains that I’m paying more for one night’s accommodations than she pays for a month’s rent. That just makes me like this town more. The guy behind the desk grabs me and tells me I should move my motorbike inside. “It’s not the Slovaks but we have lots of Hungarians here who will steal everything”, he says in his thick accent. We move the bike indoors, I get freshened up, and I hit the town... on foot!

Bratislava is not like Prague or Vienna. It has a nice small town feel and the riverside reminds me of being a kid on the banks of the Saskatchewan River. It’s really a nice town. And the people are nice to. It’s funny, they have flags from every country flown at various spots in the downtown area so you can use them to find your way around. I decide to walk to the Canadian flag. It’s flying at a very, very, very nice hotel. I go in and the first thing I see is the Sony store. For a city where one nights hotel can get you a month’s rent they sure don’t have any deal on electronics. Prices are over 50% more than at home. Who can afford this? Right, the guy in the brand new Ferrari outside can probably afford it.

I hit a cafe and have some food and more beers. The prices are ridiculously low so I overindulge. I go to a bar and have a few more. There seems to be a bit of nightlife but I don’t have the stamina to stay out and still ride tomorrow. I go back to the room and get myself a good night’s sleep.

The next morning I check out and it’s an older lady at the desk. She’s under the assumption that I had paid already but I hadn’t and I wasn’t going to argue with her so I leave without paying. I recruit the help of a couple of young men walking by to help me get my bike out of the hotel. It went in a lot easier than it wanted to come up and I took some paint off getting her out but she finally came.

I took one last little putt-putt through town and I hit the road. Hungary was my next destination and I needed to get some miles behind me.

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