Blava is apparently what all Slovakians who don’t live in the capital call Bratislava, and the Blavians, sorry Bratislavians, hate it. It’s only been called Bratislava since Czechoslovakia was declared in 1918, and before that its supposedly had over 24 different names, most notably Pressburg – which for a few hundred years was the capital city of Hungary and its empire. The folk who live in the capital refer to all of the east of Slovakia as “the zoo” and joke that they need a visa to go there. Nothing like a bit of North/South (or in this case East/West) regional banter to endear you to a country.

The Bratislavians are rude, unhelpful, gossips, who complain about absolutely everything. Not my words, but a (slightly tongue in cheek I assume) description of the locals in the guide leaflet. This is in another of the Use-It local guides we have come across before, which are made by local young people. A great idea, helpful and funny stuff. I think the Brits may share quite a lot of similarities with the Slovaks – rude, unhelpful, gossips, who complain about everything? I thought I was reading a guide for the UK at first.

“Little Big City” is Bratislava’s tag line, and it’s quite appropriate. The old town itself is only a 5 minute walk across at its longest point, but manages to fit a fair bit into its little cobbled streets and squares. The old town is surrounded by a mix of old buildings, communist era apartment blocks, and shopping centres, and this makes up the city centre. As a whole it had a nice laid back atmosphere, and wasn’t touristy at all. Hardly any street hecklers or leafleters. As tourists, we sometimes felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. I’d hazard a guess it’s a lot different in Summer though.

The whole city did have a much more Mediterranean feel than anywhere we’ve been so far, with all the terracotta roofs and baroque churches. (Maybe the blue sky had something to do with this observation – we hadn’t seen a second of sunshine since Bruges). The place is an interesting mix of old and new and is certainly somewhere we’d come back to. (It’s cheap as chips n’all – Accommodation less than £30 a night for a private double – Pint about £1.20 – Large restaurant meal less than £5 per person)

The hostel, erroneously called Patio Hostel, yet seemingly Patioless, was nothing to write home about (apart from I’m technically writing home about it now). It was cheap, cheerful and clean, and did the job.

No drunken debauchery or particular tales of woe to report from Blava. We did think of going out-out one night but accidentally ate to much of the local cuisine (super stodgy Czech-like fare, dumplings, sausage, sauerkraut etc) and ended up having to roll home after a couple of pints, all too full and sleeply.

Other things we’ve Learned about Bratislava:

Slovaks love Ice Hockey. It’s big over there, and they are pretty good at it, apparently. I personally can’t understand the appeal, as I defy any spectator to tell me honestly that they can ever see the puck. It’s far to small and fast or the human eye to see from any point in a stadium. How people can tell there has been a goal before it’s announced I have no idea.

Always the real thing. Kofola. This is the Slovak version of Coca-Cola, which gained popularity during the communist years as it was available so cheap compared to the imported western brands. It’s Cokes biggest rival in the country, and anyone who is anyone drinks Kofola. Cokes for loosers.

This is the second post of waffle we’ve managed to churn out today, as we’re trying to bring the blog up to date. Previous was Vienna.

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