We were awakened by light streaming in through the window. We got ready and went down to breakfast. We were lucky and able to find both food and drink we liked. Unfortunately, a bit later, the coffee machine broke. It is a really good thing I was able to caffeine up prior to that catastrophic moment.

We met in the lobby at 9 and boarded a beautiful bus. Dick and I were nearly first out the door. What I learned from taking a bus tour in Ireland is that the front seat is by far the best seat in the house. It was available and so I took it. That meant that our trip to Bratislava, Slovakia was with a beautiful view.

Eva gave us a wonderful talk all the way to our destination. She had stories and information. Both were appreciated. The trip took about an hour and twenty minutes and along the way there were interesting things to see. We passed some windmill farms which had several windmills but didn’t look anything like the massive conglomeration I remembered seeing in Kansas.

Windmills

Windmills

I asked about the largest grouping and Andreas, the driver and native Viennese, said that it was a very windy region with 300 days per year of higher winds. There were, however, no major storms like tornadoes in the region.

We got to Slovakia and the only way we knew it was that there was line drawn in the sand, as it were. There was no need to stop since both countries were members of the EU and so we were all one big happy family and we could all get along.

The border between Slovakia and Austria

The border between Slovakia and Austria

As we entered into Bratislava, we crossed the Danube and used a bridge that sported a high tower with a round restaurant at the top of it giving spectacular views of the city that is home to more than 400,000. Bratislava is also home to 3 state run and 5 private universities which means that there are about 70,000 college students living there and the average age is only 35 because of this. Interestingly, the state run free universities get to choose the best students and so those from private universities are considered to be less desirable because they weren’t good enough to get into the free ones.

Bridge over the Danube River with a restaurant on top

Bridge over the Danube River with a restaurant on top

We picked up Uri (George) and he was an entertaining and amusing guide in the city. We drove around first and he pointed out many wonderful sites and sights. The great church that was part of the city wall was first. The walls came up to the church and not across this. That is because the church was part of the early defense and there were five cannon in the church’s bell tower to help defend the city. The church here is mostly Roman Catholic.

Slovakia is much poorer than Austria and has had less time to recover from their Russian/Communist occupation. Uri mentioned that the Russians first liberated them from the Nazis, for which the locals were quite grateful, and then liberated them from the liberation in 1968 which wasn’t nearly as appreciated.

We passed some wonderful homes and the US Ambassador’s residence is a small version of the White House. It is right next to the British Ambassador and across the street from the Chinese. We wended our way through twisting and turning narrow streets and came to the castle where we got out of the bus.

The US Ambassador's residence.

The US Ambassador’s residence.

It was cold in Vienna. It was downright freezing here. It was probably the same temperature, but it was very, very windy. This was partly because we were at a high point over the Danube River. The castle has been rebuilt in many different eras. The Prince’s Tower rests on an original base and archeological digs show that a building has been here since the Stone Age. It is a very good defense position. You can see three countries from this site, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary. Bratislava and Vienna are the two closest capitals in the world.

The castle with an odd window placed to remind us off all the rebuilds.

The castle with an odd window placed to remind us off all the rebuilds.

We stayed for only a short time and then got back on the bus. We went back to lower ground and then went on a walking tour. We spent a couple hours walking (all downhill because it was very well planned). We came to the place where the original defense perimeter existed. We stood on a small bridge over a now filled in moat. The bridge was guarded by a saint, but I don’t remember which one.

In days of old, a drawbridge would lower and one could enter the first wall. However, if one was fighting the way in and this wall was breached, it would be necessary to go forward only a few feet before making a 90 degree turn and facing the inside wall. The cannon would have been very vulnerable at this point. What remained of the second wall was the clock tower.

The clock tower

The clock tower

The streets were brick covered. It was a pedestrian road, but there were some cars there – I assume these were rich and important people who were permitted to drive and every car we saw was either a work van or a very expensive fancy car from a Hummer to a Bentley.

This was historic Bratislava and things here looked like I imagined a European city to look. The streets were winding and narrow and the buildings were fabulous.

There were palaces everywhere. The Hapsburg castle was there.

Hapsburg place

Hapsburg place

The city hall was one side of a grand piazza with gorgeous buildings surrounding it and the second oldest fountain in Bratislava in the center.

Gorgeous architecture and the fountain

Gorgeous architecture and the fountain

The city hall tower looked like it might belong to a church, but it didn’t. And the square stark building next to it was the church. There was a time where there was a great influx of Lutherans and the church was originally Lutheran. But with the Hapsburg presence, Roman Catholics were again in ascendancy and the church became Catholic. Today, it is used by Jesuits.

City hall clock tower

City hall clock tower

Walking under/through the clock tower, another piazza was there and it was faced on one side by a huge building that is now a museum but was built by a displaced Bishop who had to leave to escape the Ottoman Turks. He built his palace and then when the Turks were pushed back, he took all his furnishings and sold the building to the local government. Later, during a renovation, precious old tapestries were found mortared up within the walls to protect them from the Turks and then forgotten. The church thought they might like the tapestries back claiming they were “furniture” but the courts noted they were in fact, built into the walls and therefore were part of the building. There are three tapestries left intact (three have been sold) and the three still here are worth more than twice as much as the palace itself.

Bishop's palace

Bishop’s palace

We walked back and around and twisted and turned and arrived at our destination – a restaurant in which we were to have lunch.

We were given soup to start which was marvelous because we were all very cold. Then we were treated to a beef in wine sauce and dumplings entrée and followed up with a chocolate/coconut cake and an espresso.

We had about another hour to wander about at our leisure and I just happened to find a way to boost the local economy.

Car manufacturing is the largest economic sector in Bratislava and I did not buy a car. They have VW and Kia as well as a few other manufactures (sorry, can’t remember the smaller ones). The oil refinery is also a major employer and all the oil comes from Russia, so the country is still dependant but doing much better. Another large part of the economy is making chocolate. And THAT is what I managed to purchase.

We got back on the bus and back to Vienna without incident. We went out to eat at the same place as last night. The small restaurant on the corner (the Pop place) wasn’t open. There were many people from our tour because it is close and we were all tired.

There we learned that someone had a problem with the subway. It seems that they purchased a ticked and it is for next week instead of this week. And lo and behold, Dick and I both have tickets that are good for next week. So we have paid lots and lots of money for tickets that mean we are illegal and can still be fined a hundred Euros if we are caught with it. This is putting me over the edge. I’ve about had it with following the rules and the travel industry trying to ruin my vacation. I’m sure we will get this worked out, too.

Now, back at the hotel for our last night here, I’m charging up all my electronic stuff and getting ready for moving to the ship tomorrow.

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