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Bratislava, Slovakia

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In the movie Eurotrip, Bratislava is pictured as a run-down city, devoid of culture and stuck in a post-Soviet state of perpetual slum. In reality, it is a city with many old buildings, well-manicured pedestrian alleys and cobbled streets lined with cafes. Its availability to tourists rivals some of Europe’s top destinations. As a part of the Schengen Agreement, travelers are allowed unfettered passage from full EU states. Nearly everywhere accepts Euros as currency.

I took a day-trip to the Slovakian capital with a native Vienan who’d never been. This is somewhat surprising, as the capital cities are the closest of all except the Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. But they’re on opposite river banks and are essentially the same city so I consider that cheating.

Bratislava has a small old town on the North side of the Danube river, as well as the aforementioned Soviet-era buildings on the South side. The Novy Most, or “new bridge” separates the two and was a typical Soviet-style massacre of history for hideousness. They tore down quite a bit of the old city below the castle, including pretty much the entire Jewish quarter. But they did put a UFO-shaped restaurant on top of the off-kilter main posts of the bridge.

Bratislava must be the city with the highest per-capita fountain population in the world. There are dozens and dozens, ranging in age from under construction to several hundred years old. Some are sculpted figures and others are simply water shooting from a pool. It’s a bit odd. They’ve also got some odd statues. I’d have taken pictures but my camera was locked up in a Viennese hostel.

A giant castle overlooks the city. It sits atop a large and steep hill. Climbing it in the warm temperatures was worth it, I’m told. Unless it happens to be closed for renovations as it was when I went.

But the day wasn’t lost because the cafes and restaurants were quite good. Prices are about half of what they are in Vienna, as well. A nice respite from the empty wallet feeling you get from Western Europe.